You can do this one every day if you’d like and each day will be different. Try making a sky observation lens with a piece of paper. Remember, our Nature journals are 8.5×11 sheets of paper. How you choose to record what you see is up to you! I like combining watercolour with crayons so the crayons can act as a resist. Even the side of a candle works well for making the clouds I see.
Mapping our Environment
To put a city in a book, to put the world on one sheet of paper, maps are the most condensed spaces of all. They make the landscape fit indoors, they make us masters of sights we haven’t seen, and spaces we can’t cover. In the fall we made a birds eye view map of the school and we made travel maps of our route to school in groups. I’d like to encourage everyone to make a map of their house and yard, send me a photo and I’ll share them in our photo album so everyone can see where everyone else lives.. Those of you on farms and in forests have a big job and your map might be less detailed than someone who lives in town in a small house or apartment. if you live in town and are going out for walks you might want to include things in your neighborhood too. Lets visit each other through a map!
One Small Square
This a project you can visit over and over again. All you need is some string (about 4 metres) and 4 rocks. Choose a place somewhere in your yard where you won’t be disturbed and lay out the string to make a square. Put a rock in each corner to hold the string down.. Do you still have your magnifying lens? Bring it outside and spend time examining what you find in your square. Get right down in the dirt. Draw what you see, make a list of the things you find – plants, stones, insects, tracks. Leave no stone unturned. With it being spring the changes should be pretty much daily!
On the Hunt for Worms
With the rain this past week it would be a good time to see how many worms live in your square. Would you like to meet them? Well you need to become a worm grunter.
A worm grunter? What is worm grunting? I’m so glad you asked!
Worm grunting is mimicking a worm’s predators so they think it is safer on the surface than deep in the ground. Worms are terrified of moles and worms can tell they’re nearby through touch. They feel the vibrations the mole makes as they dig towards them. When they feel these vibrations they head for the surface as quickly as they can. We need two sticks and maybe a bit of whittling to worm grunt.
You drive one stick into the ground and then you rub another stick up and down it to make vibrations. The bumpier the stick the better, which is why you might want to whittle notches into the stick that you drive into the ground.
Professional worm grunters (yes there are professional worm grunters)use metal and wood because they feel the sound works better. A piece of hardwood rubbed with a heavy piece of steel has a sound that will carry as vibration through the ground for about seven metres. It sounds a bit like a bullfrog or a grunt.
Some grunters think a small engine works best and use a chainsaw sitting on a post or stump!
Try it out!
Drawing Birds To Us So We Can Draw Them!
Now is a great time of year to start bird watching. They are everywhere and busy with nesting right now. You can encourage them to sit a spell so you have time to draw and identify the species that visit your yard with a bird feeder.
Here are a some examples that you can make with stuff from the recycling bin or with scraps you might already have lying around. The suet bag is a favorite here. You only put out suet in the winter and spring though.
Here is a recipe for suet balls. We like to add dried fruit to it too.
You need a fat that is solid or firm at room temperature. We save animal fats for this but you can also use plant based fats. The hard cakes of suet you can get at the store are usually beef tallow which is very hard.
1 cup rendered (melted) fat 1 cup chunky peanut butter 3 cups ground cornmeal 1/2 cup flour.
Mix it together form into balls and put in the freezer.
Or hollow out an orange or grapefruit and fill the halves with this. You can string up the fruit rind as a feeder then.
If there are cardinals around they’ll come find these!
Make Like a Bird and Nest
This is a great project that gets you thinking as birds do, and in the process, you get to make something interesting.
How do you think a bird makes its nest? Would you like to make your own nests?
While exploring your own backyard, gather the items you think a bird would need to make a nest. This is a nature only project! You must not use glue (but spit is allowed!)
What You Need:
Sticks Grass Leaves Pine needles Newspaper Mud Trash you find floating in the yard Paper Pen or pencil
I will allow a tool like a stick or chopstick or tweezers (after all, you lack a tiny pointy beak) and scissors (which a beak is pretty good at being too).
