This week was all about transforming the things around us. We already learned that natural objects decompose and form things that are good for the soil and ultimately give way to new life! We’ve seen this a lot with fallen, decomposing ‘nurse’ logs alongside the trails. This week, our Monday/ Wednesday class, after our exciting ‘trimming the trails’ lessons of last week, learned how invasive species of plants can overtake a landscape. Trimming back the species that overtake an area allow more heterogeneous harmony and therefore transforming the forest! On Tuesday/ Thursday we saw the ways that fire transform objects, turning them into ash, embers and charcoal and during both classes, we saw rotting squishy pumpkins in a different way- as squirrel snacks, fly habitats and nutrient rich decomposition!
On Monday this week we had a special guest come visit us: one of the female box turtles! s. We took her outside and let her walk around on the grass and in the leaves. Her shell helped her camouflage into the fall colors and so we played a game of trying to find her off the trail. When she stopped moving she was very hard to see! When we went to put her back inside her home, we ran into Mr. Colby who showed us an extra special guest who was just here for the day: a pheasant!! Up in the nature center we compared our box turtle with the other turtles. The wood turtle is much bigger and the painted turtle was a favorite! We also learned about invasive species and helped Irvine by trimming down some of the invasive plants that were coming up. We created a chant while walking through the meadow to remind us about one of the invasive species: “thistle, thistle, thistle! no, no, no!”
On Wednesday we dove into invasive species with an experiment. We put drops of food coloring into a tray of 2% milk and pretended the different colors were different native species. Then when our landscape looked beautiful and covered with the different natives, we added a bit of dish soap (an invasive species) and the native plants all moved away and got crowded by the invasive intruders. We liked it so much we tried the experiment again. Then we tried it with half and half instead of 2% milk and the experiment worked even better! After our experiment, we decided to help Mr. Wally out around Irvine. We took a tour of his shed and looked at all of his tools. Then we helped to decompose the pumpkins and mums from Irvine’s Pumpkins on the Green event. We took some pumpkins and helped to smash them in order to speed up decomposition and create some squirrel snacks!
Tuesday/Thursday forest friends have been very interested in fire building! We created a fire and played a game called – How Will it Burn? with your hosts, the Forest Dreamers! Ms. Tara collected many things that would be exciting (and safe) to add to a fire. Some of those things included- a cob of corn, dried pasta, paper towel rolls, a slice of bread, a pepper, a tomato, paper plates, dried goldenrod, pinecones, tissue paper and q-tips! We created a chart to track our experiment. If something burned well, we drew a check mark next to that item, if it didn’t burn well, we added an ‘x’. Each person had a chance to add to the fire. We found that the tissue paper burned in the most exciting way (creating floating embers) and the bread was the most insightful as we all watched the bread turn into toast! We concluded that the dry items and items made from paper burned the best and would be great for a fire in the future!
We spent our hike time in what we dubbed- ‘Vine Forest’ for more cause and effect fun! We had to gauge which branches were safe to swing and climb on. We had to make personal decisions about how high we wanted to climb or how much weight we wanted to bear on a hanging vine; a great use of gross motor skills all around!
On Thursday, we had our very own cooking show with our chefs, you guessed it, the Forest Dreamers! We followed a recipe to make delicious seasoned pumpkin seeds over the fire! We watched how the slimy inside guts and seeds of a pumpkin transformed to create crispy, delicious pumpkin seeds! We coated half of the seeds with salt and the other half with cinnamon. Most agreed that it turned out pretty good!
We then helped decompose the pumpkins sitting in the mulch pile! We rolled them, smashed them, and spread their seeds. The smaller the pumpkin pieces, the quicker it will decompose and it will be much easier for our squirrel friends to grab a slice or chew on some seeds!
Our story was A Fruit is a Suitcase for Seeds by Jean Richards.