February 2020: Nature Notes - Littlest Learners Emergent Curriculum
Updated: Apr 23
C. Tootsie Jablonski 2020
February flew by here at the Farmstead! It was a month full of exciting weather, big changes in the forest, and increasing signs that spring is on the way. The Littlest Learners took advantage of Mother Nature’s lesson plans and learned all about weather and erosion. We talked a lot about forest health, welcomed the full Snow Moon, and started our first seeds in our greenhouse. Most of all, we enjoyed being with each other and in nature during this magical season of transition!
Mother Nature really did Ms. J a favor this month by providing us all types of weather to experience during our earth science unit! We were very excited to set up a weather station in the school yard, complete with a thermometer, rain gauge, wind sock, and anemometer. Checking the thermometer and rain gauge has really helped us work on our number recognition and pattern recognition skills. As we record the weather each morning and afternoon, we are noticing how sunshine, wind, cloud cover, and moisture all affect the temperature and weather throughout the day. It is very exciting to make predictions in the morning and check to see if we were right in the afternoon!
We also studied our most common type of extreme weather in western NC, flooding. We had several flooding events during this month, so we were able to discuss observations we had made around our homes and towns and relate those to the floodplain modeling we did in class. Using play dough and water, we explored how water travels across Earth’s surfaces in different geological contexts. Then we used our engineering skills to design solutions such as building dams and levees, changing home design (stilted homes), and better home site selection. There was lots of trial-and-error problem solving during these lessons, and we did a great job using our scientific process to test theories and incorporate data into new ideas!
There were some big changes to our forest this month that led us to some rich learning about biological communities and forest health. The landowners of our forest are having many trees cut down around the school yard and forest classroom. We’ve had lots of great discussions about why this is necessary for the overall health of the forest as well as the safety of the school and its students. We talked about the need to remove standing dead or sick trees so that they don’t fall onto us or our buildings. Mother Nature helped us out again by giving us a perfect example of this up on our hiking trail. A large dead tree fell right across our trail, and when we discovered it the students were able to explore it close-up and observe signs that it was dead (missing bark, holes in trunk) and notice how it affected other trees and plants when it fell. We were able to compare that tree to some of the trees that had been cut down to help us notice some of the signs they were showing of aging and sickness, and how cutting them down at this time helped us avoid negative consequences to the forest and structures around them. After learning about the justification for removing trees, we also talked about how to give back to the forest. We decided that we could plant new plants in those spaces that don’t grow as tall as trees, but still provide shelter and food resources for forest creatures. We are hoping that eventually we can establish rhododendron and native berry bushes, but for this year we are going to concentrate on growing lots of flowers for our pollinators as we get the forest cleaned up!
Our letters this month were N for nasturtium, Z for zinnia, D for daylily, and X for box elder. We planted nasturtium and zinnia seeds (that we harvested here at the Farmstead in the fall), and have been so excited to watch them sprout and start to grow inside our brand new greenhouse. We also dug up a lot of daylilies from under the trees in Fortville and replanted them in the sunnier areas around our schoolhouse. In doing so we learned about perennial plants and annual plants, and how different plants reproduce and move around a landscape.
Speaking of new plants, we had a ton of observations to record during our Snow Moon phenology walk! Of course the biggest change was all of the downed trees, but we also noticed lots of signs of spring coming to our forest. The multiflora rose buds have all burst open, revealing small green leaves abundant enough to make an impact on the overall color scheme of the hillside when we look across the hollow. We also noticed beautiful multi-colored crocosus, yellow daffodils, and purple hyacinths blooming in our pollinator cafe! We were especially excited to welcome back the water striders in creek kitchen, as well as many other insects that we have observed flying in the air and crawling through the grass. The chickens are also excited about the return of the insects, and have been continuing to increase their egg laying throughout the month. We are getting over a dozen eggs a day now!
As we move into March, we are looking forward to finding and celebrating more signs of the forest awakening and spring returning to our Cove!