What You Do:
What do you think goes into making a bird’s nest? Write the items down on a piece of paper. Think outside the box.
Go outside, and start scavenging for the items you thought of. Think about what in nature is pliable, what it is sturdy, and what a bird has access to out in the wild. If you discover something you didn’t write down, grab it and add it to your list.
Bring the items inside and place them on a newspaper (or, weather permitting, set up outdoors). Try to manipulate the grass and twigs and other items into a bird’s nest shape. Work to weave items together, like the pine needles and grass.
To take this activity a step further, check out some books at your local library about birds native to your area. See what kinds of things they use to build a nest and how they put them together. Why do they build them high up in a tree? Is that a key element to keeping the nest together?
Display your nest outside in a tree. Are your neighbourhood birds visiting it? Are they borrowing from it?
The Lost Words Project
HAPPY EARTH DAY!
I hope you’re enjoying our nature hour activities. A beloved book in our classroom is The Lost Words by Robert MacFarlane. It is a big, beautiful, book of poetry. it is filled with sacred gilded artwork as a tribute to the words that were purged from the children’s dictionary in the 21st century. They were seen as irrelevant today, words like otter, bramble, acorn. Well our class disagrees. Many of the songs we’ve sung in class come from a folk album that was inspired by The Lost Words – The Lost Words Spell Songs – bringing nature back to life through the power of poetry, art and magic. here is the full album which they’ve published on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_mEFahhzSZ_N85pfkKA2jYmslwI2aOJldc
This assignment, like all others , is completely voluntary.
Make your own spell book. The lost words can be your inspiration. The idea though is to find what inspires you in the natural world and give it some sacred space. What this will look like is completely up to the individual making it. So I’m offering suggestions here – follow your heart, my little silver seekers.
You might want to get a special little notebook and fill it with words you think are too important to be lost. Find your wonder words in books, in poetry, in nature. Just as dragons collect golden treasure, words can be a treasure – a hoard – a word hoard. (maybe you write them down with a special gold pen) Hmm you might want to research what a word hoard is too.
Refer to this special little book whenever you need ingredients for a spell – a poem, a song, a drawing, or painting.
Here are some musical words from the natural world you might want to explore in field , forest, dictionary, and thesaurus:
You might prefer to make mood boards for each spell you’d like to cast., An arrangement of found images, materials, pieces of text, drawings, photographs to evoke or project the essence of natural words you love. Maybe it’s a bird, or an insect, a special plant, a weather phenomena, anything that inspires you in the natural world. Maybe these mood boards fit in a book, or maybe a small box, maybe they’re so big and complex you fill a wall in your bedroom. It is what feels right to you.
Make a nature table that is dedicated to your very favorite things in nature. It could be inside or outside. it could be a shelf or a garden bed. it could be a stump in the woods. It could be tucked in a pocket or pouch around your neck. Visit it daily to add things, to nurture it. Do you like a nature table that is raw things from the natural world? Do you like collections? Do you like making your own art or writing to add to it? Does it change frequently? Is it quiet and still, or is it loud and dynamic?
The Lost Words was a protest against the idea that children no longer needed nature. How would you protest this idea through art?
What stories can you conjure up? Try out a range of ideas orally, then write down any that you feel work well.
Decide on the type of story you wish to create: a quest, a losing tale, a wishing tale, a fantasy tale, a warning tale, overcoming evil tale, a transformation tale, a tale of suspense.
Plan the characters, setting/s, problems and resolutions, keeping your final destination firmly in mind. Make a map as a visual story board to help you tell your story.
Remember that little details are where we often feel the most connection with nature so use the poems, paintings, and songs as inspiration. capture the atmosphere and events and how you felt in your own mind’s eye before writing.
Find a response partner, when you have finished your tale and done revisions and editing. See if they can make any constructive suggestions as to how you could further polish your work.
