Root Observation Text

This is not so much a project or activity in the formal sense, but more like an invitation. An invitation to stop and take a closer look at the things we walk on, and sometimes stumble across, along the trail almost daily. They can be hidden, or woven together to make the trail itself. They might be big enough to play on, or so tiny one can hardly see them. However large or small, underground or above, they play an amazingly important role in our world. They are roots!

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We usually take time to make note of the roots we see along the trail, especially if they are particularly large, or make up the path itself. While thinning some alders that are threatening to take over the yard we had the chance to get up close with not only the alder roots, but the roots of the surrounding plants. We decided to set some aside to examine a little closer later.

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While making these observations outside would have been great, we finally had time to take a closer look on a very wet, windy day so we laid out a large sheet of craft paper, pulled our specimens from the pot where they had been stored, gathered magnifying glass, microscope, knife and cutting board and took a closer look at the roots.

Note: I tried to read up on roots as we were laying them out but my son asked me to stop for fear I would “spoil the surprise” of what we would find when we took a closer look. I took his lead and we explored and talked about what the different parts could be for as we went along. It always amazes me how much knowledge the kids pick up when we talk about what we see on the trail and how little explorations like this simply solidify what they already know.

Some questions came up about if roots had rings like trees (something we can’t really examine in a live tree we see in the forest) so we cut open a root to take a closer look.

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 The outer coat on the root was examined under the microscope, as were the tiny root caps and nodules.

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We talked about the clumps of dirt and rock being held together by the root mass of the alder, along with the many other roots woven together. The variety of vegetation from grass, to moss and other small plants was noted.

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When separated we looked at different types of root structures and talked about why they might be different for different types of vegetation.

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One of the roots had many shoots coming up and we talked about the structure of alder bushes and how they all come from the main root system.

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My son had wanted to trace the main root structure but when we started snipping away to get to the main larger parts of the root he realized just how intricate they are and was not quite up to the challenge on this day.

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In the end we had discussed root function and structure, plant growth, erosion control, and so much more.

This is such a nice way to turn thinning into a fun learning experience. Even those little baby garden seedlings (which I just hate to thin) have enough root to make some observations about root structure. There is no one right way to do an observation like this. Just go wherever it leads and have fun!

Plans are in the works to take a saw into the woods to examine the very large roots of a fallen tree. Who knows where we will go with this little spark in root study.

More information about roots can be found here.

Do you have any root study resources to share?

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In our last post about lichen we shared a general overview of lichen and how they are made up. In this post we are focusing more closely on one type of lichen called the reindeer lichen. It is fun to run across this lichen along the trail as it often has a ghost white glow about it, and almost glows when hit by the rays of the sun peeking through the treetops.

 

Read on to find out a bit more about reindeer lichen as well as to download printable sheets of useful photos and information about it. Each Wednesday, check the bottom of the “What’s That?” post to find a PDF containing a fact sheet about the day’s featured item, as well as photographs and other resources ideal for using in a nature journal, research binder, or lap book.

 

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Some Interesting Things to Know About Reindeer Lichen

- Like all lichen, reindeer lichen are created by a symbiotic relationship between fungi and a partner organism that can perform photosynthesis.

- It is also called caribou lichen, caribou moss, or reindeer moss. (Caribou are known as reindeer in Europe.)
- It grows in northern regions and is very resistant to cold temperatures.
- There are different types of reindeer lichen. This link provides a nice overview of three types found in northern woodlands.
- Lichen are very long living and slow growing. While growth rate slightly varies with different reindeer lichen, some grow approximately 1/8 inches a year and can live to be over 100 years old.
- When water is unavailable it will dry out, but begin to grow again when rehydrated.
- While it can be boiled to make a healing and nutritious tea, eaten raw it could make humans sick.
- This is another great site with lots of information for further study.

Click here to download the reindeer lichen nature journal resource pages to use with your own family.

 

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Nature In Your Neighborhood is a weekly feature that focuses on the nature that we all interact with in our everyday lives. Through the window of these posts you can catch glimpses of nature in action in locations across the country (and sometimes beyond). You are invited to add photos of your own nature finds for sharing here to the Mud Puddles to Meteors Flickr group. Please just remember to adjust your Flickr settings for sharing!

From the changing leaves on the biggest tree in the neighborhood to a tiny beetle scurrying across a sidewalk, we’d love to see what is happening in the natural world where you are.

 ………

It has been another week of great photos in the Flickr group. It is wonderful to see all of the color that comes along with spring!

Stream

stream by Dawn
Nova Scotia, Canada

 

spring: day 25

spring: day 25 by taylor & schmidt
Ozarks

 

pt louisa

pt. louisa by Jenny
Alaska

 

these last few days......

salamander by Stephinie
Massachusetts

 

Cotton buds

cotton buds by Lesley-Anne
Scotland

 

spring break.  day 2

snow geese by Siri
Montana

 

Mornings

Mornings by Hannah
Idaho

 

90:365:2014

Asparagus by Lee
Wisconsin 

 

Herbertia

Herbertia by Wendy
Texas

 

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane by Ship Rock
British Columbia, Canada

 

Thank you to all of our contributors!

