Roots & Shoots Archives - Page 6 of 7 - Eva Varga

January 29, 20093

On Tuesday, our Roots & Shoots club gathered in our room with the intention of studying the science of snow. Unfortunately, it hasn’t snowed in some time and we didn’t  have much of a snowpack to observe. I thereby had to make some modifications to my original plan.

Young girl examining fresh snowflakes on a black piece of paper
Capturing freshly fallen snow

Connecting Literature

After everyone arrived, I gathered the kids on the carpet and read aloud a favorite book, Snowflake Bentley. It is a rather lengthy story but most everyone was attentive and engrossed in the story. Everyone that is, except Buddy, who was much more interested in demonstrating his skills as a train engineer and Polar Express enthusiast. “Choo Choooooooooo!” he exclaimed loudly as he ran circles around the house. It took a little while to get him quiet – I was a little embarrassed – but he made us all chuckle.  [ One of the true joys of homeschooling diverse ages of children. ]

After the story, we got the wiggles out and then sat down in the office where I showed a short video clip which explained how snowflakes are formed. For most of the kiddos, I’m sure it went over their heads – but it was exposure and if nothing else, they will understand that snow is made of tiny crystals, none of which are exactly alike.

I then showed part of a second clip… which explained how to go about studying snow. I encouraged everyone to give it a try at home when it snowed again. I gave the adults a few handouts to take home.

A young girl captures snow as it's falling onto black contrasting paper

Art & Writing Activity

I then gathered everyone around the dining room table and showed them how to make paper snowflakes. I was surprised that most of the kids had never done this before so it was a delight. I had templates with valentine themed patterns (hearts, of course) to make it easier. I also encouraged everyone to create their own designs.

I didn’t anticipate the difficulty that some would have cutting into the thick layers of paper, however. Everyone, therefore, created at least one snowflake, but only the more experienced with scissors chose to make more.Sweetie loved it as I knew she would. The following day she continued to make snowflakes and we were able to create a curtain or arch in one doorway. See her post, Snow Haiku, for a visual as well as a haiku she wrote later that day.

Hands-on Snow Study

Fortunately, it snowed again on Sunday so my kiddos were able to get out and do the snow study as shown in the video. I hope others did as well. We didn’t bother to count the number of each type of snow crystal – but we did, in fact identify a number of them including: Hexagonal Plates, Stellar Plates, and Capped Columns. We thereafter spent time sketching each in our nature journals. We recorded the outdoor temperature was 20 degrees, no wind.

Submitted to Barb’s Winter Nature Study :: Snow 25th January 2009.

December 18, 2008

Chimps, Inc. is a nonprofit wildlife sanctuary dedicated to furthering chimpanzee conservation through education. It was founded by Lesley Day in 1995 in response to the multitude of captive chimpanzees desperately in need of homes. Earlier this week, Nicole Wilkins, a staff member at Chimps, Inc. came to talk to us about the work they do at the sanctuary and to give us a glimpse into the lives of the chimpanzees.
It was a very informative and educational talk. The biggest thing the kids learned was how to tell the difference between a monkey and an ape. “Monkeys have tails. Apes don’t.” At the conclusion of the talk, we presented Nicole with a donation. Each family collected a variety of things from Chimps, Inc.’s wish list. Some items included tea bags, blankets, plastic containers, plush animals, magazines, and coloring books. In January, we also hope to make another donation of enrichment toys and gifts for the chimpanzees.
After the Chimps, Inc. talk, we enjoyed learning about Winter Solstice. The children each walked the spiral as they reflected upon the past year. We set up the spiral in our garage because temperatures were hovering around 3 degrees all day and the kids voted to do it indoors. When they reached the center, they were assisted in lighting their candle. They then walked out of the spiral as they thought forward to the new year. My kiddos were particularly fond of the spiral as we had recently read a book about labyrinths and mazes titled, Mazes Around the World by Mary D. Lankford. This activity was the perfect way to tie-in literature, nature, and history/heritage.
The winter solstice occurs at the instant when the Sun’s position in the sky is at its greatest angular distance on the other side of the equatorial plane from the observer. Depending on the shift of the calendar, the event of the winter solstice occurs some time between December 20 and December 23 each year in the northern hemisphere, during the shortest day of the year.
The seasonal significance of the winter solstice is in the reversal of the gradually lengthening nights and shortening days. How cultures define this is varied, since it is sometimes said to astronomically mark either the beginning or middle of a hemisphere’s winter. Worldwide, interpretation of the event has varied from culture to culture, but most cultures have held a recognition of rebirth, involving holidays, festivals, gatherings, rituals or other celebrations around that time.

A huge thank you to Bonnie for planning, coordinating and setting up our spiral for the celebration.

