June 2, 2020 – Insect Explorations

We are very excited that summer day camps in Oregon will be allowed with safety measures in place. Since the announcement we have been busy figuring out what that will look like for OEA camps. In addition, we have been working on filing an application with the IRS for tax-exempt status. These are both proving to be time consuming tasks which is forcing us to pull back a bit from our weekly posts. We have not forgotten you and are working to figure out the best way to balance the work we have been doing over the last few weeks with the return to modified in-person programs. Please be patient with us as we find our balance.

Do you enjoy these activities and the value of nature connection? Please support our work with a donation.


Gratitude

I am grateful for the diversity of ALL life on our planet including human.
I am grateful for ALL the people who work every day to better the lives of all living beings.
I am grateful for ALL the non-human beings who work every day to better the lives of all human beings.


Insect Activities:

In this week’s post we are going to share some ideas to help you and your kids look deeper into the world of insects.

What is an insect? Short Answer: An animal with three body parts (a head, a thorax, and an abdomen), two antennae, and six legs. Many of them have wings. One easy way to tell if you’re looking at an insect or a different animal is to count the legs. If there are six, it’s an insect.

Here’s a catchy little song to help you remember. Add in some movements to increase the fun.

Insect Song
(sung to Head, Shoulder, Knees and Toes)

Head, Thorax, Abdomen, 6 Legs!
(touch head, chest, and belly, hold up 6 fingers)
Head, Thorax, Abdomen, 6 Legs!
(touch head, chest, and belly, hold up 6 fingers)
Big eyes, small eyes, antennae too
(make fingers into a big circle in front of eyes, then a small circle, hold pointer fingers above head to make antennae)
Head, Thorax, Abdomen, 6 Legs!
(touch head, chest, and belly, hold up 6 fingers)

Printable Coloring Page: Insect drawing with labeled body parts

Insect drawing with labeled body parts

Interested in learning more?
Check out The Bug Chicks. These fun, inspirational gals have a lot of information about insects and other small creatures, including free videos and more in-depth workshops (for a small fee) that are great for kids, and adults, who want to learn more.

Did you know? Insects perform lots of important jobs that keep the world clean and healthy.

  • They are the planet’s garbage collectors: breaking down and disposing of waste like dead animals, scat (poop), and dead plant material.
  • They are farmers: pollinating a third of all the food crops that we grow. Without insects many of our favorite fruits and vegetables would not grow.
  • They are food: many animals, including some humans, rely on insects for food. Without them multitudes of birds, bats, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, fish, and even other insects would not have enough to eat.

Nature Walk

  • Create an insect observation kit: put together some items that will help you observe the insects you find.
    • A container with holes: this can be as simple as a plastic container with plastic wrap covering the top. A clear container will allow you to see what’s inside easier. Make sure there are holes so the insect can breathe.
    • A notebook & pencil for sketching and writing observations
    • A magnifying glass if you have one. You can also download a magnification app on your phone.
    • Field Guides: after you have taken some time to observe and get to know the insect you might want to try and figure out what type of insect it is. Field guides are a great tool to help identify something and learn more about it. There are also lots of resources on the internet. Here are a couple:

Remember to be kind to the insects you collect! Release them back to their homes when you are done with your observations and don’t forget to tell them thank you.

  • Print out this minibeast spotter sheet from the Wildlife Trusts and see how many of them you can find. Which ones are insects? Hint: count the legs.
  • Tips for finding insects: sometimes these small animals can be hard to find. Here are some great spots where insects often like to hangout:
    • Under rotting logs or leaves
    • Under stones and boards
    • In piles of dry leaves
    • The underside of a leaf
    • Among flowers
    • On trees
    • In the ground
    • In water: streams, rivers or ponds
    • In the grass

Crafts

  • Fingerprint Insects: Children press fingers into stamp pad or paint and make a fingerprint on paper; this will be the insect’s body. Then draw antennae, wings, and legs. You can also add the insects habitat (where they live).

Exploration Activities

Go make some discoveries!