And a quick reminder that you still have time to enter the We Love Nature! book giveaway. Click on over and share a favorite childhood nature experience!

 

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Nature Around the Net

April 12, 2014

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Birds, bees, and other bugs… we found a bit of each one, and more, for you this weekend!

- Everything you want to know about feathers in one place. Wow!

- If you know a bee lover, who is also a sports fan, they will love this video!

- Ever wanted to make a terrarium? We made one this week, but nothing like this one started 54 years ago! (How-to video at the bottom of the post.)

- Hummingbird webcam! Need we say more?

- With spring comes bugs, and that is good news for Jr. entomologists. With this in mind we are getting ready to place another order of watchmakers cases to keep the ever growing collection. (They are actually great for any collection of tiny nature finds.) We get them from the Lee Valley store in Canada but here is the US link.

 If you have come across something interesting that you would like to share please leave a link in the comments. Thank you!

P.S. There is still time to enter the We Love Nature! Giveaway.

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Giveaway: We Love Nature.

April 10, 2014

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Although there are undoubtedly many, many fun things about working with a publisher to produce a book of your very own, it is pretty safe to say that getting the chance to check out other titles put out by your editor or publishing house is a great benefit of the whole process. We were particularly excited to have the opportunity to take a peek at We Love Nature by Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer (illustrations by Denise Holmes) because, as you may have gathered from poking around this here blog, we really love nature.

Grow Seedlings

We Love Nature is a unique little book in that it is part journal, part activity guide. The book includes activities for encouraging families to interact with nature in authentic and easy ways, while also sharing prompts for writing, drawing, and taking notes about the experience. An especially nice inclusion in the book is a section at the beginning where a parent can jot down their own memories of favorite childhood nature experiences, providing a foundation for creating a family culture of building on those memories. We Love Nature gives thoughtful inspiration for families who would like to expand upon their children’s experiences of the natural world- without unnecessarily belaboring the process. The activities included are simple and accessible, but also clever and well-chosen.

 

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The book is also written in such a way that it can really grow with a family; with the activities chosen from it changing over time. It could also be very cool to revisit the journal prompts again and again as years pass, taking note of how a child’s perspective on nature changes as they grow older. What did they love at seven? What do they really feel connected to at twelve?

Canoe

We Love Nature can be used simply as a place to gather ideas for getting outdoors, but also has the potential to become a family keepsake and an artifact of a childhood spent enjoying the great outdoors. Children’s thoughts about the wilderness often express some of their deepest feelings of wonder and fascination, and being able to revisit those sentiments in years to come is a really nice idea.

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From canoe trips and cloud observation to weather prediction and animal tracking, there is a bit of everything in We Love Nature, and even for families who already find themselves outdoors much of the time, this book is sure to help them see their experiences from a different perspective.

Observe bugs

Roost has kindly offered two Mud Puddles readers a chance to win a copy of We Love Nature, and we truly think that those of you who read here will find the book to be very much up your proverbial alley. To enter to win, simply leave a comment on the post here. If you feel so inclined, we would love for you to share a favorite childhood nature experience of your own with us in your comment. We will choose a winner next Thursday, April 17th and notify via email.

Thanks to the lovely folks at Roost!

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Hearing that first buzzing bee after a long winter is an exciting sign of spring. While the bees have not ventured out here in the far north, they will soon enough, making this a great time to learn more about these important pollinators.

Read on to find out a bit more about bees as well as to download printable sheets of useful photos and information about them. Each Wednesday, check the bottom of the “What’s That?” post to find a PDF containing a fact sheet about the day’s featured item, as well as photographs and other resources ideal for using in a nature journal, research binder, or lap book.

 

28 Busy Bees

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Some Interesting Things to Know

- Honey bees live in colonies with one queen bee that lays eggs and lives for about three to four years.

- Female bees are the worker bees, and are responsible for collecting nectar (for energy) and pollen (for protein) for the colony.

- Drones, the male bees, only mate with the queen on her few mating flights.

- The queen bee usually stays in the hive after her mating flights, with worker bees attending to all of her needs.

- Eggs are laid in individual cells created by the worker bees. Larva are fed by ‘nurse’ bees until they begin to pupate (after about a week) and they are sealed into their cells by the nurse bees. The larva emerge as adult bees after about a week.

- Worker bees change jobs within the hive as they grow older. They start out cleaning the hive and caring for young, then are responsible for cell building. Next they take nectar and pollen from forager bees to store it, and finally they spend the rest of their lives as a foragers (leaving the hive to gather nectar and pollen).

- Honey is produced when nectar (collected in a second stomach within the bee) is mixed with enzymes produced by the bees. It is then spread out to dry, fanned by the bees using their wings, and when ready,  sealed into combs with wax.

- Worker bees have a barbed stinger that often detaches from the body after stinging (but not always). If it does not detach, the bee can sting again.

