Today was a chilly day, with snow falling (that quickly was named “Snailing” because it seemed like a weird snow/hail mix, not quite snow, not quite hail). Before we headed out on the trails, we quickly reviewed what we did last week. We pulled out a maple sugaring sheet with all the steps in order and answered some related trivia questions to get a stamp by each picture. On the way to the meadow, Elias found a feather on the trail that might be the soft down feather of a hawk of some kind, cool find!
In the meadow we explored the vernal pond and then quickly got excited about a game called “Sprout Tag.” With a ball you use it to tag another person but you can only take 5 steps before throwing the ball. If you don’t have the ball you can run away with as many steps as you want. As we played the “snail” fell on our heads and left a gloomy glow over the land. Having a running game really helped keep us warm!
The rest of the day was all about sound and how animals like bat, whales and dolphins use echolocation to communicate and find their food. Once we got to the dock, we explored for a few minutes before finding a spot to sit and do a sit spot. Sit spots are a way to allow kids the time to think in their own space. This type of thinking allows people to center themselves and have a moment to reflect and collect and organize their thoughts. It also allows a time to discover new things in nature. Once our sit spots were over, Eva and Piper heard a sound at the edge of the forest that we explored. They were hoping for a fox, I think, even though it turned out to be a squirrel, the activity of following our ears and silently discovering something in nature was really fun! We all came back to the dock to talk about our next activities.
Some of the sounds I heard during our sit spot were the occasional tapping sounds of snow hitting the ground, the wind blowing past my ears, very few if any birds, the sound of water flowing over rocks created by Elias swirling a stick in the pond and the scraping sounds of James widdling across the pond. On the dock we reviewed what Biomimicry is, since that is the theme of our class, and then we spoke about echolocation. We talked about how echolocation is sound waves that travel through the air and bounce off of objects and this method helps animals like bats find their prey. Echolocation underwater is called sonar but it works the same way. We then thought about how humans have used this natural phenomenon. One of the most obvious ways is in the form of radar. Radar and technology like sonograms, work the same way as echolocation. Using sound waves to read what we can’t see. Those sound waves create images for us to understand easier. Jasper also mentioned something very interesting. She said there are people who lack their sense of sight that use clicking and other sounds to understand their surroundings.
With the snow falling and the cold wind blowing it was time to head back to Irvine to warm up. Inside we got to do a fun experiment with cup phones. Cup phones are a fun tool that explains how sound waves move across a medium like string. Before we got to an experiment by reciting words to someone on the other side of the cup phone and seeing if they could understand, we hypothesized which cup phones would work better. We had a few options; cup phones with twine or yarn, cup phones with plastic cups or paper cups, longer or shorter strings? A lot of us agreed that the plastic cup would work better and the twin would work better too! Jasper suggested that shorter strings would work better. We did find that the shorter strings worked better and the plastic cups worked better even though some of us found more success with the paper cups. Once we had our cup phones of choice, we chose someone to be the speaker and someone the writer. The speaker would say three simple phrases about echolocation and the other person would have to write them down. We all said them at the same time with the writer’s one ear plugged so they couldn’t hear other teams. Sometimes the phrases had to be said a few times but for the most part, everyone was able to hear the phrases through the cup phones! After we solved a simple word puzzle with our phrases. After we had finished our experiment, some of us got talking about new cup phone ideas, like metal soup cans and James suggested using wire or even a water tube since sound travels better through water, what great ideas!
To finish off the day, we got to meet one of our animal ambassadors, an eastern kingsnake. We learned more about kingsnakes, like they eat other snakes and are even immune to the venom of poisonous snakes like the copperhead and timber rattlesnake. We also got to watch as our kingsnake moved around the room, trying to find a dark, warm place to hide. Her head also has a real smiley face marking on it, what a happy way to end the day!