Swallowtail butterfly

Blue orchard mason bee

Stone fly

May 11, 2020 – Bird Explorations

This is the perfect time of year to turn our attention to the birds as they are very busy, seeking mates, building nests, and raising young. If you take a little time to pay attention your eyes will be opened to the amazing world of birds. This week we will be sharing lots of activities to help you explore their world and learn about the birds that are living around you. You will notice that we share a lot of resources from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Their website has a large amount of information on birds and bird identification and is a great site to bookmark and reference if you have any questions about birds.

Paying attention to the world of birds is a great way to connect to nature and can have a profound impact on the development of our children and our mental health. Kathleen Lockyer, an occupational therapist and founder of RxOutside, wrote an inspiring article on the impact of birds on one of her patients. You can access the article here> 

Birds are some of the most popular animals for people to watch for various reasons: most of them are active during the day when we’re awake, they’re often pretty, and their movements and songs naturally grab our attention. “Birding” isn’t just for “bird nerds;” it’s an easy and rewarding pastime to get started on … just sit down in a comfortable place and watch and listen. Don’t worry about identifying the birds; simply enjoy them.

Do you enjoy these activities and the value of nature connection? Please support our work with a donation.


For this week’s Gratitude section I am going to share the things I have been noticing birds doing around my home. Much of this activity I have noticed from my windows and yard. What are you grateful for?

Gratitude
I am grateful for:
The birds who ate the aphids and other insects that were eating my rose bushes and the vegetables in my garden.
The birds that help provide me food by helping to pollinate the fruits and vegetables I like to eat.
The Junco parents who are caring for their babies in my hanging basket.
And
For all of you who are taking the time to notice and wonder about the world around you.


Bird Exploration Activities:

Videos:

Nature Collections: gather things from your walks around your home and keep them in a special spot in your house where you can see, smell, and touch them regularly.

  • This week try to find things a bird might use to make a nest: small sticks/twigs, moss, lichens, grass, feathers, spider webs, long hair …). Follow the collecting rules: Be respectful, if it’s a living being (plant or animal) leave it be, watch it for a while, take a picture or draw it, but do not remove it from its home, only collect things that have already fallen on the ground, only pick leaves or flowers if there are 10 or more in the area.

Crafts

Clay bird nest, bird, and eggs

  • Clay Bird Nest: My son and I made one of these nests in a parent/child craft class when he was a wee boy, now 18 and graduating from high school, eek! To create your own you will need: 1. air dry clay (here is a recipe for a baking soda clay that’s easy to make at home) you can also use playdough if you don’t care about the longevity of the creation (find a recipe for the best playdough here) and 2. Nesting materials: gather things from your yard or neighborhood that a bird might use in a nest (grass, feathers, moss, sticks etc) or from your home (bits of yarn, dryer lint, etc).
    • Directions:
      • Take a ball of your clay and shape it into a nest shape and stick your nesting materials into your nest. Think about which materials would be best on the outside of your nest and which ones best on the inside of your nest.
      • Let the clay dry overnight or until hardened.
      • You also might have fun making little clay birds and eggs to sit in your nest.
        • Eggs: simply roll little eggs. Leave as is or color with markers or paint.
        • Birds: Roll a bit of clay into a ball, shape another piece of clay into a beak shape or find a stick or other item and stick on the bird face. Add clay wings if you like. Use markers or paint to add eyes and colors to the bird.
      • You can also add food coloring to your clay when you are making it.
    • Edible Nest: Here’s a fun nest to build that you get to eat at the end: chocolate coconut nests! Often done around Easter, they’re just fun springtime treats.
    • Extension: learn about how different birds build nests. Check our “Outdoor Education Adventures” YouTube channel later this week for an episode about nests. The Cornell Lab Bird Cams are a great place to see some live action nesting behavior of a variety of birds. You can also find lots of information on birds and learn more about the birds you might find living around you.
  • Toilet paper tube binoculars: There are a lot of variations to this project, but in its simplest form you attach two toilet paper tubes together either with a hot glue gun or a stapler. Punch holes on one end of each tube and attach string or yarn long enough to hang around your child’s neck. Your child can decorate the tubes before attaching them together if they want to. While these do not work exactly the way real binoculars do, kids have fun with them. Importantly, especially for young children, they help to focus our vision and can make it easier to see specific things by blocking out other visuals that might be distracting.
  • Bird feeders: Here are 3 DIY bird feeders from the Cornell Lab.

