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Montessori Outdoor Science School 2019 (MOSS) Day Five May 24, 2019

Research presentations

Well, today the rain that was forecast for the whole week finally came! We only ventured out to complete our weather forecast. And our young scientists predicted the weather accurately.

“Well, the sky is covered by a heavy blanket of grey cloud – nimbostratus clouds – that means continuous rain.”

“And there is almost no wind, so that means the rain is here to stay. There is no wind to blow the clouds away.”

That made it easier to relocate today’s planned activities to our classrooms. We spent some time looking at maps, and finding the places we had visited during the week. We also caught up on recording the birds we had noticed during the week. We had seen fourteen of the eighteen birds in our birding books, and the children could remember where and when we had spotted the birds.

“We saw the quail crossing the road yesterday on our walk to the park.”

“The hawk was on the pole by the bridge.”

“The violet-green swallows were on the island in the pond and under the bridge.”

As well as the birds in our birding book, we also saw crows, a wood duck and a heron.

We then divided into our groups to continue working on our research projects. We were mostly working on completing our tri-fold displays for our presentations scheduled for 1:00PM. There was a whole lot of writing, drawing, coloring, cutting, gluing and decorating going on. We also practiced verbally presenting the material.

We were so happy to have so many families show up to join us for our indoor picnic, followed by the presentations. We had parents and grand-parents, and siblings, so we had a full house! As teachers, we are so thankful for the awesome support we receive from our families.

So, what were the questions our students worked at answering using the scientific method?

  • Are there fish in the ponds at Sunnyside Park. We found virtually no macro-invertebrates in the pond, so if there were fish in the pond, what did they eat?
  • How many food webs can we observe at Sunnyside Park?
  • Are there more animals at the big pond or the small pond at Sunnyside Park?
  • How are bugs attracted to people?

Our students used many tools to answer their questions – fishing nets, binoculars, magnifying glasses, timers, clipboards, paper and pencils to record data. Some of them presented their data in tables or pie charts. Some of them used math skills, such as using addition and division to find an average. Each group successfully used science vocabulary such as hypothesis, prediction, materials, method, observations, data, results, and conclusion. I am so tickled to hear our students use words such as ‘prediction’ or ‘hypothesis’ in their daily conversations! As our presentations were put together under a time crunch, we absolutely accepted developmental spelling. As a teacher, I much prefer that a six to seven year old is unafraid to sound out hypothesis than all words are correctly spelled! ‘Hipothesis’ is a very close approximation to the correct spelling, as is ‘qesten’. (Note to self – give lesson on ‘u’ after ‘q’ in most English spelling of words beginning with q. Give lesson on ‘ion’ spellings. This is how Montessori teachers work.)

So what were their conclusions?

  • There are fish in the pond. We used oats as bait and almost caught some fish in our nets. The fish are surviving partly on food thrown into the pond to feed the ducks. There may be few macro-invertebrates because the fish eat them.
  • The groups observed several food webs. They also noted that they saw more land food webs than aquatic food webs. This was due to poor water quality in the ponds and a lack of aquatic macro-invertebrates.
  • There were a lot more animals observed at the big pond. There is more water and more food at the big pond, and the island in the big pond provides a safe habitat for many animals.
  • Bugs use their senses, just like people do. Bugs are attracted by sight (color), smell (sweat, perfume, shampoo), taste (blood) and touch (body heat).

The kids really enjoyed using a microphone to make their presentations. The audience asked a lot of thought provoking questions. Everyone then spent time looking at the presentation boards. And so ended a very happy, positive and productive outdoor science week.

Thanks for following us throughout the week!


Montessori Outdoor Science School 2019 (MOSS) Day Two May 21, 2019

Filed under: nature,outdoor education,Scientific Method,Uncategorized — bevfollowsthechild @ 11:13 pm

Kamiak Butte hike

Day Two ~ Geology and Micro climates

Today was all about the weather. We set out under heavy cloud cover, like a grey blanket. Those were strato-nimbus clouds and they usually predict lots of rain! Would we get wet?

Driving through the Palouse hills to Kamiak Butte – so green!

Our first lesson was an overview of the geology of the area. We were at Kamiak Butte, but what exactly is a butte? A butte is the remnant of a once much taller mountain. A long, long time ago, our area saw a lot of volcanic activity. The peaks of Moscow Mountain to the East, Kamiak Butte, and Steptoe Butte to the Northwest, all now have their bases buried in layer after layer of basalt. The basalt flowed, filled in the valleys and is about 2,000 feet deep. After an ice age, loess (wind-blown, fine and often fertile ‘dust’) from melting glaciers also covered the valleys, resulting in the deep, loose and rich farmland of the Palouse. We drew diagrams of the geology, and during our hike we would see the other peaks – Moscow Mountain and Steptoe Butte – and lots of rich farmland filling in the spaces between the peaks.

