Snags and Rotting Logs – Activities

FOCUS: From standing snags to lying logs, dead wood is essential in a forest, though its importance is often overlooked. As wood decays, a succession of plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria come and go, each decomposing it further. At every stage, snags and rotting logs are hubs of activity, providing food, shelter, perches, travel corridors, and many other functions in the forest ecosystem.

INTRODUCTION
Objective: To begin to explore and ask questions about snags and rotting logs.

Give small groups of children a rotting log to investigate with their senses. Ask children to touch the log with their eyes closed, to tap on the log, to smell it, and then to look at it. What do they notice?

Materials: rotting logs (one per small group); plastic tarp or newspaper for each log.

ROTTING LOG INVESTIGATION and JOURNAL ACTIVITY
Objective: To examine a rotting log, looking for evidence of living things – plants, animals and fungi – that live on or in it, and to record observations about them.

Log Portrait
Work in small groups of three or four children with an adult. Provide each group with a rotting log to examine. Continue reading Snags and Rotting Logs – Activities

Snags and Rotting Logs – Puppet Show

Cleaning House

Characters: Benjy Bear, Sappy Sapsucker, Sammy Squirrel, Carpenter Ant Queen, Sally Salamander.

Props: dead snag, rotting log, spray bottle, cotton balls, loop on back of stage to hold up props.

(Dead snag prop on stage.)

Benjy Bear  Gee, look at all these rotten snags and logs. As manager of this forest, I need to do a little house cleaning. Better get rid of some of the dead wood, like this old, rotten maple tree here.

Sappy Sapsucker  Wait just a minute, Benjy Bear! I need that tree! Continue reading Snags and Rotting Logs – Puppet Show

Snags and Rotting Logs – Standards

SNAGS AND ROTTING LOGS 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 Snags and Rotting Logs – Standards

Staying Warm – Background

A bushy-tailed fox patrols the edge of a snowy field; a blue jay’s call rings out in the frosty stillness; tiny mice prints, like stitching on a quilt, crisscross the snow. These sights and sounds tell of the many birds and mammals that stay active throughout the winter. Like us, these animals must find ways to stay warm in order to survive this season of cold, inhospitable weather.

It’s easy to show why warm-blooded animals face the problem of heat loss in winter. Continue reading Staying Warm – Background

Staying Warm – Activities

FOCUS: In northern climates, ecosystems are very different places in winter compared to summer, with shorter days, colder temperatures, and plants making little or no food. Even so, many warm-blooded animals stay active throughout this cold season, conserving body heat by seeking out shelter or putting on extra fur, feathers, or fat. For small animals, a layer of snow can offer some protection, and the energy stored in dormant plants and cached food provides the nutrition they need to get through the winter.

INTRODUCTION
Objective: To begin to explore and ask questions about animals staying warm.

Either outside or near an open window, ask children what they notice about how the outdoors in northern climates is different in the winter than at other times of the year. Ask children what they do to stay warm outside. Continue reading Staying Warm – Activities

Staying Warm – Puppet Show

Mice-Capades

Characters: Matthew Mouse, Matilda Mouse, Dory Doe, Chelsey Chickadee, Rocky Raccoon

Props: small strip of fur, downy feathers, small bag labeled “Nuts”; special stage with tunnel and chamber under the snow.

(Puppets appear on top of the snow)

Matthew  Hey Matilda, let’s go out for a walk in the snow.

Matilda  Sorry, Matthew. I’ve decided to hibernate like Woody Woodchuck and sleep until spring. So, see you in May!

Matthew  Matilda, hibernating is much more than sleeping. Continue reading Staying Warm – Puppet Show

Staying Warm – Standards

STAYING WARM 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 Staying Warm – Standards

Squirrel Tales – Background

Squirrels are a familiar sight whether we live in a city, suburb, or rural setting. It’s fun to watch squirrels’ antics at bird feeders, their acrobatics on branches and utility wires, their furtive foraging for nuts and seeds. Because we often see them near our homes, we may forget that squirrels are wild animals and that they play an important role in the forest ecosystem. Tree squirrels are gatherers of seeds, planters of trees, and prey for predators like hawks and owls.

