Winter Ways – Activities

FOCUS: Of the four seasons in the year, winter is the most difficult for living things.  Temperatures are often cold, days are shorter, the ground is frozen and covered with snow, and there is a dearth of food for many creatures. Each animal species has evolved a survival strategy, and plants overwinter in different ways as well. The dried seed heads of winter weeds provide a welcome source of food for many animals.

INTRODUCTION
Objective: To begin to explore and ask questions about winter compared to other seasons.

Take children outside, and have them talk in small groups about how winter is different from other seasons.

UPPER GRADES CHALLENGE: Antifreeze Tests (Grades 5-6)
Objective: To investigate the effect of different dissolved substances on the freezing of water.

Many animals build up high concentrations of sugars in their cells in preparation for winter. How do dissolved substances affect the way water freezes? How could we test this? Continue reading Winter Ways – Activities

Winter Ways – Puppet Show

It’s Snow Picnic

Characters: Matthew Mouse, Woody Woodchuck, Simone Skunk, Ferdy Fir Tree, Goldy Goldfinch, Heidi Hare.

Props: Sign saying “January 1st,” piece of white fabric to cover stage, dried weed stalk with seed head, cotton balls.

Matthew Mouse  Oh boy! A snowflake in October! Winter’s coming! I should have a party to celebrate winter. I’ll have it in January when there’s plenty of snow. Why, here’s Woody Woodchuck. Hi, Woody.

Woodchuck  Hi, Matthew Mouse. Brrr, it’s cold today! I’m going back in my den!

Mouse  Wait, Woody!  I’m going to have a winter party, in January, and you’re invited. Continue reading Winter Ways – Puppet Show

Winter Ways – Standards

WINTER WAYS ALIGNMENT WITH
NEXT GENERATION SCIENCE STANDARDS

The activities in this unit help children understand the basic concepts in the Disciplinary Core Ideas listed here. You can use the following list as a guide for lesson planning. These Disciplinary Core Ideas are taken from Grade Band Endpoints in A Framework for K-12 Science Education. Additionally, our activities give children opportunities to engage in many of the Science and Engineering Practices and reflect on the Crosscutting Concepts as identified in the Next Generation Science Standards. Continue reading Winter Ways – Standards

Maple Sugaring – Background

The much-loved sugar maple tree provides food and shelter for wild animals, leafy shade in the summer, spectacular colors in the fall, firewood in winter, and the finest syrup in early spring. Learning to know sugar maples better and understanding how they produce the sap for the syrup we love so well can only increase our appreciation of these delightful trees.

Maples are easy to identify if you take a closer look at their growth habit. Continue reading Maple Sugaring – Background

Maple Sugaring – Activities

FOCUS:  The combination of warm days and cold nights in early spring reawakens maple trees and starts the sap flowing. This yearly event in the life cycle of a maple tree provides sugar makers with the sap needed to produce maple syrup. Even without leaves, sugar maples can be recognized by their bark, twigs, and buds, so we know we are tapping the right trees.

INTRODUCTION
Objective: To begin to explore and ask questions about maple sugaring.

Pass out a sugar maple twig to each child, and ask children to observe and describe their twigs.

Materials: sugar maple twigs, one for each child; magnifying lenses.

TWIG DETECTIVES
Objective: To observe patterns of similarities and differences among a variety of winter twigs, and learn the special characteristics of sugar maple twigs.

Ahead of time, cut fresh twigs from sugar maple and three or four other opposite-branching trees (e.g. ash, red maple, silver maple, Norway maple, ash-leaf maple), enough so that there is one for each child. In addition, cut a fresh twig from an alternate-branching tree (e.g. elm, beech, poplar). Continue reading Maple Sugaring – Activities

Maple Sugaring – Puppet Show

The Sweetest Sap

Characters: Sammy Squirrel, Grandpa Squirrel, Fir Tree, Beech Tree, Red Maple, Sugar Maple

Sammy Squirrel  Ya know, these acorns are filling, but I’m getting bored with them. All winter long, nothing but nuts and seeds.

Grandpa Squirrel  Well, Sammy, when I was a youngun, I didn’t sit around complainin’. Warm days in the spring, I’d run up a maple tree and drink the sweep sap. Fills ya full o’ energy, sap does. Puts a real frisk in yer tail.

Sammy  A sweet energy drink? Gee, I gotta try that. See ya, Gramps! (exits) Continue reading Maple Sugaring – Puppet Show

Maple Sugaring – Standards

MAPLE SUGARING ALIGNMENT WITH
NEXT GENERATION SCIENCE STANDARDS

The activities in this unit help children understand the basic concepts in the Disciplinary Core Ideas listed here. You can use the following list as a guide for lesson planning. These Disciplinary Core Ideas are taken from Grade Band Endpoints in A Framework for K-12 Science Education. Additionally, our activities give children opportunities to engage in many of the Science and Engineering Practices and reflect on the Crosscutting Concepts as identified in the Next Generation Science Standards. Continue reading Maple Sugaring – Standards

Trees in Winter – Background

Mysteries abound in the winter woods. Besides animal tracks in the snow, we might find nipped-off twigs, gnawed branches, debarked trunks – signs made by animals feeding on trees in winter. To figure out which animal has been doing the eating, we often need to identify the tree species. But, without their leaves at this time of year, trees can be mysteries to us as well. Animals that feed on woody plants have no trouble recognizing which twigs, buds, and bark make the best meals, but for us identifying trees in winter requires a close look and attention to detail, the skills of a good detective.

