Thursday, April 26, 2012

Spring Meeting!

Wetlands at North Shore

 We had a wonderful gathering of people in support of our project last Tuesday!  It was great to fill that museum with so much enthusiasm and brilliance!  Thank you to everyone who took the time to join us.  And for everyone who supports us and was unable to attend, thank you for your good wishes.  The ball is rolling!

Andrew presented his plan for developing a walkway onto the wetlands.  He is working with Brian DeBest and we are looking forward to peering into those wetlands on dry boards next year!  Thank you to Andrew and all those who are supporting this Eagle Scout project!

Jessica presented her plan for developing a Butterfly Way Station.  She has great ideas for developing three gardens and a walkway.  Ilse, a butterfly expert from Kalamazoo, was at the meeting to lend ideas and support.  Having a butterfly garden will be not only be educational, but a great source of wonder and delight.  We can't wait!

Cameron is also working on an Eagle Scout project.  He is planning to create a seating area for students that will overlook the pond and the grassy area.  Students and teachers will be able to sit outside and write, draw and work.  I'm going to love that, especially when the weather gets nice!

Other dreams (to name just a few) include making the trail handicap accessible, developing a food garden, working on signage, supporting indigenous plants and continuing to lift up Liberty Hyde Bailey and his work.  I feel humbled that so many amazing and talented people came out to the meeting on Tuesday.  It reminds me that we are on the right track.  Thank you!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Earth Day 2012 in Our Backyard

An old friend we hope celebrated Earth Day in Mexico
I had a wonderful Earth Day thanks to many good people and an amazing planet!  My day started out with an early morning "birding" expedition led by Russ Schipper, bird expect and educator.  I was the most novice in the bunch, so I kept my mouth shut and my eyes peeled, which seems to be good practice for most times (I just sometimes forget).  The wind was pretty strong and the air cold as we started out at the North Pier and traveled along our coastline, ending up at the state park.  My favorite spotting was of a flock of mergansers.  They are pretty amazing ducks.  They seem very pleased with themselves, especially the males (I feel as if you can add your own comment here).  It was a great adventure!  I got home and found out that I was bitterly cold.  Apparently I had been too interested in birds to have noticed how cold I really was . . . a sign of a great adventure.  It took a large bowl of oatmeal and a warm blanket to revive me.   

I attended the Liberty Hyde Bailey Museum's Earth Day celebration later that day.  It was a well attended and a really lovely event.  John Stempien reminded us of how Liberty Hyde Bailey saw the beauty and sacredness in all the earth.  I think everyday was Earth Day for Mr. Bailey.  He loved the great and the small of it and all the in between of it.  He must have smiled looking down at all of us in his old homestead, celebrating the earth.  Anne Long gave a short history of Earth Day from the 1970's and reminded us of how really far we have come and how important it is to stand up and be heard.  Little things, done together can make a big difference.  That's the spirit of Earth Day . . . We also had a guest speaker, Maynard Kaufman, who talked about saving the earth in our backyard.  He reminded us that biodiversity is critical to a vital ecosystem.  One step toward promoting biodiversity is to decrease (or eliminate) those manicured grass lawns!  He also stressed the importance of planting native species of trees, flowers and perennials.  His ideas were practical, simple and earth friendly.  Learn more about Mr. Kaufman and his earth friendly techniques and ideas on the Liberty Hyde Bailey Museum Website.  I hope to see many of you at the fun and educational events the museum offers through the year.  It is always a good time filled with amazing people and generous hospitality.  Happy Earth Day to all of you that make this planet your home!  

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Dandelion Patch

Photo taken by D~
"Little Children like the dandelions, why may not we?" 
--Liberty Hyde Bailey

The dandelion patch that we planted in honor of Liberty Hyde Bailey is alive and well!  My son and I spent some time pulling out the extraneous weeds and we even found a few volunteer dandelions on our path that we transplanted to the garden.  Dandelions never had it so good! 