The Northeast is home to four species of tree squirrels, those that make their homes in tree branches. Continue reading Squirrel Tales – Background

Squirrel Tales – Activities

FOCUS: Three kinds of tree squirrels – gray, red, and flying squirrels – occupy our forests, often competing for the same foods and shelters. Each kind has a special niche – particular habits and habitat preferences – which helps these squirrels live side by side. All are hoarders of food, hiding a supply for the winter, though each uses a different technique. Looking for signs of squirrel activity outside gives us a window into the lives of these busy animals.

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

Give small groups of children photographs of the three types of squirrels. Ask them to make observations about similarities and differences.

Materials: Squirrel Pictures (one set per group).

HANDS-ON SQUIRREL SETS
Objective: To examine different parts of a squirrel’s body, its tracks and sign, and consider how these relate to a squirrel’s daily life and its role in the ecosystem.

Set up three stations with items from the Squirrel Set and have children work in small groups, visiting each station and discussing the items on display with an adult. Continue reading Squirrel Tales – Activities

Squirrel Tales – Puppet Show

A Tree Party

Characters: Rocky Raccoon, Grady Gray Squirrel, Rita Red Squirrel, Floyd Flying Squirrel (two-sided).

Props: several conifer cones and one stripped cone.

Rocky Raccoon  Oh boy, this is going to be fun. I love block parties. All the neighbors get together and everyone brings along some food to share.

Grady Gray Squirrel  Hi, Rocky! I don’t usually see you in the daytime, especially in winter. You’re usually asleep in your den.

Raccoon  I would be asleep, but my stomach woke me up. I haven’t eaten in two weeks. Tonight’s potluck supper should be a feast! Continue reading Squirrel Tales – Puppet Show

Squirrel Tales – Standards

SQUIRREL TALES 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 Squirrel Tales – Standards

White-tailed Deer – Background

Along the forest edge a small group of deer grazes quietly. Always alert for danger, the deer frequently lift their heads to sniff the wind. Suddenly a white tail goes up and they bound away, melting into the trees. The speed, grace, and agility we so admire in the white-tailed deer are the result of their place as prey animals in the forest food web. Though shy and elusive, these large herbivores leave tracks and signs that tell us about their lives, their connections to other woodland inhabitants, and their impact on the forest itself.

White-tailed deer are among the largest herbivores in our forests, and they consume a lot of vegetation. Continue reading White-tailed Deer – Background

White-tailed Deer – Activities

FOCUS: White-tailed deer are big animals and require a lot of food to survive, so they can have a profound impact on the forests in which they live, and on the many other inhabitants as well. As plant-eaters, seed-planters and sometimes food for large predators, deer are connected in countless ways to the other living things in their woodland homes.

INTRODUCTION
Objective: To begin to explore and ask questions about White-tailed Deer.

Give one item from the deer set to each small group of children. Ask children to take a close look, to draw their object, and to write down one thing they notice and one thing they wonder.

Materials: Deer Set; paper or journals, pencils, magnifying lenses.

A CLOSER LOOK: DEER SETS
Objective: To think about the connections between a deer’s physical adaptations and its role in the forest ecosystem.

In small groups, give children a chance to hold and study different deer parts such as those listed below. Continue reading White-tailed Deer – Activities

White-tailed Deer – Puppet Show

A Couple of Bucks

Characters: Benny Buck, Billy Buck (both spikehorns), Oak Sapling, Sally Squirrel, Smiley Coyote.

Benny Buck  I am the biggest herbivore in the forest, so look out!

Sapling Herbivore? What do you mean by that?

Benny Buck  You know, it means I eat plants.

Sapling I was afraid of that. But you aren’t the biggest plant-eater, you know, because moose are bigger than you. Continue reading White-tailed Deer – Puppet Show

White-tailed Deer – Standards

WHITE-TAILED DEER 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 White-tailed Deer – Standards

Stream Life – Background

The character of a stream changes as it flows through the countryside, tumbling over boulders, rushing over rocky cobbles, or gliding over a bed of sand. Streams provide homes for fish and salamanders, while animals like mink, raccoons, and birds visit them in search of food. If you look closely, you’ll find that a surprising number of insects live underwater in brooks and streams, a seemingly inhospitable environment for these small creatures. How do they meet the challenges of life in fast-flowing water, and why does this environment attract such a wealth of insects?

Streams afford a variety of habitats, from noisy cascades to quiet pools, from smooth, straight runs to rough, rocky riffles. Continue reading Stream Life – Background