I am very excited to share each day of our first ever four-day outdoor science school. We are very thankful to our sponsors ~ Schweitzer Engineering Lab in Pullman for a donation of $500, and to one of our grandpas who donated the other $500. We are also thankful to Sawyer’s family for housing our environmental scientists, and to our families for feeding them during their stay. Our science educators joined us for four days of outdoor learning from the McCall Outdoor Science School in Idaho.
Each day I will share some of the highlights of the day. Today, on a gorgeous spring day, with highs near 80, lots of sun and blue skies, we walked to Sunnyside Park. We enjoyed walking with friends and a picnic lunch, a chance to play on the playground (a game of freeze tag) and also an opportunity to participate in three key learning activities:
For this activity, each child chose an area of ground that seemed interesting, and used a rope to circle off the area. Then they drew and labelled and counted what they saw. Our educators encouraged the children to keep looking closer and adding details because these are skills of scientists ~ careful and deep observation. Next the children were encouraged to classify their findings. The children found different ways to classify, including in the image shown above – things that are living (bugs), things that once were living but no longer are living (dried pine needles), things that never were living (rocks). I think this activity might be repeated at different locations, with the results being compared.
Web of Life
For this activity, students were invited to draw an element or organism of the ecosystem they were observing. It could be an organism – a bird, bug, mammal, plant, or an element such as the dirt, the air, the pond. The children were encouraged to label their drawings. Then the children formed connections between what they had drawn and someone else’s drawing. “I drew a bird. I’m connected to the drawing of the tree because the tree provides me shelter and a place to perch and build a nest.” “I drew a tree and I am connected to the pond because I need water to grow and I am on the banks of the pond, so that’s where I get my water.” A child held hands with another child once they had made a connection. Soon there was an interconnected web of life forming. Once we had formed a very interconnected web, we then considered what would happen if we removed one element of the web. “What would happen if we drained the pond to build a new home?” “What would happen if we removed the bugs?” “What would happen if we cut down all of the trees for wood?” This was a great lesson in learning about ecosystems and balance.
Aquatic Macro Invertebrate Hunt
Vocabulary we learned. Macro = able to be seen with the eye, micro needs to be seen with a microscope, aquatic = lives in the water, invertebrate = without a backbone.
We got a tub of pond water and divided into two groups ~ the hunters and the observers. The hunters used spoons and a baster to catch aquatic macro invertebrates. These were transferred to the specimen collection area – an ice cube tray. The observers used lenses and a field guide to identify the specimens. Identification was based on questions ~ does it have a shell, does it have wings, does it have legs? We drew what we saw and identified when we could. Then the kids swapped roles, and the hunters became the observers and vice-versa. For the group I was with, our most elusive, difficult to catch and favorite aquatic macro invertebrate was the predacious diving beetle! We imagined this critter as the bad guy in a comic strip! Who knew there could be so much life in even a tub of pond water?
I loved today. This is hands on learning and community building, memory making at its best. This experience has made me committed to having at least a monthly out-of-doors learning activity, and to repeating this opportunity in future years.
Being outdoors and with friends and learning in so many ways ~ science, writing, vocabulary, data collecting, observational drawing, social learning, independence – is the absolute best!
I am so excited for day two!