Deciduous Trees

Every year in Canada certain types of trees change colour and drop all of their leaves. It is lovely to look at and there is a old saying that catching a falling leaf will bring you good luck.

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Research Project:

Do some searching in your local library for some books on trees and autumn. Here are a few that we found:

 

Or you may want to check out this online book: The First Book of Trees.

Draw a tree in your nature journal and label its parts. Here is an example from Knowing the Trees:

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Find the answers to these questions and any others that you may have, and include them in your nature journal.

  1. Why do some trees lose their leaves in the fall?
  2. Why do the leaves change colour?

It is a fun idea to make friends with a tree near where you live and visit it often over the year to see how it changes. For some ideas on how to do a tree study, check this out: TreeStudy.

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Five fall wildflowers

There seems to be always something in bloom, from the first dripping icicle to the first snowfall. What wildflowers can you find blooming this time of year where you live?

The flowers that bloom along the roadsides, in the meadows and forests, and along the coastlines are those which have naturalized to a specific place. Native plants are part of the uniqueness of a place and are a necessary part of the well-being of a region. Often, however, many of the plants we may think are native have been introduced by human activity and are harmful to those species that have existed there for a much longer time.

We went for a walk down our road and found five flowers in bloom:

The New York American Aster

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This is native to the maritime region and beyond. It prefers forest edges, shorelines, roadsides and stream banks.

Queen Anne’s Lace

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The five-petalled flowers grow in a white cluster and form a seed head like this later on. This is a non-native plant and is invasive. It is native to Europe, Asia and Africa. Apparently it was “first noted in eastern North America in 1739, developed from carrot seeds that escaped gardens and reverted to their weedy ancestral form” (Wildflowers of the Maritimes, Edmund Redfield).

Canadian Goldenrod

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This is a native plant, and contrary to what some may think, it cannot cause allergies because it is pollinated by bees and not by the wind. It is edible and has many health benefits.

Rabbit’s Foot Clover

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This is a plant native to Europe and western Asia that is now common across North America. It spreads only by seed and grows in open, dry places such as roadsides or sandy fields.

Jewelweed (Touch-me-not)

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This is a native plant and likes to grow in damp woods, streams and ditches. The sap in its leaves and stem can help with insect bites and rashes like poison ivy. It gets its name from the ripe seed pod which explodes when touched to scatter the seeds.

Create a mini herbarium:

Collect blooms and leaves from five or so wildflowers you find and press them between newspaper and a couple heavy books. Leave them for a few days. Identify them using a field guide for wildflowers from your area (you can usually find these in the public library), or do a search for a wildflower guide for your area on the internet – there are some very helpful websites available. When your flowers are dry, mount them in your nature journal. You can use a glue stick for this, or layer Mod Podge both underneath and on top of your pressed specimens. Label.

Field Trip to Water

Where we live, one is almost always within a short distance of water – lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, and the ocean. For our field trip, we went to a place where there is both a pond and the ocean.

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The goal was to sit quietly in one place for about 15 minutes and observe. We chose to sit by the pond first. As we came close to the edge, there was a lot of movement and bubbles which turned out to be tiny little minnows which returned once we were still.

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A dragonfly and a damselfly dropped in for a short while.

There was bur reed growing along the edge of the pond with it’s unusual seed pod. When we touched them, they broke apart into individual seeds in our hands.

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Ants started bothering us where we were sitting so we crossed over the land barrier between the pond and the beach and visited the ocean as well. It was low tide, and it was noisy with the waves breaking on the shoreline, and smelled strongly of salt and rotting seaweed.

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We noticed water making little rivers down the beach, a snail moving across the rock, a few strange patterns in the sand, and found a beautiful crab shell.

We had been reading about barnacles a few days ago, and would have liked to see one open with it’s feet sticking out, but the barnacles we could find were out of the water.

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Field Trip:

Go visit some water somewhere – a lake, pond, river, seashore. Sit with your nature journal for 15 minutes and observe.

Draw something that you see in the water, something you see on the water, something you see beside the water on the beach or bank. What noises do you hear? What colours do you see? Are there any birds or animals nearby? Note the date, the location and the weather. Enjoy!

These are great little books to help you investigate a beach and a pond:

Seeds and Fruit

IMG_20170912_182503Autumn is the season for seeds and fruit of all kinds. If you haven’t taken a walk to collect some yet, get out and do it today! It can be a lot of fun seeing how many you can find. Most likely you don’t even really have to go much further than your own back yard.