Outdoor classrooms are the best! Working on drawing the geology overview

We began our hike. Our first major stop would be at the vista. None of the children knew exactly what a vista was, but I was sure once we reached the vista, they would figure it out! On the way up the switchbacks, we stopped to identify Ponderosas (needles in bunches of three) and Douglas Firs (via a legend about mice hiding during a fire in the cone of a Douglas Fir. Check it out – you’ll see what looks like the back legs and tails of mice hanging out of the cone!). We also discussed what the purpose of the berms on the trail might be for. One child thought they were for hikers to hang onto if they were being swept off the mountain! Not quite, but they do stop dirt being swept off the mountain. The older children knew the word ‘erosion’, and knew that most of the erosion would be water erosion. We looked for a rainbow of flower colors – we saw yellow, pink, purple, blue, white . . . We also spotted Steptoe Butte and a wind farm in the distance. Stopping frequently to look and listen and smell and touch keeps the hike interesting, and builds in small rest periods.

“A vista is an overlook.” “It means a view!”

This was a great spot for us to do our changing perspectives activity. Up close, we could see needles and dirt and rocks. Off in the distance we could see a mountain, farmland, the towns of Pullman and Moscow, lots of clouds. We also drew three flowers we saw up on the meadow, and learned to identify desert parsley, larkspur, arrow leaf balsam root, and Indian paintbrush. We also refueled with a juice box and granola bar. When you are hiking with children, you do need to stop for a snack break.

Part of our purpose of visiting Kamiak Butte was to check out micro-climates. How did it feel at the vista? Warm, sunny, light, open . . it was 68 degrees in the sun. There were a lot of flowers blooming and scattered trees. This side of the Butte faced South-East, and received a lot of the sun.

We climbed up the gentler, sunnier side of the Butte to the summit. On the way, we saw and felt the weather changing. We were walking into the clouds. The temperature dropped quickly, to about 48 degrees, a drop of twenty degrees, and it felt damp. As I said, this day was all about the weather! There was so much to see on the way up – more flowers, bugs, birds, trees alive and trees dead and trees growing at strange angles . . .

We ate lunch at the summit, before starting down the steep northern facing slope of the Butte. Words the children used to describe the north slope included dark, wet, cold, very green, lots of trees, fewer flowers. We also noticed that it took us about two and a half hours to reach the summit, with stops for snack, lunch and lots of observations and activities, and only 42 minutes to descend! Going downslope is a lot faster than going upslope! Once at the base, after a thirty-minute free play break (also important when planning outdoor activities for children), we took time to draw our observations of the vegetation we saw on the SE slope and the Northern slope. We also recorded activities we saw humans involved in at Kamiak Butte, and how they might impact the environment. We didn’t see much litter, but we did see evidence of trampled plants, and picked flowers.

Our final activity of the day was an environmental game. In this game, all of the children were black bears. One of the bears had a hurt paw, so could only hop. Another bear was blind in one eye. A third bear was a mother bear with two cubs, so had to collect twice as much food. The bears scattered over a large area to collect food – insects, fruit, nuts, berries and meat – designated by different scraps of colored paper. The goal was to collect enough food and a varied diet to remain healthy and survive. One thing we learned was that it was harder to survive when injured, and that the mama would feed herself first, before feeding her cubs. If she didn’t survive, her cubs would not make it.

We ended with a fictional story, called ‘The Lonely Giant.’ The story gave us a good message about what happens when we destroy our forests – the animals and birds are forced to move away. When that happens, like the lonely giant, we miss the sound of birdsong, and the animals. At the end of the story, the giant works hard to restore the forest.

What a great day! No rain. About 12,000 steps and over 5 miles. We were active for almost three hours. We spent a day hiking and immersed in nature with friends!

I am ending with two joys from today ~ one of our students celebrating the love of flowers, and another student celebrating her love of birds with her hand made nest from found materials! Spending a day outdoors with children is always a joy!


Out and about – getting to know your environment! October 17, 2018

Filed under: Community Building,nature,outdoor education,Uncategorized — bevfollowsthechild @ 8:59 pm

Our kg and elementary students hiked out on our annual all-day river walk. We walked over five miles on this trip, and the students probably covered a much greater distance when I think of all of the chase games they played when we had a break from walking!   One of our parents met us for an introduction to edible native plants, such as choke cherry, service berry, rose hips, and elderberry.  We had a lovely picnic lunch, played with leaves, dirt and bugs, crossed the river many times on plank bridges, identified spruce, maple, aspen, oak and willow trees, and much more.