- Honey bees are important for their production of honey and beeswax, but they are most prized for their contribution to the world as pollinators. While wild bees live in hollow trees, most honey bees live in man-made hives and are moved around to different fields to help farmers with pollinating their crops. Fields with honey bee hives have a higher yield than those without.

- One reason reason beekeepers use smoke to calm bees is because it simulates what wild bees would interpret as a forest fire. When this happens, they will calmly try to save as much honey as possible, feeding on the hive’s stored honey until they fill up, before leaving to find a safe place to start the hive again. Their full stomachs make them sleepy and somewhat more docile, making it easier for the beekeeper to “work the hive.”

- For a great overview of how bees use a dance to communicate check out this video.

Click here to download the bees nature journal resource pages to use with your own family.

 

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Hitting the Trail is a weekly feature here at Mud Puddles to Meteors. In each post we will share trails, parks, beaches, and museums from around the country (and sometimes even beyond). If you would like to join in and share a special nature location please send us an email at kidsandnature@gmail.com with the details listed at the bottom of the post and links to the photos. We would love to share your nature adventure!

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Riverwalk Trail (Farmington, New Mexico)

While living in New Mexico last year one of our favorite trails was the Riverwalk in the middle of town. In the high desert rivers provide food and water for a wide variety of creatures and this walk always provided glimpses of wildlife including mule deer, Canada geese, mallards, skunk, a variety of insects, along with signs of beaver and other nocturnal critters such as raccoons. There were always new things to see and explore. The following photos were taken across many walks along the river which we enjoyed in all seasons.

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Some Things to Know

Location: Farmington, New Mexico

Habitat: Riparian and high desert woodlands

Favorite Animal & Plant Life: This area attracts a wide variety of wildlife. With the abundance provided by the river, and access to food from humans, many animals not only come to visit but stay year-round. Mule deer can be seen daily, along with Canada geese, mallards, and a great variety of small birds and birds of prey. It is a treat to see a heron on the river or flying overhead. In the summer months the river is teeming with fish, crayfish, and aquatic insect life such as dragonfly nymphs.

Special Features: There is an extensive trail system the weaves along the river and through the surrounding woodlands. The system includes two foot bridges that cross the river and  provide a wonderful vantage point for watching the water and wildlife such as mallards and geese. There is also a wonderful nature center and an amazing xeriscape garden at one end of the trail. (We will share more about the garden and nature center soon.)

Best Time of Year to Visit: This trail is easily walked year-round. While it does snow in this area it usually does not stick around for long and the trails do not get very icy. The fall is particularly beautiful with the cottonwoods putting on a blazing yellow display as they change for the season, but the summer holds the possibilities of river exploration and swimming.

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Nature In Your Neighborhood is a weekly feature that focuses on the nature that we all interact with in our everyday lives. Through the window of these posts you can catch glimpses of nature in action in locations across the country (and sometimes beyond). You are invited to add photos of your own nature finds for sharing here to the Mud Puddles to Meteors Flickr group. Please just remember to adjust your Flickr settings for sharing!

From the changing leaves on the biggest tree in the neighborhood to a tiny beetle scurrying across a sidewalk, we’d love to see what is happening in the natural world where you are.

 ………

 

Spring is in the air over in the Flickr pool. Here is a little sampler but click on over to check out even more amazing images from around the country, and around the world.

 

...spring

…spring by Kim
California

 

drops

Drops by Dawn
Nova Scotia, Canada

 

Bufflehead

Bufflehead by Shiprock
British Columbia, Canada

 

Untitled

red by ktLaurel
Quebec, Canada

 

Coccinelidae

lady bird by João
Brazil

 

pond reflections

Michigan 

 

29Mar2014_Point Pleasant_04.jpg

Nova Scotia, Canada

 

spring: day 13

spring: day 13 by taylor and schmidt
Ozarks

 

Scissor-tail flycatcher on the garden fence.

 Scissor-tail flycatcher by Wendy

Texas

 

A very welcome sight

buttercups by Hannah
Idaho

 

pink star

pink star by Kristy
British Columbia, Canada

 

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We are enjoying these very early days of spring, and have been spending lots of time wandering through the forest. There is always so much to see, and so many discoveries to be made, that sometimes it is hard to leave knowing there might be something new just around the next tree.

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It has been refreshing to get reaquainted with the forest we missed so much during our year in New Mexico. The vibrant nature all around, from the biggest tree to the tiniest moss spore, are a never-ending source of wonder and amazement.

~ Dawn

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Nature Around the Net

April 5, 2014

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 From the weather, to the birds, to the moon, we have all kinds of fun things to share today… enjoy.

- It was exciting to both see and hear this video of the air pressure egg experiment from The Weather Watcher’s Handbook.

- This cloud! How sweet is that? A great pin idea for your nearest and dearest weather watcher.

- Nest have been on our minds… Some amazing nest photos can be seen here, here and here.

- If you have been seeing spring robins arrive (as we have) you may want to check out these Frequently Asked Questions.

- A total lunar eclipse is coming up April 15th. Check in here for all the info!

If you have come across something interesting that you would like to share please leave a link in the comments. Thank you!

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