October 23, 20081

One afternoon each month, I coordinate a nature outing or service learning activity for the children in our neighborhood. We usually meet at the park or our home where I lead them through a different hands-on activity. This past week, our activity focus was on native amphibians, specifically the Western Toad (Anaxyrus boreas).

The Western Toad is a large toad species, between 5.6 and 13 cm long, native to western North America. The range of Western Toad extends throughout the Pacific Northwest. Though the species occupies a variety of habitats, it is listed as near threatened largely due to the impact of disease and chemical contamination of the environment. We wanted to do something to help provide habitat for these animals.

Upon arrival, everyone gathered around the dining room table and took their time to paint a terracotta pot. Once dry, the pots will be placed in our backyards in the hopes of providing habitat for frogs and other small critters. When the kids finished painting their pots, we gathered on the carpet as I read excerpts from several books about frogs and toads.

We discussed the difference between frogs and toads, the concentration of poison in the skin of poison arrow frogs, rough skinned newts and others, as well as the life-cycle of amphibians. The kids also enjoyed a mini-activity called Hands-on Herps from Ranger Rick’s Let’s Hear it for Herps.

Here are a few great links to learn more about encouraging wildlife, specifically frogs & toads, to inhabit your backyard:

I love Roots & Shoots Tuesdays.

August 19, 20083

Sweet success! Four families joined us this afternoon at Wildflower Park for our monthly Roots & Shoots activity. The focus this time was on animal tracks; chosen specifically because we are studying vertebrate animals in our homeschool.

We started out with a read aloud. Everyone gathered around me on the grass as I read a book, titled, Whose Tracks Are These? by Jim Nail. The kids and adults enjoyed listening to the clues to try to identify the animal that left the tracks in question. We also shared a few stories of animal encounters (raccoons, deer/elk, squirrels, etc.). It was a great discussion and I was delighted that everyone sat quietly and respectful of one another. With toddlers, you never know what to expect. 😀We then moved to identify two sets of tracks that I had discreetly painted onto the ground. The kids knew right away that they were raccoon and bear. Buddy had took his flip flops off earlier so he quickly compared his foot size to that of the bear. I wish I had had a chance to photograph him.I shared with everyone a number of animal tracks that I had collected from former students (plaster of paris casts). We talked about how all of the animals we had talked about were vertebrates. [Animals with a backbone.]

I shared a couple of vertebrae that were also given to me by former students (elk and whale). I asked, “Does anyone know the 5 groups of vertebrates?” [Reptiles, Amphibians, Fish, Birds, and Mammals]

Then I shared with them a small bat specimen and asked, to which group does the bat belong? We talked about what makes a mammal a mammal.

Lastly, I shared a fox pelt that my dad gave me years ago. There were many “oohs” and “ahhhs”. This is what I love about teaching science – exciting their senses and capturing their spirit.

After the ‘show and tell’, I showed the stencils I had made and allowed everyone to decorate their Tshirts with the spray-on fabric paints. I had only 4 bottles of paint and with 9 children, I was a little apprehensive about how patient they would be. But my fears were for naught… everyone was so intrigued that we enjoyed watching others create theirs just as much as we enjoyed our own.

For more information about animal tracks, check out this great web site, Tracks & Signs.

June 23, 20085

The kids and I went to the park this afternoon looking forward to meeting others who had expressed interest in a 4H Adventurers Club I hope to get started. I had posted my intention on our local homeschool message board and received good response. I thereby sent those you had expressed interest an email, inviting them to meet me for an informational/organizational meeting at the park this afternoon. As only one person replied that they wouldn’t be able to attend – I proceeded forth.

Imagine how difficult it is to explain to a 3 and 5 year old why no one showed up. As I am relatively new to homeschooling, it is hard for me not to take things personally. I am perplexed as to what to think.
1) The date/time were not convenient.
2) They all over-looked it / forgot.
3) They don’t have an interest in joining.
4) They don’t like me. Someone is talking negatively about me and others are forming opinions before they’ve even met me. [Jr.High/High School issues resurfacing]

I haven’t found homeschooling co-ops or clubs for young children of similar ages to my own in our area. I thereby have tried to coordinate my own. I started a Roots & Shoots group. Initially, I had a great turnout… 13 families. Within the first month, all the homeschooling families expressed they had conflicts. The only members that remain do not homeschool. However, they don’t have the same level of interest / involvement. It has been revealed to me that the homeschoolers opted NOT to be involved in my Roots & Shoots group for that exact reason.

I planned an outing for our Roots & Shoots group last week and no one shows. Today, I plan a organizational meeting for 4H Adventurers. Interest is expressed but no one shows up. Yet, no one communicated that the date/time were not convenient. I spend a great deal of time planning and preparing for activities. It is very frustrating when no one shows up. It is difficult for my daughter to understand why friends aren’t able to join us.

What am I doing wrong? How are homeschool clubs and co-ops organized where you live? How do you involve your child(ren) in activities with other children of similar ages?