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I am a big fan of getting children out into nature, and comfortable with walking around their environment.  On a day like today, where children are responsible for carrying their own water and food, and belongings, and exerting themselves, and even facing a few challenges, such as walking over plank bridges, they grow in confidence. Today we also used public transportation, too.  For some of our students, this was their first time to ride a bus.  This is all part of practical life for older students.

What a gorgeous fall day! Favorite quote of the day, “We walked so far! I can’t believe I am not whining!” 


Montessori Outdoor Science School Day Four ~ Presenting our inquiry projects May 4, 2018

Yesterday afternoon each group chose a topic they wanted to explore more and designed an inquiry project to answer a question.  This morning, each group worked hard to find ways to communicate their project and findings to the other groups and their parents.  The three groups of first-third graders incorporated the scientific method, and used vocabulary words such as question, hypothesis, method, data, conclusion.  The children incorporated drawings, charts, bar graphs, and maps into their display.  They also worked as a group to decide who would explain what part of the project to the audience, and practiced making the presentation.

That’s a whole lot of learning ~science, vocabulary, visual communication, math, graphing, teamwork, cooperation, making choices, making a presentation . . .

So what did the groups choose to focus on?

IMG_3630 (1)IMG_8141 (1)IMG_2073IMG_4570

Bird song, water quality, insects, beaver habitat!  The variety of topics reflects the different aspects of the four-day experience that caught the attention of the different groups.  Student-choice, student-led inquiry, teamwork!

Above – a few details from the kindergarten research project.

A few more details!

Of course, the day wouldn’t be complete without some time for the kids to do what they do so well – enjoy being kids in nature!


As educators, we saw so much intense growth this week! The children certainly deepened their understanding of eco-systems, the major theme of the four-day outdoor experience, and of processes such as decomposition and the life cycle, and of habitats, and of scientific vocabulary and the scientific method.  However, we saw a lot of growth outside of science learning, too!  Leaders emerged, friendships deepened, children grew in their resilience and ability to be responsible for all of their belongings for a whole day.  The children developed good teamwork, too.

Several of the children were really sad, and some even moved to tears as our experience together came to an end.  But as one child said, “I’m really sad, but never mind, there’s always next year to look forward to!

Many thanks to the McCall Outdoor Science School outreach program, and our four, fabulous outdoor educators! IMG_5468 (1)Cheers, from all of us at MOSS!



Montessori Outdoor Science School Day Three ~aquatic ecosystems, plus the scientific method May 3, 2018

Welcome to our outdoor classroom, day three!

This morning we were all about the river!  I love it when children make connections.  When one of our educators mentioned aquatic ecosystems, one of our kindergarteners piped up, “Oh, like our aquatic center, where we swim.  It’s water!”

Activities this morning included testing water quality using technology (water temperature, PH of water, amount of dissolved oxygen in water), learning about water sheds, hunting for macro invertebrates (macro – opposite of micro, meaning big enough to be seen without a microscope, and invertebrates – without a backbone) and using either an app that asks questions (How many legs? How many tails? Does it have a shell? etc.) or a classification chart to identify the macro-invertebrates we caught in the creek, and learning about aquatic habitats for animals.  We searched for evidence of beaver activity.  The kindergarteners also drew pictures of animals that lived near this creek in their habitats.  The habitat needs to supply food, water and shelter.  We drew beavers, quail, fish, swallows, deer . . . and more.  The KG kids also got to feel a beautiful beaver pelt!

A plus of being close to the river was we had another beautiful location for morning snack and lunch, and a perfect day to enjoy our picnic!  We love our favorite, enormous willow tree!

After lunch and recess, each group worked on an inquiry project, thinking about what they wanted to learn more about and choosing a question they could answer through nature.  The older students followed the scientific method – asking a question, coming up with a hypothesis, thinking about how they could answer the question, what data they needed to collect, and how they would present their project.  For the kindergarteners we kept it simple.  What did we want to learn more about?  What did we want to find out?  How could we find out the answer to our question?

Now, I can’t tell you what each of the four groups decided to study because that would spoil the surprise for the presentations of our research tomorrow!  But I will leave you with these photos of the kg kids collecting data!  What are they trying to find out, I wonder?  Presentation of research is at 11:00 tomorrow at the Sunnyside Picnic Pavilion.  Picnic to follow.


Montessori Outdoor Science School Day 2 ~ Ecosystem day at Kamiak Butte State Park May 2, 2018

Filed under: learning,Montessori education,nature,Observation,outdoor education,Uncategorized — bevfollowsthechild @ 9:00 pm


Welcome to our outdoor classroom, day two!  We hiked the Pine Ridge Trail at Kamiak Butte County Park, and focused on comparing ecosystems.