Nature Journal Ideas and Printable Pages

  • Bird Sleuth’s Explorers Guidebook: this is another great resource from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. There are a lot of scavenger hunts and information perfect for elementary kids. You can print out individual pages or the entire guidebook or recreate the pages in your journal.
  • Bird Scavenger Hunt with Pictures is a simple scavenger hunt perfect for younger kids.

Bird Walk: take a walk to listen and learn about the birds around you. How many different bird sounds can you hear? Can you imitate them? Do the bird sounds change as you approach? If so, why do you think that is; what do you think they’re saying? If you come back during a different time of day, have the sounds changed? What are the birds doing? Can you find any birds carrying something in their mouth? Try and watch where they fly to; it’s likely they are feeding babies. Do not disturb their nests or try to touch or hold the babies.

Birding Sit Spot: A sit spot is a place that you visit regularly to get to know a place, expand your senses, and study plants and animals. While sitting, use “owl eyes and deer ears” to look and listen for birds around you. Once you have spotted a bird that interests you, without moving, watch the birds to learn what they eat, if they have a nest, where it is located, what the nest is made from. Look for birds carrying something in their beak; is it food or nesting material? Do you see differences in what each type of bird is carrying? Make a bird blind: put up a small tent in your yard or find a place where you can hide and sit quietly and wait for the birds and other wildlife to move about you (under a bush or small tree is a great place to try). If you have one, wear a dark or green-colored hooded shirt, or just wrap up in a blanket; pull your hood up and try to keep your face mostly covered. Try holding a long stick above you; if you hold very still and quiet, a bird might land on it! Put a small bird feeder in the branches nearby (make sure it’s empty in the evenings to avoid unwanted animals from using it). Take your journal and drawing or coloring tools; draw the birds you see. If you can, return to your sit spot frequently and sit very quietly while you’re there. The birds and other animals will get used to you and you’ll be able to observe them better as they learn to trust that you’re not going to hurt them. Be patient and they will reward you.

Science Activities:

  • Bird adaptations:
    • Watch this great video from a Cornell university naturalist to learn about how bird adaptations, like the shape of their beaks, feet, and behaviors, are related to the types of food a bird eats.
    • When you are outside or even from a window in your house look for birds and notice the shape of their beaks and their feet. Can you guess what they eat?
    • In your nature journal make a list or draw pictures of the types of bird beaks and feet you see. Make a list of some of the things birds eat.
    • As you may have learned by now bird beaks come in many shapes and sizes, each designed for eating a specific type of food. Insect eating birds tend to have pointed beaks with a wide mouth. Seed eating birds usually have thick, parrot-like beaks. Grub/worm eaters have pointed beaks for digging. Woodpeckers have long, slender beaks for drilling into the sides of trees. Hummingbirds have very long beaks for feeding on nectar and insects.
  • Eat like a bird by making your own bird beaks and mimic birds with this activity:
    • Gather as many of the following items or something similar to represent foods birds eat: cooked macaroni noodles (small animals), goldfish crackers (fish), gummy worms (earth worms or snakes), chocolate sprinkles (ants), peanuts, sunflower seeds, Nerds candy (small seeds), mini marshmallows (grubs/caterpillars), dry cereals (insects), fruit juice (nectar).
    • Gather the following utensils or something similar to represent bird beaks: clothespin, toothpick, straw, spoon, small plastic scoop, tweezers/small scissors.
    • Hold one type of “beak” in one hand and keep the other hand behind your back. Select one type of food to eat. Try to gather as much food as possible in 15 seconds; you don’t have to eat it; just see if you can pick it up. Repeat for each type of beak.
    • Which beak was most successful in gathering each type of food? Can any of the “beaks” gather more than one type of food? Can you match the shape/function of any of the tools with any real beaks?
Photo: Larry Johnston/Audubon Photography Awards

Larry Johnston/Audubon Photography

Camouflaged Egg Hide and Seek: Just as bird beaks are unique to each bird species, so are their eggs. Eggs are camouflaged to keep them hidden from predators. Can you design paper eggs that would be camouflaged on various surfaces inside or outside your house?

