The following Exordium presentations are based on HANDS-ON NATURE a compilation of topics from an environmental education/natural science program that was originally designed and taught by the staff of Vermont Institute of Natural Science (VINS).
Children learn best when actively engaged in the learning process and enjoying themselves doing it. The activities in these lessons encourage inquiry and allow for discovery. Children are invited to look more closely, ask questions and explore freely.
Each lesson includes a variety of activities that may include – drawing, writing, creating models, sorting and classifying, role-playing and much more – with the hope that every child will feel the joy of success.
The lessons can be presented in 1 and 2 hour segments. They are grouped to be presented as segments of specific themes over a longer period of time or as a stand-alone lesson. If variations or specific content is requested, lessons can be modified.
Many of the sessions can encompass field trips and outings to specific habitats or nature sites. This can be discussed at the time of booking to ensure that seasonal accessibility and safety considerations are observed.
Book Readings & Story Telling
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Summer Nature Camps
• Summer camps are designed for specific age groups and can be theme based or have activities that cover a wide range of learning concepts and interests. Primary focus is an exploration of the outdoors and its denizens though hands-on activities, exploration, art and just plain fun.
• Exordium offers several avenues to experiencing our natural world. Through a choice of courses in areas such as the natural, the physical or the art world, students will experience various aspects of the environment and the physical world, learning how it impacts us in our daily lives.
• Nature courses present material from our natural environment in a simple, straightforward manner and allow students to learn through participating, investigating, simulating and experiencing the world around them through art, games, artifacts and discussion
• Adaptations – are the structural or behavioral characteristics of a species that have evolved over time in response to the changing demands of the environment. The lessons in this section will introduce and illustrate how different adaptations contribute to the success and survival of various plants and animals. Students will learn that an individual organism changes throughout its life cycle, while species change over time through the process of natural selection
• Amazing Insects: Adapted and Adaptable
All insects share a basic structural design while also having special adaptations, both physical and behavioral that allow each insect to cope with their habitat’s unique challenges. This outdoor session will allow students to find, identify and examine insects in their natural surroundings. Can also be done inside with mounted specimens.
Beaks, Feet & Feathers
• Beaks, Feet & Feathers: Fantastic Flying Machines - Birds' exceptional adaptations enable them to fly, keep warm and procure food. The unique structure of feathers will be examined. The special functions of beaks and feet will be investigated through simulation exercises. Participants will also role play to portray the special ways birds adapt for the food sources available in their niche habitats.
Beavers & Muskrats
• Beavers & Muskrats - Master Builders Modifying Their Environment. Beavers and Muskrats have many adaptations that allow them to live and survive in an environment of their own making. Beaver & Muskrat artifacts as well as simulation games and a slide show will allow the student to take a closer look at what make these rodents so unique and valuable. A Classroom Field Trip to an actual beaver dam can also be organized for this session.
Frogs & Polliwogs
• Frogs & Polliwogs: Miraculous Transformation – Frogs and toads can live in a wide range of habitats and temperatures because of their unique physical adaptations and specialized life cycles. Frog and tadpole features are compared and discussed. Differences in frog calls are listened to and role playing done to simulate life in a pond. This session can also be designed as a field trip to a pond with investigations done in the field. If the seasonal period is appropriate, a field trip to the unique habitat of a vernal pool can also be arranged.
• Slender Stalks with Seeds That Nourish The World
The importance of grasses as food sources as well as their unique adaptations to withstand the environmental challenges from climate and browsing animals is examined through several hands-on activities
• A Complex Relationship
The difference in adaptations that prey has when compared to predator will be discussed and demonstrated. The complex interrelationship will also be examined through modeling population growth of prey and predator groups through seasonal cycle
• Owls: The Silent Predators – Owls are uniquely adapted for their lives as efficient nocturnal predators. The owl’s characteristics will be discussed in depth and related to its abilities to hunt in total darkness. Role playing and owl calls will bring the owl experience into the class. A two session design will allow for dissection of owl pellets and identifying the prey through bones.
Teeth & Skulls
• Teeth & Skulls: Dentition Determines the Diet– Different types of teeth are adapted to grasp, hold, and chew different kinds of food. Examining the kinds of teeth a mammal has and the shape of its jaw and skull helps us determine the type of food it eats. Specimens will be examined and their characteristics noted and compared. Participants will construct their own animal skull and teeth to represent a fantasy animal and its diet.
Thorns & Threats
• Thorns & Threats: Plants’ and Animals’ Defense Strategies – In order to protect themselves, plants and animals have developed many different defenses. Participants will examine specimens for their different defense strategies and develop the vocabulary of defense strategies. Role playing and hands-on activities will encourage imagination as fantasy plants and animals are designed.
• Cycles - The natural world has few clear-cut beginnings and endings, but rather passes through stages in a continuing cycle. The life cycles of organisms often reflect the seasonal cycles of their environment – a resting stage during harsh seasons, an active stage at times when food and warmth are plentiful. Students learn how different organisms change during their lives, and how these changes are linked to the seasons.
• Bird Songs - Musical Messages
• Dandelions - Survivors In A Challenging World
Fly Away Or Stay
• Fly Away Or Stay - Where Do Birds Go And Why?
• Galls - Small Homes For Tiny Creatures
• Insect Lives - Surviving The Seasons in Stages
Inside A Flower
• Inside A Flower - Making a New Generation
Meet A Tree
• Meet A Tree - The Sum of Many Parts
• Seed Dispersal - Ingenious Ways to Get Around
• Winter Twigs - Signs of Four Seasons
Designs Of Nature
• Designs Of Nature – Nature’s designs are beautiful to behold, and many of them also have a specific purpose. The closer we look the more we learn to appreciate the relationship between form and function. Students will view intricate designs of nature and discover how these forms contribute to the organism’s chances of survival.
