Introductory 1 credit course on using your school yard setting to teach cross-curricular subject matter and meet the applicable standards is now being offered through Castleton University - Go to Course Details tab and scroll down to see details

Our Mission: To encourage the curious mind to explore, in an environment that is safe, supportive, cooperative and productive, any and all aspects of our World, whether man-made or natural in origin, through student interaction, imaginitive play and participative learning.

Nature • Thursday, November 10th


Nature, with its unlimited supply of materials and wide variety of potential topics, presents an ideal setting for place-based inquiry. Students of all ages become enthralled with the mysteries that confront them once you, as their guide, ask an initial question.

• What left that mark on the tree?
• How would you know a porcupine sat under that rock?
• Look at this plant and let’s see what made that swelling on the stem?

Each question leads to another as observations are made and facts noted:
• What would leave regular scratch marks along a tree trunk?
• What animal would favor a beech tree and why?
• Is that black hair possibly left by the animal as they climbed the tree?
• What is that large “nest-like” structure in the crotch of the beech tree?

These are all signs that await an interpretation, recounting an animal’s actions, which has long since faded back into its habitat. Just as the child that sits on the lap and is fascinated by the pictures in the book you are reading to them, so nature’s observers pay close attention to the detail as the “story” unfolds in the telling.

A bear, wandering the woods in search of food comes upon a beech tree filled with ripe beech nuts, one of its favorite foods. Climbing up into crotch of branches, the bear makes a nest in which it can sit and pull branches toward itself, eating the nuts it finds. In climbing, it had caught its fur on a tiny snag in the bark, leaving behind a dark clump of black hair. The marks on the tree should have the form of claws on opposite sides of the tree as the bear digs into the bark with fore and hind legs.

Further questions arise:
• Are there other beech trees (or other tree species) with similar signs?
• Are the old marks covered by fresh marks? If so what does that mean?
• Has the bear marked the tree in any other way?

And so a simple walk in the woods can yield a wonderful story of events that were unseen but are clearly understood just like the story-line of a good book. Can you think of a better way of firing up the imagination no matter what the age of the observer?

Modified by on 2016-11-10

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