Cut out egg shaped pieces of paper and color them to be camouflaged in a different spot inside or outside your home. You might try creating an egg the same color as your sofa, or kitchen cabinets, or the bark on a tree. Remember camouflage is when something blends into its surroundings so it cannot be seen.

After you have made your eggs place them next to the surface they match and challenge someone else to find them.

    • Extension: Use the paper you colored to make some paper mache eggs. Here’s a link with how to make several types of paper mache, including gluten-free options.
  • Bird Identification & Observation:
    • Field guides are great tools to help you identify and learn about birds. Contact your local bookstore or library to see what they carry for the best books about your area.
    • If you do not have any bird field guides you can gather the same information from the internet. The website All About Birds is a great resource for all things bird related. There are a lot of birding apps you can download as well; this link has 13 apps listed in order of usefulness: https://birdwatchinghq.com/birdingapps/.

May 4, 2020 – Expanding our Senses

This week we are sharing activities that help improve our powers of observation and our awareness of the world around us. We do A LOT of sensory activities in our programs. We have found them to be a great way to focus energy, tune in to our surroundings, and have lots of fun. Engaging in activities that feed our senses has many benefits for both children and adults, including improving our attention, emotional regulation, and organizational abilities, and much more. Kathleen Lockyer shares her insights into the role nature plays in a child’s developing senses in this article: NATURE SENSE: Tuning into Nature’s Operating Manual.

The activities we offer this week will activate all your child’s senses in different ways. Check out our website, social media, and Youtube channels for more activities and ideas.

Do you enjoy these activities and the value of nature connection? Support our work with a donation.


Taking a moment to express appreciation for the natural world deepens our connection to it.  We encourage you to share thoughts of gratitude and thanks for the gifts nature provides.

Gratitude
We are grateful for:
The sound of spring rain
The warmth of spring sunshine
The smell of spring flowers
The taste of tender spring greens
The sound of singing birds
And
For all of you who allow us to share our love of nature with you and your children.


Expanding our Senses Activities: 

Video: visit our Youtube channel for education videos and stories.

Nature Collections: gather things from your walks around your home and neighborhood. Keep them in a special spot in your house where you can see, smell, touch, and play with them regularly. Loose parts such as these can spark creativity in your child’s play and can be used throughout the week for crafts. ***Be respectful when collecting and follow the collection rule: If it’s a living being (plant or animal) leave it be, watch it for a while, take a picture or draw it, but do not remove it from its home.

  • This week try to find items that represent each sense: sight, smell, taste, touch, sound. Here are some ideas: colorful flower petals, smelly plant leaves, something with a rough texture, a smooth texture, things that make sound when moved or touched.

Crafts

  • Make some noise: Fill containers small stones, beads, beans, popcorn kernels, rice or other things, cover with a lid. What sounds can you make? Try different materials and different containers. Do they make different sounds?
    • Use a paper towel tube or toilet paper tube as your container. Cut out two circles from construction paper or a paper bag. Wrap one circle around one end of your tube and secure it with string or a rubber band. Fill the tube with your material of choice or try a combination. Secure the other end of the tube with the other circle of paper. How does it sound?

Nature Journal Ideas and Printable Pages

  • Scavenger Hunt for the Senses: take this fun scavenger hunt as a guide for finding things to see, hear, touch, and smell. Can you find other things that aren’t on this list? When you’re finished, put this page in your Nature Journal.
  • Sound map imageSound Map: (Materials: a piece of paper or index card, writing utensil, spot to sit quietly).
    • Mark a spot in the middle of your paper, this represents you. Listen for sounds around you and make a note on your paper of where the sounds are in relation to where you are sitting. For example if you hear a bird behind you draw a little bird or write the letter b or some other symbol on the paper.