Research Project:

Find some books on seeds in your local library. Here are a few that I found:

Read through them and find the answers to the following questions and any that you might have:

  1. What are the four main ways that seeds are dispersed?
  2. Why do plants need to make seeds?

Draw in your journal some of the seeds/fruit you found on your walk. Try to sort them by what method they use to travel or disperse. If you want to identify the seeds you found, it is helpful to also know a bit about the plant they came from.

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Have some fun using what you have found to make seed creatures: The Craft Train

September Nature Walk

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Here we go, down a trail nearby. It is an old railway line that has been converted into a multi-use trail and goes on for miles. In fact, it is part of the Trans-Canada Trail that goes right across this great country of ours.

This month we are on the lookout for seeds, fruit, and anything else that looks interesting.

What we notice first is some wild apples hanging from branches over the trail, and then some blackberries almost out of reach. There are lots and lots of rosehips from all the wild roses that thread their way through the bushes at the side of the path.

We find lots of lupin seed pods that have mostly twisted their way open sending the seeds off to new places. The yellow Hawkweed has turned into fuzzy white puffs and is ready for the wind to send it’s little parachutes off into the wide world.

We found new catkins and cones forming on the alder trees, and seeds in the Mountain Maple that will soon turn bright red. The sumacs are just starting to change color and their flower cones are forming.

It is always fun to pop the Jewelweed seeds, and this time we came across a plant that looked like jewelweed but was pink… We discovered that it is called Himalayan Balsam, a relative of the orange jewelweed, but non-native and invasive.

It has been a wet summer and it is always fun to discover the different types of fungus popping out of places you didn’t expect.

And finally, we spotted a few creatures: a cranefly, a spider and a snail.

September Nature Walk Challenge:

Go somewhere where you can walk for at least half and hour and where you might find seeds. Bring a bag to collect a few specimens in for your nature table. Take photos if you want to try to identify what you found.

septpoemartWhile you are out, notice the colours of September. When you get back, paint a page in your nature journal with all the colours you have noticed. We used watercolour, but you can use any kind of paint. Read through the poem: does it make you think of September too? Print out the poem and when your lovely painting has dried, paste the poem on top.

September Poem

Have fun!

Draw a Map

I love looking at the image view of google maps. It is fascinating to see roads and buildings from a birds eye view. The exercise of drawing maps, especially for young children, is very helpful for spatial reasoning. And in an age when we are becoming so reliant on a device to tell us how to get somewhere, it seems like a good idea to develop our sense of where we are in the world.

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This is a map of New France drawn by Samuel de Champlain around 1612. Today it may look a little strange, but I love how it shows what he saw at the time.

Home Project:

Draw a map of the outdoors around your home – the property your house is on, a favourite playground or park, or even the community you live in if you want to be ambitious (I love the map of her town that Opal draws in the movie Because of Winn Dixie). Don’t expect to get it perfect or to scale – the most important thing is just to notice what is out there.

What shape is your yard? Is your house near the front of your property or the back? Are there any big trees? Are there big rocks or marshy spots? Is there a pond or a stream? Do you have any gardens? Do you have a special place like a tree house? What can you see from your yard? Are there big trees nearby? Can you see mountains in the distance?  Is there a lake or the ocean nearby? If you were going to describe it to someone, what would tell them about?

Figure out which way is north, and include a compass rose on your map. Colour it in an make it beautiful!

Here are some great books about maps for kids:

Summer in Canada

There is a growing realization about the importance of getting to know the place where you live… to learn to love it and care for it. But to love something, one must know something of it – how it functions, what it needs, what kills it… And to know the world around us in this way, one needs to get out in it and discover it.

A fundamentally different perspective on our place in the world is called “biocentrism”. In this view, life’s diversity encompasses everything, and we humans are a part of it, ultimately deriving everything we need from it. Viewed this way, our well-being, indeed our survival, depends on the health and well-being of the natural world. I believe this view better reflects reality.  – David Suzuki

Consequently, this year we will be writing about things close to home… the things we see when we walk out our door into the habitat of eastern Canada. We will be learning about the flora and fauna that surround us by participating in “nature study” and “nature journaling”.

This is some of what we have seen and enjoyed this summer in our travels:

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Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa… They even have dinosaurs!

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Icebergs in Newfoundland

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Cape Spear, Newfoundland: the most easterly point on North America.

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Bumblebees in my garden.

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A moose on the side of the road in Newfoundland.

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Fortress Louisbourg in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

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Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

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Gorgeous beaches in Nova Scotia

Get to know Canada through journaling

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Perhaps you keep a journal already – a nature journal, a gratitude journal, a personal journal… Journaling is a way of allowing your brain to process information in a more thoughtful and intentional way – it can involve writing, drawing, design, research, photography, etc., and it becomes something worth keeping.