• Camouflage - Designed To Conceal
• Cones - Cradles For The Conifers
• Honeybees - Hives & Honey
Snow & More
• Snow & More - Crystals In The Clouds
Spiders & Webs
• Spiders & Webs - Webs & Their Weavers
Tracks & Traces
• Tracks & Traces - Clues To Tell A Tale
Variations On A Leaf
• Variations On A Leaf - The Great Producers
• Winter Weeds - Rugged Remnants of Summer Flowers
Earth & Sky
• Earth & Sky – In examining the physical characteristics of the world around us, students discover that the living and the nonliving are interwoven in an intricate tapestry. Learning about the physical environment involves examining the properties of rocks and air, sunlight and sound, and wind and water. These explorations will help the student understand the connections between living organisms and the nonliving systems that support them.
Breath of Life
• Breath of Life - Earth's Invisible Blanket
• Erosion - Shaping the Landscape
Finding Your Way
• Finding Your Way - Clues That Give US Direction
Pebbles & Rocks
• Pebbles & Rocks - Archives of Earth's History
• Sound Symphony - Good Vibrations
• Sun Power - Energy For Life
Water, Water Everywhere
• Water, Water Everywhere - Journey Through THe Water Cycle
Wind & Clouds
• Wind & Clouds - Reading the ky
• Habitats - An animal’s habitat is the community in which it lives. Throughout this theme, students will compare a variety of habitats and become familiar with some of their inhabitants. They will discover what makes each suitable for certain organisms but not for others. They will explore how habitats change over time and how these changes affect what species can live there. The interaction and interdependence of the inhabitants will also be investigated as their habitats are studied.
Animals In Winter
• Animals in Winter: The Many Ways to Cope With Winter – Animals have differing habitat requirements during the winter, depending on their levels of activity and the availability of food. Winter scenarios of various animals and insects as well as the signs of these inhabitants in the winter are discussed. Tracking workshop can be organized as a field trip for this session as well.
• Forest Floor: Home of the Hidden Workers – The forest floor is a habitat teeming with life, much of which is involved in the decomposition of leaf litter and the recycling of nutrients. The stratified layer of a forest floor is examined either on site or in a sample and an inventory of animals, plants and their age is taken. Earthworms, important members of this habitat are examined in greater detail. A field trip to a forest for direct field observations of diversity of animal and plant life can also be arranged for this session.
Life In A Field
• Life in a Field: Exposed to the Elements – A habitat provides plants and animals with food, water, shelter and a place to raise young. Fields are homes to many interdependent species of plants and animals. The concept of a food web is introduced and the many types of animals are examined through diet and how they interact. A field trip to a meadow for direct field observations of animal and plant life and its diversity can also be arranged for this session.
• Ponds: Life In Still Water – A pond is composed of different habitats, each of which hosts a number of creatures specially adapted to live there. Simulation games and hands-on art bring the unique characteristics of pond creatures to life for the student. This session can also be organized as a field trip. Microscope work can be provided for the older age groups.
• Rotting Logs: Engraver Beetle Story – A rotting log serves as a habitat for many plants and animals, which vary according to the log’s stage of decomposition. A rotting log is dissected and an inventory of its plant and animal life is taken as a basis for further discussion. This can be either a classroom activity or organized as a field trip. Hands-on activities with bark beetle tunnels allow for greater understanding of the insect’s life cycle.
Snug In The Snow
• Snug In The Snow: Snow is a Welcome Blanket for Many – Animals that are active in winter find warmth and protection and even food beneath a blanket of snow. Habitat dioramas and investigation of insulating materials allow the students to familiarize themselves with life in the subnivean layer. This lesson can also be done as a field trip outside.
• Streams: Challenge of a Moving Watery World – A single stream can contain many different habitats that host a variety of plants and animals. The varying habitat and speed of flow requires special adaptations that will be discussed and demonstrated through creating an imaginary creature. This session can also be organized as a field trip.
• White-Tailed Deer: Elusive Beauties of Field & Woods _ White-tailed deer, like many other animals, occupy different habitats during the year as their requirements and sources for food, water, and shelter change with the seasons. Deer artifacts are examined and discussed in depth. Simulation games bring the relationship of prey/predator to the participants’ awareness
• Introduction to the basic principals of chemical & physical science through simple experiments and hands-on modeling of their concepts
Field Trip Classrooms
• Students travel to preselected sites of interest, meet up with a qualified guide for site-specific instruction that can be dove-tailed to classroom curriculum or be a stand-alone lesson
Chazy Reef at ILM
• Chazy Reef on Isle La Motte - Exploration of the ancient 480 million year old fossil reef preserved in the Goodsell Ridge Preserve and the historic Fisk Quarry. Discover the fossils of ancient sea creature that died before any land animals or the familiar continental land masses existed.
Missisquoi River Walk
• Missisquoi River Walk – Walk through a planted White Pine forest and ending on the shores of the Missisquoi River where the rapids & shallow water is searched for river critters or tracks along the river's banks are cast in Plaster of Paris.
Sheldon Community Forest
•Sheldon Community Forest - an exploration of the 80 Acre transitional forest, its flora and fauna, adjacent to the Sheldon Elementary School on Route 105
• Participants will get one-on-one instruction along with hands-on demonstrations, gaining new skills through “learning by doing”.
Hands On Productions
:workshops: Mask, Hand & Handshake Casting - An exploration of self-identity through art and cooperative interaction for groups of all ages.