Decide how to publish your work – is it an oral performance, in written form (what sort – poem, picture book, short story) play format for people or puppets, a song or a combination? Sound effects and music can add to the atmosphere. Is it a painting, a sculpture? A combination of all of these? You may not be ready to “publish” yet, keep your spellwork in a safe place. Sometimes it takes years for it to be “finished” – like the cicadas that sleep beneath the roots of trees for years before waking up and bursting into song.
Whatever you choose to do, you are honouring the world we live in, are a part of, and deserve to know. Let your spells heal the divide!
April 7, 2020
A sunny day means another chalk drawing. This is my picture of what Grand Pre still looks like today. You can see Blomidon in the background, St Charles the church in the middle and freshly planted fields and meadows in the foreground.
A beautiful epic poem by Henry Wadsworth Lonfellow that shared the tragedy of the Acadian deportation with the world.
Much of what we know about the life of the early Acadians we know because of what they left behind. The dykes they built still stand and the land they reshaped is still the very best farmland in all of Nova Scotia. The plants they brought to Nova Scotia from France still grow every spring and are still used as medicines by herbalists today. Their homes may have been burnt to the ground but the stonework they did still leaves clues as to where they built their homes, how big they were and how they were built.
The Mi’kmaq were good friends and they still tell stories about the Acadians. The descendants of the early Acadians also have an oral history and family trees to help them remember. Starting in the 1900’s archaeologists, people who study the past through what they left behind, began excavating in Grand Pre, and Port Royal and in known Acadian settlements throughout the Maritimes. What they found buried in these places helped them recreate the story of everyday life as well as the sad story of the deportation. The beautiful blue and white china Maman carried to the shore but lost and lay broken at her feet? Archaeologists found those dishes. Archaeologists can tell us the new settlers who came from the British colonies in what is now the United States used the well built Acadian stone foundations to build their homes.
How do archaeologists find these clues to the past? They dig down into the earth and carefully, layer by layer, document everything man made they find. So I have a project for you. I would like your family to make a time capsule and bury it by your house somewhere so that in the future archaeologists can dig it up and know something about you and what it was like to live in 2020.
What are you going to include? What would you like people in the future to know about your life? What’s special about right now? You can include objects and writing and drawing, photographs, anything you’d like. Before you bury it document what is inside to share with the class.
You can include your documentation in your My Nova Scotia Home main lesson book.
March 23 – April 6, 2020
The grade 4-5 class has taken home care packages that will help facilitate the rhythms they are comfortable with in our classroom, familiar workbooks and a range of art supplies. We will be doing a block lesson that is ideally suited to being worked on at home. It combines local history and geography with hearing the stories of immigrants to Nova Scotia, We are starting with the Acadians, and continuing up to the present. Everyone has been sent an invitation to our new google classroom where there will be stories, art, blackboard drawings and activities as well as parent support files.. At home, I ask that families share the story of how your family came to Nova Scotia, get on the phone with grandparents, share photo albums, tell stories from your own childhood. We will make a main lesson book entitled “My Nova Scotia Home” to share with the class when we can all be together again.
There are many ways to make a family tree, just as there are many types of families.
The most basic information on a family tree is your heritage. You came from your parents, they came from their parents, your grandparents came from their parents, and so on. In many families there are several trees all together in a grove because families blend, or there are adopted and fostered children brought in.
Maybe what you’d like to explore is where in the world you came from. In this case you can begin with where you live now, and then draw lines to where your mom is from and where your dad is from. Then you do the same with all 4 grandparents, and if you can your great grandparents. This kind of family tree can be very concentrated on one part of the world, or maybe it extends out far and wide, the further you go back.
Some families can trace their heritage all the way back hundreds and hundreds of years, others can’t because of conditions they faced where that information was lost. When immigrant children were orphaned the families that took them in often changed their names. For some families, ancestors fled persecution and they changed their names to hide their roots. For other families being displaced resulted in being nation less and when you wander it is very hard to keep track of births and marriages.
