What ideas for the winter months? Not sure how to do this? We just finished a bird count with the children. We were counting birds on a wire. The children charted how many birds they saw .

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Our students have binoculars and are schooled in how to use them (best ones I found are about $9 apiece at http://www.opticsplanet.net/ncstar-compact-binocular-8x21-dof-black...).
So far we've counted about 22 species of birds at our very urban school in San Francisco, which is situated across from Lake Merced.
If you want an activity where the students really learn to observe and be quiet, birdwatching is great. I've had students that couldn't sit still be mesmerized and find birds that no one else noticed.
Thank you Nancy for this question, and thank you Jean for this great tip, and a hearty welcome to the Natural Teachers Network discussion site. I helped Richard Louv, Cheryl Charles and Amy Pertschuk develop this site as a volunteer for the Children & Nature Network. I think this is going to be a very active site.

As for winter activities with children in nature, I have asked Margaret Rietano to weigh in to describe her new company called The Elements, which focuses on getting kids outside in inclement weather, working with schools. Margaret has four children and lives in Washington DC, so she is getting plenty of practice with inclement weather this year. Margaret is a member of our Steering Committee helping get this site up and running, and is registered on C&NN Connect. I know she is quite busy but feel free to contact her on Connect in case she doesn't reply right away. Thanks again for your comments, and please stay engaged. Best wishes, John Thielbahr
Location means everything--this is the perfect time to get kids outdoors and into the Everglades. The dry season in South Florida means cooler weather, fewer mosquitoes and snow birds (both kinds).
Hi Nancy,
We just ordered 36 eggs from a farm in Texas and are incubating them. We "candled" them today on day 5 in a dark bathroom. The children were wild with excitement. I also have a box of eggs that show the development of the egg for each of the 21 days of incubation. I printed pictures and laminated them of the types of chickens and their eggs. I have about 30 Rainforest "sqeezy" birds with corresponding informational cards. I teach the birds and then blindfold the kids to see if they know the bird sounds. I believe this increases their auditory capabilities and it makes them more alert to the birds they are seeing on the playground. Walmart has inexpensive binoculars for about $5.00 and Oriental trading has them for about a dollar. Students can decorate them since they are made of cardboard. I also made a sticker book with pics of birds in our area and their corresponding stickers. When they find all the birds and finish adding all the stickers to their book they can go to the treasure box. We study rocks in winter as well. This can be done in colder months.
Ellen, what do you do with the chicks when they hatch? Do you raise them at the school?
With respect to binoculars, I have found that it's sometimes worth spending a bit more if you can afford it. I've gotten much cheaper binoculars in the past that didn't work very well.

Ellen Kahue said:
Hi Nancy,
We just ordered 36 eggs from a farm in Texas and are incubating them. We "candled" them today on day 5 in a dark bathroom. The children were wild with excitement. I also have a box of eggs that show the development of the egg for each of the 21 days of incubation. I printed pictures and laminated them of the types of chickens and their eggs. I have about 30 Rainforest "sqeezy" birds with corresponding informational cards. I teach the birds and then blindfold the kids to see if they know the bird sounds. I believe this increases their auditory capabilities and it makes them more alert to the birds they are seeing on the playground. Walmart has inexpensive binoculars for about $5.00 and Oriental trading has them for about a dollar. Students can decorate them since they are made of cardboard. I also made a sticker book with pics of birds in our area and their corresponding stickers. When they find all the birds and finish adding all the stickers to their book they can go to the treasure box. We study rocks in winter as well. This can be done in colder months.
Hello! I lead a Nature Club once a week at the YMCA After School Program. I have never been a teacher but what I lack in knowledge I make up for with enthusiasm. This winter has been quite a challenge because the weather has prevented us from going outside for the past few weeks. I lead bird walks in the summer and have found that for the children the best binaculars are the nautical ones because they don't need to be adjusted. Obviously the Y can't buy them for every child so I take my own and the children share. I take a regular pair for the older children to use.

In the fall and winter we look for lichens and use clear plastic containers to collect them and any other things the kids think are cool. Feathers are always fun! Animal tracks are exciting!

I spend 2 weeks in Wisconsin every summer and have found their nature booklets to be a wonderful resource. They are available at all the state parks and could probably be ordered. Also, I use the nature field guides which are $5.95 at most book stores. "Bugs and Slugs" and "Animal Tracks" are favorites. I like them because they are laminated and are easy for the kids to manage. I also find lots of ideas in the newspaper.

I limit my clubs to 10 children K through 4th grade. I have been doing this for about 4 years and thoroughly enjoy it. I have learned as much as the kids have.



Jean Moshofsky Butler said:
Ellen, what do you do with the chicks when they hatch? Do you raise them at the school?
With respect to binoculars, I have found that it's sometimes worth spending a bit more if you can afford it. I've gotten much cheaper binoculars in the past that didn't work very well.

