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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Beavers Mobilize

 To begin our Wednesday ECO days outdoors each week at Waitsfield Elementary, kindergartners hike down a field in town  to pause and play games and sing songs before entering the path toward their woodland "camp". The field is bordered by a beaver lodge and dam ~ and this week we spent our ECO time investigating the beaver's quarters from dry ground, and then tried our hands at building our own!  The children were incredibly quiet while watching from the banks of the pond. I was so proud of them! They were rewarded with a pair of beautiful Canada Geese, floating peacefully on the pond right next to the beaver lodge while we watched. I love when nature throws little "group motivators" at my ECO classes. Thank you, nature, good one!

Beavers come out on top as superior builders even when compared with human teams equipped with fossil-fueled machinery! They inhabit their lodges during the winter, snacking on the outer bark of sticks they collected last summer. When spring arrives, tracks can often be found in the last snow of winter, having been laid down during the beavers' first walk of spring! Their lodge is constructed with an entryway below water to keep predators away, and the living quarters in the dry area that surfaces the pond. Their building techniques are impeccable ~ using placement of vertical sticks, they then use the sturdy wall building technique of wattle and daub which results in a waterproof shell that deters wolves and wolverines when residing in the western part of the U.S.. In Vermont, the sturdy beaver lodge construction deters coyotes and sometimes bobcats.


Kindergartners at Waitsfield Elementary School visited a beaver lodge from the
edge of the pond created by its inhabitants.

A closer look at the beaver lodge. Snow conditions were perfect the week before for us to catch
the beaver's tracks as they began their spring wanderings after this long winter of 2013-14. 
This busy beaver begins her own beaver lodge...alas in the snow.
She realizes the lodge will be built much faster if the whole family pitches in to help!
Sometimes even when you "Become a Beaver" you can't help but fling mud with sticks instead of building your lodge. These students must have turned into beaver pups instead of beaver parents!

The last week of winter and dressing for the weather can be confounding! Yesterday's temperatures were in the 50's, but today is much chillier. This kindergartner was warm with layers under his rain gear and rain boots. Temperatures hovered around 35 degrees. Winter coats and snow boots also suffice on a wet cold New England day like this!

Winter's Treasures: A Milkweed Pod that made it through feet of snow and days of below zero, and a hopeful admirer.

Any guesses what this kindergarten detective holds?
A striated piece of bark. It may have come from the red pine trees that wave majestically near the beaver lodge. 

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