Every family tree is different. They make a varied and beautiful forest, and in the end they are all related.
Here are some ways you might like to explore your family tree:
The basic information spreading up through the branches are the names of parents and grandparents but you can add your siblings, aunts and uncles and cousins if you’d like too.
Maybe if you are a blended family you’ll have a grove of trees with branches intertwining.
Below the tree the roots can travel to places near and far to represent where in the world everyone came from. Here is a good place to record what family tell you about your history even if you can’t tie it to a specific person. I know my family goes back to Ireland and then later still to Scotland but it is hard to trace once they were in Ireland because they became travellers after losing their land in Scotland. I find this information really interesting so my drawing of my tree will focus on the roots instead of names in the branches.
Family trees can be much more personal too. Perhaps you would like to tell a little something about the family in your tree. You can use photographs to tell a visual story. Or you can write a bit about them like: What they do they love to do. and adjectives to describe them. Maybe you’d like to share an interesting fact about them? These kinds of biographical family trees can help us make wonderful poems.
A Family Tree Poetry Project
The poet Carl Sandburg used his family history to help him write many poems. They don’t look like they are family biographies but they are.
Shine on, O moon of summer.
Shine to the leaves of grass, catalpa and oak,
All silver under your rain tonight. An Italian boy is sending songs to you tonight from an accordion.
A Polish boy is out with his best girl; they marry next month;
Tonight they are throwing you kisses An old man next door is dreaming over a sheen that sits in a cherry tree in his backyard. The clock says I must go – I stay here sitting on the back porch drinking white thoughts you rain down. Shine on, O moon
shake out more and more silver changes.
I will put in suggestions for where to break for the day. Every day we review the day before, practice what we’ve learned, then introduce something new.
Day 1. For this poetry project first talk about your family tree, and then help your child write down these things about their family. Do this for each grandparent, each parent, and about themselves.
Name and Title (parent, grandparent, self) Date of birth
Place of birth
Two adjectives to describe them
One interesting fact about them
You can do this for siblings, and aunts and uncles and cousins – as far as you’d like! If people have passed on, family stories and recollections will help fill this in.
Day 2. Do a brainstorming page. Please circle each topic and its answers to make the next step easier.
4 adjectives to describe where you are from
3 words to describe your future
3 adjectives to describe an important person in your life 3 things you do with your family
2 living things in nature
2 non living things in nature
3 adjectives to describe your favourite food
2 things you fear
2 things you love
Poetry is all about combining the right words to describe something! In many poems you will find numerous adjectives, metaphors and similes that the poet has used to paint a powerful image in the readers mind. Using your completed brainstorming sheet select two answers from any of your circle so that when combined they paint an image in a reader’s mind. Then using those combined words create a powerful sentence that can be used in your poem. 4-5 times.
Try this out
Two non living things from nature 1 lake
Four adjectives that describe where I’m from 1 green
Words combined – lake + tiny
Sentence – My childhood was spent on a tiny lake we named “the teacup”.
Day 3. Next we’ll gather ideas for our poem using this template.
Part 1: Where am I from? Questions to consider: Where were you born? What does it look like there? Are their mountains, oceans, deserts, forests? Where are your parents and/or grandparents from? What language(s) does your family speak? What sort of foods does your family eat? What are some things you have in common with your family? What are some things that you family values? What is unique about your family?
Part 2: Who am I today? Questions to consider: Where do you live today? What does it look like? How would you describe it? What activities do you do with your family, friends or on your own? What is important to you today?
Part 3: Where am I going? Questions to consider: What do you aspire to be? What are your hopes and dreams for the future? Where do you want to live?
Allow your child to start the first draft of their poem. Make sure to encourage students to use their completed activity sheets to assist them with their writing.
Day 4. Once they have completed their first draft have them read their poem and remove any excess language. Remind students that poetry is condensed language and that they are trying to express ideas using meaningful words versus using a lot of words!