At the tips of branches, twigs offer many clues to a tree’s identity. Take a closer Continue reading Trees in Winter – Background

Trees in Winter – Activities

FOCUS: Winter trees may look dead, but concealed in their buds are the beginnings of next year’s shoots, leaves, and flowers. Food is scarce in our winter woods, and for many animals the twigs, buds, and bark of dormant trees provide a welcome source of nutrition. Animals have no trouble recognizing which trees make the best meals, but for us identifying trees when their leaves are gone requires a close look and attention to detail, the skills of a good detective.

INTRODUCTION
Objective: To begin to explore and ask questions about trees in winter.

Pass out a twig to each child, and allow children to observe and ask questions about their twigs.

Materials: twigs showing at least two years of growth, one per child; magnifying lenses.

TWIG QUESTIONS
Objective: To make observations and ask questions about twigs.

Ahead of time, cut twigs from a variety of trees including some that have alternate branching (e.g. elm, beech, oak, poplar) and some that have opposite branching (red maple, sugar maple, and ash). Continue reading Trees in Winter – Activities

Trees in Winter – Puppet Show

A Budding Detective

Characters: Harry Hare, Hawthorn Twig, Staghorn Sumac Twig, Basswood Twig, Cherry Twig, Sugar Maple Twig.

Harry Hare  I am a hungry hare! Now, what should I have for supper? Twigs and buds? A little bark? I’ve eaten all the evergreen twigs I can reach, but it’s hard to tell these bare twigs apart without their leaves. This is going to take some good detective work!

Hawthorn  Haw, haw, haw! You don’t need to be a detective to tell a hawthorn twig. You could find me with your eyes closed!

Hare  Yikes! Those are big thorns! I guess it is easy to tell a hawthorn by its twigs. Continue reading Trees in Winter – Puppet Show

Trees in Winter – Standards

TREES IN WINTER ALIGNMENT WITH
NEXT GENERATION SCIENCE STANDARDS

The activities in this unit help children understand the basic concepts in the Disciplinary Core Ideas listed here. You can use the following list as a guide for lesson planning. These Disciplinary Core Ideas are taken from Grade Band Endpoints in A Framework for K-12 Science Education. Additionally, our activities give children opportunities to engage in many of the Science and Engineering Practices and reflect on the Crosscutting Concepts as identified in the Next Generation Science Standards. Continue reading Trees in Winter – Standards

Galls Galore – Background

A stand of goldenrod, its rugged stalks standing tall in a wintry field, is a good place to look for galls, one of nature’s small wonders. Many of the stalks sport hard, round swellings about an inch in diameter. Cradled in each, awaiting spring, is the larva of a gall-making insect. Its life cycle, like those of many other gall-makers, involves a remarkable relationship between an animal and its particular plant host.

A gall is an abnormal growth on a plant caused by another organism, most commonly an insect or a mite but also by nematodes, viruses, fungi, or bacteria. Continue reading Galls Galore – Background

Galls Galore – Activities

FOCUS:  Odd bumps and lumps on twigs, buds, and weed stalks might be galls, swellings on plants that are homes for an insect, mite, or other organism. A gall-maker causes its particular host plant to form a bulge in which it will live and feed for a time. Galls on buds, twigs, roots, or leaves of plants provide a safe home for the gall-makers and are an essential part of their life cycles.

INTRODUCTION
Objective: To begin to explore and ask questions about galls.

Pass out a goldenrod ball gall to each child, and ask children to observe and describe their gall.

Materials: ball gall on a goldenrod stem, one for each child; magnifying lenses.

THAT’S MY GALL
Objective: To make observations and ask questions about goldenrod ball galls.

Ahead of time, collect a selection of goldenrod stems with goldenrod ball galls on them.   Continue reading Galls Galore – Activities

Galls Galore – Puppet Show

A Swell Day

Characters: Reddy Red Squirrel, Willow Pinecone Gall, Oak Apple Gall, Goldenrod Ball Gall, Raspberry Knot Gall.

 

Reddy Red Squirrel  One piney cone, two piney cones. I love pinecones and the little seeds I find inside them. And I’m counting on them to get me through the winter. Three piney cones…Oh, look! Here’s a pinecone I must have missed.

Willow Pinecone Gall Oh, boo hoo. Everyone thinks I’m a pinecone, but I’m not. If I were a pine, I’d have needles, wouldn’t I?

Squirrel  Hey, you’re right. How can you be a pine without needles? Continue reading Galls Galore – Puppet Show

Galls Galore – Standards

GALLS GALORE ALIGNMENT WITH
NEXT GENERATION SCIENCE STANDARDS

The activities in this unit help children understand the basic concepts in the Disciplinary Core Ideas listed here. You can use the following list as a guide for lesson planning. These Disciplinary Core Ideas are taken from Grade Band Endpoints in A Framework for K-12 Science Education. Additionally, our activities give children opportunities to engage in many of the Science and Engineering Practices and reflect on the Crosscutting Concepts as identified in the Next Generation Science Standards. Continue reading Galls Galore – Standards

Songbird Songs – Background

As the days grow longer in spring, chickadees start singing a different tune. Besides the familiar chickadee-dee call, we now hear a whistled “hey, sweetie,” often answered by another chickadee: “Hey, sweetie! Hey, sweetie!” Soon a cardinal takes up the theme, “Come here, come here,” and later a bluebird, back from migration, joins in the chorus: “Ain’t I pretty!” By May, the orchestra, in full swing, fills the dawn with a symphony of birdsong. Why do birds sing so much in the spring? Why make noise that could betray your presence to predators? What role does birdsong play in the annual cycle of a bird’s life, to be worth so much energy and risk?

Many birds communicate with sounds. Ducks quack, geese honk, loons yodel, and songbirds sing. Continue reading Songbird Songs – Background