Game and Challenges

  • Guessing box/bag: Put various items into a box or bag or something else the other person can’t see into. Have the other person feel around in the box (no peeking) and guess what the items are. Some items you might consider include a fir cone, some moss, a rock with interesting textures, a snail shell (without the snail). You can also play with things from around the house, including grapes or orange wedges (though they might get sticky), a cooked noodle, a piece of cloth, a toothbrush, a small picture frame, a familiar piece of costume jewelry. Consider including something with a strong but pleasant scent, like a stick of cinnamon bark or a sprig of an herb from your yard. Very important: Don’t put anything in the box that you wouldn’t want to touch yourself, and don’t include living animals (including worms and insects) because the animal might get hurt.
  • Camera, Camera: (Played with a minimum of two people) One person is the camera the other the photographer. The camera sits or stands in front of the photographer with eyes closed. The photographer gently moves the camera’s head to point in the direction of something they want to take a picture of and gently pulls on the camera’s ear to activate the shutter. The camera’s eyes open to reveal the scene the photographer wanted to capture. Extension ideas: 1. Draw a picture of the scene in your nature journal. 2. The camera tries to guess what the photographer is trying to capture, i.e. a tree, a flower, an insect, etc.
  • Animal charades: Use your sense of imagination to become an animal. Can others guess who you are? When imitating your animal think about how they use their senses. Do they listen carefully? Do they use their sense of touch to walk quietly or get into tight spaces? Can they smell their way home? Can they see or are they blind?
  • Blindfold Challenges: when we dampen our sense of site our other senses are heightened. Here are some fun challenges we do during camp:
    • Blindfolded children follow the sounds made by another child Meet a…(tree, chair, fence post): carefully guide a blindfolded player to an item or spot in your yard or house. Allow them a few moments to explore the area or item using there sense of touch, smell, and hearing. Carefully guide them away from the spot while trying to disorient them with a gentle spin. Remove the blindfold. Can they find the spot or item?
    • Caterpillar Walk: lead a blindfold walk through your yard or neighborhood. A sighted person will lead a blindfolded person around having them SAFELY touch and smell things. Note: this is a trust activity, it can be unsettling to be blindfolded and led around. If you are the leader be respectful and careful to lead your partner is a safe manner.
    • Rope Blindfold Walk: this is an extension of the Caterpillar Walk. Rather than leading a blindfolded person you lay a rope out around your yard or your house. Lead a blindfolded person to the start of the rope and allow them to follow the rope either by crawling or walking barefoot along the rope. Be sure the rope does not guide the blindfolded person into an area where they may get hurt or run into something. 
    • Sound Trail: a leader makes sounds while a blindfolded players follows the sound.
  • The Power of Suggestion: (Played with atleast two people: the Chef and the Guest; You will need: some strongly flavored condiments (ketchup, mustard, jam – make sure it’s nothing the Guest hates or is too spicy), a strongly scented flavoring extract (like peppermint or anise), a cotton ball, a small dish, a plate, toothpicks or small spoons, and a blindfold.) The Guest waits patiently in another room while the Chef sets up the tasting table. Chef puts pea-sized dabs of the condiments on the plate so they’re not touching; keep the plate on the Chef’s side of the table. Put some extract on the cotton ball and place it in the small dish in front of the Guest’s chair. Now, go to your Guest and blindfold them. Carefully guide them to the table and have them sit down in front of the scented cotton ball. Ask them to breathe in deeply through their nose. The Chef will then feed the Guest small tastes of any random condiment. Can the Guest tell what they are tasting? What if the Chef tells them the condiment is a different one than what they’re actually tasting (the Chef puts ketchup on the Guest’s tongue, but tells the Guest it’s jam); what does the Guest think of it?