You may want to give them a few examples such as:
Sentence: I am like a falcon that soars for long hours above the city, watching everyone down below.
Edited Sentence: I am a falcon soaring above the city, watching everyone below.
Next have your child circle all the adjectives in their poem and using a thesaurus (find one online if need be!) look up the circled words. They may elect to change a word based on their findings.
Next they should read their poem once again with this question in mind: “Is there a better way to express a particular line(s) in my poem?” Encourage them to use metaphors and similes.
You may want to share an example such as: Sentence: I grew up in the Ottawa Valley.
Revised: A white moose was once my neighbour, waterfalls and sun dappling through pines my first memories.
Continue to review and edit as they feel necessary.
Day 5. Before writing a final version students should check their poem for punctuation and grammatical errors.
Then they can do one page in their main lesson book with the good copy of their poem and a border, and a page that illustrates it.
Advice to Parents on our block “My Nova Scotia Home”
How to use the Main Lesson Book?
The Main Lesson Book (MLB) is filled with the student’s drawings and writing and used as a learning tool as well as documentation of the student’s work. The creation of a main lesson book nurtures qualities of thoughtfulness, intention, perseverance, and creativity. It becomes a showcase of the student’s work as well as a cherished keepsake.
They need practice paper for rough drafts first.
Start with a cover page with the title of the block project – My Nova Scotia Home. Encourage them to decorate the cover page.
I always encourage kids to do a border first then their writing and finally their drawing. Remind them they have all the time in the world to embellish drawings and borders but try to set time limits to get the writing down. I never ask for more than 20-30 minutes of writing at a time.
* If your child has trouble getting started help them get key points down which they can elaborate on.
* If they feel more comfortable with copywork, work with them to get the ideas down and let them copy your words.
* If they really struggle with writing feel free to help them and reduce their writing load to labeling and titles. I find the children who struggle with this have lots of ideas but often need help organizing them. In the classroom I team them with peers who have those skills. You can be that peer. Get them talking, helping you find better adjectives and more descriptive verbs and adverbs.
* If they don’t seem to know when to stop with their writing, encourage them to write as much as they want but pull out the most important parts to put in their main lesson book.
No matter what, work together to proofread their work. Keep a dictionary handy. It’s good for them to see adults use these tools too. Say sentences out loud that are grammatically incorrect. We can hear errors more easily than see them. This is especially fun with punctuation – they love when I read run on sentences or act out sentences with too!many!exclamation!points!!!
As you talk about your family history and lore help them identify the themes and plan a page on a theme.
Figure out your family tree.
Gather stories from grandparents and other relatives.
Look at old family photos and take new family photos.
If you are recent immigrants gather your and your children’s own memories of arriving here.
Share family lore and tall tales.
Look at maps together and trace your path.
We have drawn maps from memory in class so don’t ask your child to recreate a map in any kind of precise detail; but definitely try doing an artistic version instead, a map that tells a story. You can draw one, paint one, make a salt dough map.
Try some recipes from the places you came from. Put your favorite recipes in your book.
All of us came here from other places at some point in time, do a bit of research to find out about those other places. Talk about what you may have brought from these cultures. Talk about what makes you feel uniquely Nova Scotian.
Use one of your sheets of watercolour paper to make a poster about this quote “Canadians are born all over the world, it just sometimes takes them a bit of time to get here.”
I’d love to see each student write a poem, letter, or a journal to their future descendants about what it is like growing up today (and we are making history right now). Their memories of this time will make up family lore in the future.
As I bring them historical fiction about the Acadians, listen to the stories, read the background information I provide, and look at the images together. If your child is inspired by the story, discuss how they feel about the deportation. Make room for all their emotions around it. This story has elements they will recognize from the story of Moses and the Israelites, as well as how the Mi’kmaq were treated. I will follow it up with stories of more recent immigrant groups – particularly those who took refuge here after a similar deportation/flight.
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Contact your class teacher if you have any questions or requests regarding Distance Education during COVID-19.