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April 08
Fascinating Feathers

Get Fascinated by Feathers With New All About Bird Biology Site

Feathers are amazing: they're light, aerodynamic, beautifully patterned, colorful, waterproof, and warm. To help curious minds of all ages learn about these impressive structures, The Cornell Lab just launched an in-depth, immersive website. It's the first stage of our new All About Bird Biology project, with more to come. Try out All About Feathers, including these great elements:

video library featuring 90+ videos that bring bird biology to life

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March 19
Monarchs are coming!

monarchs departing.jpg

Monarch Butterfly Migration News: March 20, 2014
Here come the monarchs! Estela witnessed a dramatic departure last Thursday. Now, observers along the migration trail are waiting to report first arrivals.

Challenge your students to find out how many lifecycles it takes for the butterflies to make the migrtation!
hint of a place to find the information

March 10


It feels so wonderful to have the sun shining on your skin! You can feel the warmth as the sun is rising higher in the sky. Good time of year to talk about how the sunlight levels vary with the season. In this lesson, students will learn how the sun’s position in the sky affects the size, shape, and location of their shadows:   Light and Shadows

You can also tackle daylight savings time and how and why it came to be, maybe take a poll on if the students like it or not. 

  You tube on daylight savings time

  12 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Daylight Saving Time

March 05
Geese are Flying!


Coming home from the cities I noticed that flocks of geese dotted the air. Yes even though they will have to deal with frozen lakes they are coming home for spring! This I take as a very positive sign. 32 degrees below zero on March 3rd, is just mind boggling. 

Geese ask your students where they went for the winter and what kind of problems would they encounter on the way? Most students can tell you that monarch go to mexico and hummingbirds travel 1000's of miles but very little about the migration travels of robins, blue jays, geese, ducks, and other species that they can readily identify. Challenge them to find the answers.

Migratory Mapping.pdfMigratory Mapping.pdf from Project Flying Wild is a great activity for looking at migration as well as Projects Wild'sMigration Barriers.pdfMigration Barriers 

Great website with Migration information from the Chipper Woods Bird Observatory: Migrating Geese

February 18
The sub-zero is subsiding!

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As the temperatures warm it is again time to try and connect your students with the outdoors. 

One indoor activity that I like that gets kids motivated is Fishy Deep Freeze it is a game that looks at what is happening to population of fish under the ice. It introduces concepts of overwintering, metabolism, plankton, aeration, and the role of photosynthesis. This is done with stations representing the months of the year and tokens of life, your students that ice fish will thrive in this game and it gives a segway for them to talk about something that is important to them. Recommended grade is 6-7th grades, have adapted to high school with the addition of more background material and research on there part. 

Again like so manyof my favorite winter activities it comes from the book Below Zero by the Candian Wildlfe Federation.   Fishy Deep Freeze.pdfFishy Deep Freeze.pdf

Outdoor activities abound but students favorite is always Animal Antics. This lesson is about survival in the snow. the students create a protected place for their critter(jello) to wait out a storm with out freezing. Z2-Jello - Animal Antics.pdfZ2-Jello - Animal Antics.pdf

February 06
Sochi 2014 Games: 6 Winter Olympics-Themed STEM Resources
Direct from Edutopia
Image credit: Thinkstock

The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games are right around the corner (they start Feb. 7), and students likely are getting excited to watch Team USA compete. Although just about every subject can incorporate the Olympics in some way, this resource roundup focuses primarily on the STEM subjects. Here are some of our favorite STEM resources that incorporate the Winter Olympics.

Other Useful Resources for the 2014 Sochi Games

January 30
Create Winter Beauty

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So maybe you don't have the tools or time for the above, but .........

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Enjoy the snow in all it's forms

January 28
Windchill, what does it really mean.


In this lastest stink of cold weather, I got to thinking about what wind chill really means and how it affects our outlook on the weather. The above chart is caculated using NOAA's National Weather Services equation. 

Here is how you calculate the Wind Chill Index:

 Wind Chill T(wc) = 35.74 + 0.6215T - 35.75(V0.16) + 0.4275T(V0.16)

where T(wc) is the Wind Chill in degrees F, V is the Wind Speed in MPH, and T is the temperature in degrees F.

On these cold winter days a breeze makes the cold feel more uncomfortable as it drives heat away form the exposed skin faster than calm air. This might be a good week to have your students caculate the wind chill and gain an understanding that without a hat they may truely be at risk of frostbite in as little as 5 minutes - say that mad dash to the car.

A great book with wind chill descriptions from real life (middle school level) The Children's Blizzard  by David Laskin.