Ellen Kahue said:
Hi Nancy,
We just ordered 36 eggs from a farm in Texas and are incubating them. We "candled" them today on day 5 in a dark bathroom. The children were wild with excitement. I also have a box of eggs that show the development of the egg for each of the 21 days of incubation. I printed pictures and laminated them of the types of chickens and their eggs. I have about 30 Rainforest "sqeezy" birds with corresponding informational cards. I teach the birds and then blindfold the kids to see if they know the bird sounds. I believe this increases their auditory capabilities and it makes them more alert to the birds they are seeing on the playground. Walmart has inexpensive binoculars for about $5.00 and Oriental trading has them for about a dollar. Students can decorate them since they are made of cardboard. I also made a sticker book with pics of birds in our area and their corresponding stickers. When they find all the birds and finish adding all the stickers to their book they can go to the treasure box. We study rocks in winter as well. This can be done in colder months.
I'm out there...the best and most active time here in South Florida!! Our summer is like the winter here!!

Eric Gehring said:
Location means everything--this is the perfect time to get kids outdoors and into the Everglades. The dry season in South Florida means cooler weather, fewer mosquitoes and snow birds (both kinds).
Hi Nancy! The snow has finally melted and we are able to be outside again. Hurrah! Yesterday we went lichen hunting and found some really cool ones on the ground. . .lipstick powderhorn, trumpet, wand and green reindeer! We had a trowel and dug some up to show parents and the older kids. Big hit! I save the clear plastic boxes that you get at the grocery store and other places,wash them and punch holes in the tops so the children can collect "nature treasures". . which can be anything from a rock to a ladybug! I also have 2 domed magnifiers which I bought at a yard sale that are great because you can put them right down on the ground and see the lichens (or bugs) really well. ( I think these might be the tops to paperweights but what ever they are they do a great job!)

I have a great paperback book called Lichens of the North Woods by Joe Walewski which has beautiful color pictures and just enough information. The kids love it and can recognize several types when we see them on our walks. I am trying to find a book of southern lichens but have had no luck so far.

That's the latest from central Virginia. Crocuses are already blooming and we are eagerly awaiting daffodoils and dogwood.

Susie Mote
I am fairly new to teaching and very new to bringing nature into weekly lessons. My students are second (or third) language learners in grade 1-4. For the past month I've brought plants in for observation, but this week (if the rain stops) we'll head outside to search for spring. I'm hoping to make connections to what we have been learning about language and to look for nouns, verbs and adjectives in the park.
I was focusing my attention on the ground, but now am inspired to add bird watching.
That sounds like a great idea.

Laura Lamarre Anderson said:
I am fairly new to teaching and very new to bringing nature into weekly lessons. My students are second (or third) language learners in grade 1-4. For the past month I've brought plants in for observation, but this week (if the rain stops) we'll head outside to search for spring. I'm hoping to make connections to what we have been learning about language and to look for nouns, verbs and adjectives in the park.
I was focusing my attention on the ground, but now am inspired to add bird watching.
Hi Laura!

It sounds like you have quite a challenging job and I commend you. My niece just found the most wonderful website with lots of information and ideas for school projects (including ideas for multi-lingual classes) and I thought you and the others might like to check it out. It's EastTennesseeWildflowers.com and it has a teacher's resource page with all kinds of cool "stuff" including birds, mushrooms and lichens, mammals, just to name a few.

Another good website is the Greatbackyardbirdcount.com, which has bird calls and also activities for kids.

I hope you will find these useful.
Susie Mote


Ellen Kahue said:
That sounds like a great idea.

Laura Lamarre Anderson said:
I am fairly new to teaching and very new to bringing nature into weekly lessons. My students are second (or third) language learners in grade 1-4. For the past month I've brought plants in for observation, but this week (if the rain stops) we'll head outside to search for spring. I'm hoping to make connections to what we have been learning about language and to look for nouns, verbs and adjectives in the park.
I was focusing my attention on the ground, but now am inspired to add bird watching.
Hi Laura,
Don't forget to have your children write about what they see in nature...perhaps a journal, using the language and grammar lessons you are working on. They can even practice math counting birds, and draw something cool in nature, either looking up, down or all around. More than anything, they need to just explore and discover. Have fun. John

Susan "Susie" Mote said:
Hi Laura!

It sounds like you have quite a challenging job and I commend you. My niece just found the most wonderful website with lots of information and ideas for school projects (including ideas for multi-lingual classes) and I thought you and the others might like to check it out. It's EastTennesseeWildflowers.com and it has a teacher's resource page with all kinds of cool "stuff" including birds, mushrooms and lichens, mammals, just to name a few.

Another good website is the Greatbackyardbirdcount.com, which has bird calls and also activities for kids.

I hope you will find these useful.
Susie Mote


Ellen Kahue said:
That sounds like a great idea.

Laura Lamarre Anderson said:
I am fairly new to teaching and very new to bringing nature into weekly lessons. My students are second (or third) language learners in grade 1-4. For the past month I've brought plants in for observation, but this week (if the rain stops) we'll head outside to search for spring. I'm hoping to make connections to what we have been learning about language and to look for nouns, verbs and adjectives in the park.
I was focusing my attention on the ground, but now am inspired to add bird watching.

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