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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Support The Kids Need Nature Scholarship Fund!

Kids Loving Nature! 

Please join us on May 2nd for an evening of music with singer-song writer Keith Greeninger to support North Branch Nature Center and the Kids Need Nature Scholarship Fund. 
As a singer-song writer, Keith paints intricate portraits of the human condition with powerful melodic images, deep engaging guitar rhythms and husky, heart wrenching vocals. His masterfully crafted tunes and powerful presence have earned him the top song writing awards at music festivals. Keith's records and personal appearances have garnered him a legion of devoted fans, and the respect, admiration and appreciation of music critics far and wide. Keith also whole heartily supports the work we do at North Branch Nature Center and is coming to Vermont to help raise awareness for The Kids Need Nature Scholarship Fund.  THANK YOU KEITH! 

Keith Greeninger

The North Branch Nature Center offers programming for children of all ages to connect with the wild wonders of our local natural environment and thrive outdoors. It is North Branch Nature Center’s goal that Forest Preschool, Trekkers Afterschool Program, and Summer Nature Camp be accessible to all children in our community.
Although Vermont is home to beautiful and accessible green spaces, children in our state are spending less and less time playing and learning outdoors. In order to maintain the health and vibrancy of our children, community and environment, kids need regular experiences immersed nature.  Our vision is to create awareness in the greater Montpelier area of the many benefits of children learning and playing outdoors. We know our children are our biggest investment in the future of Vermont and the health of our planet.

Our Kids Need Nature initiative is simple, to get more children outside engaging in nature play and discovery. Growing up without a sense of place and without loving where we come from, we are unable to protect what sustains us every day.  Join us in making a commitment to children and nature connection by donating to the Kids Need Nature Scholarship Fund.

Saturday, May 2nd
Doors open at 5:30pm
Concert starts at 6:30

Fresh Tracks Farm and Winery in Northfield, VT.

Tickets can be purchased by calling North Branch Nature Center
(802) 229-6206
or at Onion River Sports on Langdon Street in Montpelier.

Onion River Sports
Vermont Creamery
Red Hen Bakery
Fresh Tracks Farm and Winery

Monday, April 6, 2015

I Am a Scientist Because,....

Asking questions
Every Thursday afternoon, kindergarten students from Union Elementary school walk a few blocks to Harrison Field to have ECO. This team of teachers from UES have worked with our ECO staff at The North Branch Nature Center for over three years and have refined and expanded on their opportunities to learn outdoors with their students. This past Thursday the sun shone and warmed these 5 and 6 year olds into an exploratory group of scientists. Each kindergartner was prepared to collect and record data with a science journal, magnifying lens, pencils and a collection bag. The task for these children was to record things they thought were helpful to the forest and things that were not helpful.  This is an interesting task for a young child! I wondered what they write in their journals. Would they even find anything? Would they care?

It became immediately obvious that these children had knowledge about this little wooded lot amidst a busy neighborhood. These kindergartners have been visiting Harrison Field since September and have developed a strong sense of place. They know that deer sleep under the pines at the top of the hill. Pine trees are helpful. They have watched crows building a nest in a tree at the edge of the forest. Sticks are helpful. They have played in the mud and wet areas in the field. Water is helpful. On this spring day they picked up plastic wrappers. Garbage is not helpful.  The desire to search, question and record was intrinsic. These children wanted to help! They also knew what it looked and sounded like to be a scientist. Gathered around a pile of crow feathers, students huddled and wrote down their observations.  They looked closely with hand lenses. The teacher and I stepped back from the group and let them continue their investigations with no interruptions. This is science, this is learning in nature and this caring about the environment. 

Looking closely

Off to find more evidence

Thank you to Emily Wrigley and her class of amazing Kindergartners for sharing their love of the natural world with me! To learn more about why we become scientists, check out #IAmAScientistBecause on twitter! 

Friday, April 3, 2015

March Wind and Signs of Spring

Forest Preschoolers experimenting with salt 
and colored water on ice. 
Although winter is reluctant to let go, signs of spring abound and the second session of Forest Preschool is off to an exciting start! We are enjoying all that late winter weather and early spring have to offer, including a wondrous, changing landscape and the arrival of puddles and the first migratory birds. Engaged in all of our senses, mornings have been full of discovery, wonder, and play.

But that’s not all!

Over the last few weeks, children have been settling into the rhythm and routines at Forest Preschool and learning ways to care for one another and the natural world. Forest Preschoolers are also learning about self-care outdoors in all types of weather.

Cooperative building of a nest to shelter "eggs"
made from colored water frozen in balloons.
In addition to getting into the swing of things at Forest Preschool, we’ve had lots of fun exploring and experimenting with ice and snow and the concept of freezing and thawing. One child shared, “So, water turns into ice and ice turns into water!” Curiosity was ignited during experimentation with bubble blowing. On mornings when ambient air was below freezing, we discovered that bubbles freeze, sink, and shatter! “The bubble turned into dust!” shared a wide eyed Forest Preschooler. Playing hide-and-go-seek at Needle Tree Forest and climbing and exploring Igloo Land was a true highlight in March. “I’m climbing Mt. Everest!” exclaimed a child as he made his way to the top of the giant quinzhee. A quinzhee is a mound of snow that is hollowed out to create a shelter.
Look, dog tracks! I wonder where they go?

Snow provided ample opportunity for us to become nature detectives and look for clues that might tell us who had been visiting the North Branch Nature Center. Excitement abounded as we followed dog, deer, and skunk tracks! Upon discovering dog tracks, a teacher wondered aloud which way the animal was traveling. A child was quick to exclaim, “It’s going that way because it’s claws are going that way!”
Cattail fluffy seed heads blowing in the wind.

One morning we heard and saw a special sign of spring; a Red-winged Black Bird! Shortly thereafter, we became RWBBs and flew in search of cattails to call home. We discovered a stand of cattails and experimented with waving them in the air. In doing so, we learned about seed dispersal. By waving the cattail back and forth or pulling it apart and blowing, we sent fluff and seeds flying into the air. One child was eager to share, “...yeah, they are so soft - they plant more. But you can’t get too clumpy or else they won’t fly in the air. I wish I was a cattail - then I could fly!” A teacher then asked what it would be like to fly. “It would be beautiful” another child responded.

Cooperative mouse nest building with hay inside a giant quinzhee.
The wind blew strong on several days but children’s curiosity and imagination did not wane. We flew colored silks and let them go to observe how the wind moves light objects. One child stated, “The wind is blowing hard enough to blow the barn to outer space!” The quinzhee provided excellent shelter and play space out of the wind when needed. What could be better than building mouse nests inside a large snow cave on a windy day?

At the end of last week we tapped a sugar maple tree. Children took turns using a bit and brace to drill a hole and then tap the spile into the tree. We hung the bucket, watched, and listened to the sap drip, drip, drip, into the bucket. 

Drilling a hole in a sugar maple tree! As soon as the hole 
was drilled, the sap started running! Yum - maple sap tastes good!

Mountain climbers on top of quinzhee.
Exploration and play inside igloos. Where does that tunnel lead?
Puppet show at Deer Camp in Deer Hut.
Playing camouflage, a version of hide-and-go-seek, in Needle Tree Forest.
Nice hiding spot!

Fun on a windy day!

Experimenting with pouring and "washing dishes!"
We look forward to discovering more wondrous signs of spring with Forest Preschoolers in the coming weeks!