Spring is here and thoughts of growing the Liberty Hyde Bailey Interpretive Garden Path are at hand.  On Tuesday, April 24th at 7:00 p.m. there will be a meeting for anyone interested in the project.  We will be meeting at the Liberty Hyde Bailey Museum.  We need you.  We need everyone who is interested in building an outdoor learning environment for the students of North Shore Elementary.  You do not have to be an expert in anything, just someone who thinks kids need an outdoor setting to expand their learning and you want to help make it happen. 

The agenda is short.  We have two Eagle Scout projects and a Girl Scout project to showcase and discuss.  They will need our help as they plan and develop an outdoor seating area, a floating walkway on the wetlands and a certified Monarch Way Station. 

Other dreams include ideas for more plantings, grant writing, caring for the blueberry bushes (looking for a blueberry expert) developing a handicapped accessible path, curriculum work and more . . . The sky is the limit . . . as long as we have you with us.  Consider joining this amazing group of people for a short meeting at the museum.  I have been perfecting an old family brownie recipe, so brownies will be served.   I hope that you can join us!  If you are far away and/or cannot attend but have ideas, feel free to send them our way.  We are happy to serve! 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Springtime on the Path; Curriculum Connection

A big thank you to Russ Schipper for adding two bluebird houses to our backyard!  His knowledge and enthusiasm in teaching us about birds and his donations to the path are a generous addition to the education here at North Shore.  Thank you Russ!  This upcoming quarter, my students will be studying organisms in science.  The big idea with this unit is to discover how plants and animals adapt to their environment and to examine the characteristics of those different environments.  Why do different plants and animals grow and live in different places?  This is a great question for our backyard study.  Within the four acres in our school backyard, we have grassland, woodland and wetland.  Our path meanders through the different environments and for those of us who wander it, we get a peek into those natural surroundings and the plants and animals that have adapted there.  I can't wait to take my students out next week and listen to the frogs in the wetlands and see if the ferns have started growing underneath the trees.  No doubt there will be a variety of insects and other small creatures enjoying the warmth of spring in all the different areas. 

There are lots of ways to learn.  As we study the brain one thing is clear, knowledge is based on making connections.  We learn by connecting what we know to what we want to learn.  Students who love music, can connect new knowledge to sounds and tunes.  Students who love drawing, can connect new knowledge to art.  Students who love to move, can connect learning in hands-on study.  The Liberty Hyde Bailey Interpretive Garden Path has the potential to connect with students in a variety of ways that the classroom cannot always provide.  It's a place of beauty that can ignite the artist.  It's a place of amazing sounds (birds and crickets, frogs and toads) that can connect the auditory learning.  It's a place to move and explore, that can connect to those active learners.  Building connections in the brain, makes learning fun, but also makes students smarter.  It builds on what we know. 

My students had the opportunity to read poetry at Foundry Hall, our local theater.  Foundry Hall has generously let us use their wonderful facility for several years now, as my students celebrate poetry.  We filled the theater and ran out of programs.  Thank you Andru Bemis and Foundry Hall!  At any rate, some of our poetry was inspired by what we learned and what we observed on our path.  What is writing, if not an outcome of the world that surrounds us?

I Am Bluebird
By Makaelee 

I feel the wind on my feathers as I fly
I observe the kids playing outside
I wonder why the leaves change in the fall
I taste birdseed from the feeder
I dream of dancing on the clouds
I sing my cheerful song
I am Bluebird

Ice Crystals
By Zander
(a Haiku)

Frozen drops of rain
Sparkling white and fluffy
Then water beneath my feet

We have big plans for the Liberty Hyde Bailey Interpretive Garden Path.  Our goal is to make it an outdoor learning center that inspires students and teachers.  We will be getting together to plan and make goals for the future development of this project after spring break.  Details will follow in the days ahead.  Everyone is invited and chocolate is generally provided!  I hope to see you there!