Creating a journal can be done by any age simply by adjusting expectations. A young child just learning to write may create a journal mostly in pictures with a sentence or two dictated to an adult. As abilities increase, research assignments and more detail in the illustrations can be expected.

I have been messing around with keeping various kinds of journals over the past few years, and find it very satisfying. So I decided to try it with learning about Canada.

This is what you need to create a journal:

  • a spiral bound notebook like a sketchbook or scrapbook
  • pencil and eraser
  • fine-tip black pen
  • pencil crayons (or watercolours and brushes if you prefer)
  • glue stick and scissors
  • access to the internet and a library for research
  • a printer (colour or black and white depending on your preference)

Next, you need a list of subjects to journal about. You could come up with your own, or you could use the subjects here and here.

Then come up with questions about your subject. For example, what do you want to know about it? what makes it an important part of Canada? does it have a history? can you find a photograph or draw it? what facts can you find about it?

Do your research and then fill up a journal page with all the information you can find. Have fun!

I’m off for the summer, but hope to be back intermittently over the next year!

Learn through journalling

 

 

All the places to visit

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At the time of writing this (2017), it is Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation. This celebrates the day when Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia joined together to form the Dominion of Canada on July 1, 1867.

There are a number of activities going on throughout Canada in connection with this anniversary.

  • Canada Parks is providing a free pass to all the national parks in Canada. Which one will you visit this year?
  • The Canada History Hall is opening on July 1st at the History Museum in Gatineau, Quebec.
  • One hundred and fifty murals are being painted in towns and cities throughout Canada to create a gigantic mural mosaic.
  • A photographer, Tim Van Horn, is travelling throughout Canada to capture 54,000 portraits of Canadians that will be made into a mosaic of the Canadian flag.
  • Canada C3 is a project to sail from Toronto around the Northwest Passage to Victoria and share it with all Canadians through the participants on board and digital media.

Activity: Draw up a bucket list for places to visit in your own home province this summer. Go province-wide or choose places close to your own community, or maybe even go right across the country. Here are some ideas…

  1. A national park
  2. A provincial park
  3. A wildlife preserve or zoo
  4. A natural history museum
  5. A farm
  6. A botanical garden
  7. A beach
  8. The best ice cream shop
  9. An art gallery
  10. An historic site

Here is our bucket list. We have decided to be more intentional in our “nature” journaling over the next year and so for the next school year I will be sharing our intentional journaling projects that hopefully will help us to get to know Canada better right in our own neighbourhood.

Click on it to download it, and then go have fun this summer!

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Inspirational Links:

The Gold Rush

Miners climb Chilkoot

In the year 1896, gold was discovered in the Yukon along a stream called Rabbit Creek. It was renamed Bonanza Creek because it made a few men very rich indeed.

For the next couple years, 100,000 people tried to reach the goldfields from all over the world. Dawson City, from which the gold could be reached, grew from a sleepy town of 500 to over 30,000 in just two years. However, the gold didn’t last long, and by the summer of 1898, the rush was over.

Of those who set out to find their fortune, only 30,000 to 40,000 reached Dawson City. Of those, only 4000 actually struck gold, and of those, only a few hundred became rich.

There were several ways of reaching the places where gold was being found. Some took longer than others and many were exceptionally difficult due to the rugged terrain and the cold. The Chilkoot Pass was used by many. Its main ascent, the last 1000 feet, was called “The Scales”. At some point, steps were cut into the ice, creating a 1500 step staircase. This was nicknamed “The Golden Stairs”.

Today gold is still being mined from the earth at the rate of 2700 tonnes per year. However the days of finding nuggets within easy reach are over. Instead, over 80% of the gold mined today is extracted using cyanidation which is extremely environmentally unfriendly. A recent study has shown that cyanide could be replaced with a starch with the same effect and much less toxicity.

Gold is used mostly for jewellery, but also in electronics as it is an excellent conductor and doesn’t react easily to substances like air and water. It is also used in medical and dental procedures.

Here is a poem that captures what is was like to be a gold-digger in the Yukon:

The Cremation of Sam McGee by Robert W. Service, read by Johnny Cash and illustrated by Ted Harrison:

If you are able to, read Crazy for Goldcfcrazyforgold from the Canadian Flyer series.

Activity: A sourdough starter is a substance that is used to leaven bread in the absence of yeast or baking powder and it has become a nickname for gold prospectors. Many of them would carry a package of sourdough starter, of which a small amount when mixed with flour and water could be made into great bread.

Give it a try: Starter, Bread.

If you want to know more, this is an interesting website: A History of the Klondike