The south facing slope of Kamiak Butte is sunny, open, and at this time of year covered with wildflowers.  I chaperoned the kindergarten group today, and we learned to identify arrowleaf balsamroot (part of the sunflower family), yarrow, indian paintbrush, and vanilla smelling ponderosa pines.


We also enjoyed listening to a book written by scientists, members of the National Forest Service.  The book asked us to consider, “Why do we cut down a tree?”  At first the kindergarteners were appalled, “Cut down a tree?  Never!  Trees give us oxygen.”  The book gave us insights into why trees might need to be cut down – damaged and dangerous, diseased, overcrowding and causing a fire danger, or to supply us with wood for products we use.    We decided to use our senses on the rest of the hike to observe the ecosystem, and also to spot trees that might not be healthy.  We found hollow trees, trees that were damaged and broken, and even trees that were lying on the ground and decomposing.  I heard that word a lot!  “This tree is decomposing.  It’s turning back to dirt!”

The kindergarten group hiked to the very top, and ate lunch with an amazing view.  We also got to feel the pelt of a coyote, an animal that lives at Kamiak Butte.  We saw chipmunks, lots of butterflies and bugs, smelt the warm dirt and the Ponderosa pines, felt soft leaves, and heard birdsong.


Meanwhile, the groups of older children were sampling the ecosystems, and collecting data.  How many rocks, pine cones, flowers, sticks, bugs, etc. were contained within a circled off part of the ground?  This activity was carried out on the south side and the north side, and the children made comparisons and drew bar graphs in their nature journals to report what they noticed.  They also used hand lenses to get an even closer look!


The kindergarten group just verbally reported the differences they saw – one side was sunny, the other side was gloomy and dark, one side had lots of flowers, the other side had moss, fungus and ferns and not as many flowers, one side had only a few trees, the other side was the forest.  Because kindergarteners are filled with curiosity, and a sense of wonder and awe, we spent four hours on the trail!  We stopped to look at so many things, and the children called out to one another, “Good observation!” and “Good eye!”  The loop we hiked was 3 and a half miles.


Were we tired when we finished our hike?  Nope, we then spent thirty minutes of free play on the climbing structures, but also building nests for chipmunks and squirrels, collecting pine cones, finding worms . . . just being kids out in nature!

We used some technology tools today – hand lenses, binoculars, a gadget to measure wind speed, probes to sample dirt, and measure soil temperature and moisture levels, and the highlight for the KG kids, an app that recorded and identified and played bird songs.  When we played the chickadee’s song, we were surprised to hear two chickadees call back to us!31632031_10156298995276774_4545326570385965056_n

We ended our day with a hike to find a Douglas fir tree and collect the cones.  We listened to a legend about the cones, involving how the mice sheltered in the cones during a big forest fire.  Can you see the rear legs and tails of the mice hanging out of the cone?


We also learned that a Douglas Fir, unlike a spruce tree, is friendly, not prickly.  Its needles are soft.  So we all got close to our Douglas fir tree, and that’s another plant we learned to identify today!


Tomorrow we will explore another ecosystem during a river walk!  I can’t wait!


Montessori Outdoor Science School 2018 Day One ~ Decomposition! May 1, 2018

First of all, many thanks to all of our family members, friends, neighbors, former families, current families and community members for supporting our Montessori Outdoor Science School this year.  Your donations helped to pay for four science educators from the McCall Outdoor Science School to visit our school for five days and lead small group, hands-on inquiry based science lessons for our Maple Room students.  Thanks from the bottom of our hearts!

So here are some photos of our classroom for today!

Today’s focus was on ecosystems, living and non-living, the cycle of life, and mostly, DECOMPOSITION!  How does something go from living to non-living to part of the very dirt?  This is what we wanted to find out.   We collected piles of similar items – pine needles, leaves, pine cones, sticks – and arranged our collections from the freshest/most recently living to the oldest/most dead looking.  What did we notice?  As the items aged, they became more broken up, smaller, drier . . and more like dirt!


How did this happen?  The items got smashed up from being stepped on, and drying out.  We also went on the search for decomposers, the FBI of the natural world!  Fungus, Bacteria and Invertebrates!


We also played some small group and large group games to explore decomposition and the life cycle process.  In one game of chase, the catcher was the wolf.  Most of the rest of the children were the herd of deer, and a few children were mushrooms, the decomposers.  When a deer was caught by the wolf, and went down to the ground, the mushrooms swept in and began the work of decomposition, returning the deer to the earth, and providing a source of new life!




So today we learned by observing closely, by asking questions and discussing answers, by using magnifying glasses, by drawing what we saw, by playing games, by getting close to the dirt and even making art!

Outdoor science vocabulary I heard the children using today ~ decomposition, fungus, bacteria, invertebrate, process, ecosystem!