Here is a NPR podcast on windchill and a lesson plan that goes with it:  NPR windchill podcast

Lesson Plan - middle school

 Heat transfer lessons

The above chart has changed over time, but is used to indicate at what combined wind speed and temperatures exposed flesh will be damagaed. When will your nose, ear lobes, cheeks, fingers and toes be at risk of frostbite.

January 22
Winter Insects You Should Know

Here are two insects you may run into when walking the woods this winter. 


Wingless Winter Crane Flies 

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 Here is a video link showing the:       Wingless Snow flies

And a link to a naturalists paper on the life cycle of: Snow flies

This is an insect that is often thought to be a daddy long legs spider crawling across the snow, but with close observation you will find only 6 legs. There are sixteen species of “snow flies” in the genus Chionea in North America.

They are in the crane fly family Limoniidae, formerly a subfamily of the Tipulidae. While western species are mostly confined to mountain ranges, eastern species can be found in most forested areas, especially in regions that experienced glaciations during the most recent ice age. They appear most commonly in October and November, and again in February and March.

While these dark flies are most conspicuous on the surface of the snow, most of the time they are concealed in the tunnels of small mammals, beneath leaf litter, or fairly deep in caves. These situations help to insulate them from truly severe weather, and an adult snow fly may live up to two months.

How do snow flies keep from freezing to death?  Snow flies occupy the “subnivean” environment: a microclimate that exists in cavities beneath the snow created by arching grassblades, leaf litter, and rodent tunnels. These nooks and crannies offer protected niches with temperatures that are milder than the surface and air temperatures above.


Second and the most common are the Snow Fleas often seen on warm afternoon near the base of trees.
This video is a great way to learn how to look for this neat critter.
Snow Flea

Hypogastrura nivicola

SSnow Fleas are not fleas at all, but a type of insect called a springtail. Springtails get their name because they have two long things that look like tails sticking from their abdomen (back body section). The "tails" can fold under the body and are held by two hooks under the body. When the springtail releases the hooks, the insect goes flying in the air.

Snow Fleas are very small, about 1/16 inch long. They are dark blue, have short antennae, and have two eye clusters (with 16 eyes in each).

Snow Fleas, and other sp

Springtails, live in soil, leaf litter, mosses, fungi, and along shores of ponds. Sometimes they can be found on the surface of ponds. Since they are so light, they can walk on the surface without sinking.

They eat old dead plant matter, bacteria, fungi, algae, pollen, roudworms, rotifers, and sap. Roundworms and rotifers are tiny microscopic animals.

Snow Fleas mate in the Spring, and the females lay eggs in the soil. Tiny springtails are born, which are called nymphs. Nymphs do not look exactly like adult Snow Fleas.

Cofrin A Center for Biodiversity, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay:

Snow Flea nymphs will eat and grow. As they grow they will shed their outer skin (called an exoskeleton). Each time they molt, they will look a little bit more like an adult Snow Flea. By Winter, all the nymphs have turned into adults.

During very cold Winter days, Snow Fleas are not very active. But if it warms up, Snow Fleas will become active and look for food. They may even crawl out onto the surface of snow. This is how Snow Fleas get their name. People notice large amounts of them, like black dust, around the base of a tree. They are usually there when there isn't snow too, as long as the temperature is warm enough; you just see them better on a white background.

Predators of Snow Fleas, and other springtails, include: beetles, ants, mites, centipedes, and other small insect-eaters.

January 16
New Bird App from Cornell Lab


Cornell Lab is an incredible resource for bird information, I highly recommend it and use it's resources often. So when they announced a new bird app that would sort out the species for your area it sounded great and I downloaded it to the university I-pad right away (it is not in android yet so my smart phone will have to wait). After seeing how easy it was to use I sent it on to some of my teachers. The response was even more enthusiastic than mine. 

THANK YOU SO MUCH CHRIS!!!!!!!!!!!!  I used it with my kids right after I downloaded it... THEY LOVED IT!! Thanks for sharing!!!!   Annette Woller - Granton Schools

Introducing Merlin Bird ID: A New Kind of Birding App

Information overload is the bane of the beginning bird watcher—as anyone knows who has ever flipped through 40 species of sparrows in a field guide. What if an app could quickly tell you which birds are most likely based on your location, date, and a brief description? Not just which birds theoretically could occur near you, but which birds are actually reported most often by other birders. That’s what Merlin Bird ID does. And it's free—because we want to make bird watching easier for everyone. 

Merlin Bird ID covers 285 of the most common birds of North America (with more on the way). In addition to help with ID, it contains expert tips, more than 1,400 gorgeous photos, and sounds for each species. It’s available now for iPhone and other iOS7 devices, and it's coming soon for Android.  

Merlin Bird ID app

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 About this blog

This blog is designed to connect outdoor happenings to your curriculum