Saturday, September 24, 2016

Outdoor Learning Center Additions

New archways onto our two nature paths!
Weaving into our new butterfly sculpture!


Planting native species into our gardens!
Michael Zillins, Eagle Scout helping with our new Butterfly Garden!

Butterfly Release!
On September 17th, we celebrated the new additions to our Outdoor Learning Center here at North Shore Elementary School!  Thanks to a great many generous people, the vision and support for this project continues to grow.  

Thank you to Lisa Rostar, art teacher who received a grant to have sculptor, Kathy Kreager create the amazing butterfly sculpture that now graces our backyard.  Lisa received the grant from the School Foundation and the Garden Club.  It is beautiful!    

Thank you to Tom Small and the good people from Wild Ones, out of Kalamazoo, for the grant they awarded me to develop a butterfly garden.  I purchased plants from Hidden Savanna, a native species nursery out of Kalamazoo.  The garden is well underway and we couldn't have done this without your support!

Thank you to Michael Zillins, Eagle Scout, who will help develop our butterfly garden!  He and his troop will create a border, a sign and enlarge the mulched area of the garden.  Michael is the fourth Eagle Scout who has helped with components of this outdoor project.  The Eagle Scouts of South Haven have invested in this project from the start and we are grateful!

Thank you to Frank Lawson, South Haven artist and friend, who made beautiful archways to the entrances of our two paths into the woods!  Stepping under those arches is a great way to begin a journey into our outdoor classrooms.  Thanks Frank!

This project began six years ago in honor of Dr. Liberty Hyde Bailey Jr., born and raised on a local farm in South Haven.  He left his home to become a scientist, professor, writer and poet.  Bailey was instrumental in starting what was termed, "The Nature-Study Movement."  In his book, The Nature Study Idea, (1904) Bailey writes to the question; What is Nature Study?  

". . . its purpose is to enable every person to live a richer life, whatever his business or profession may be.  Nature-study is a revolt from the teaching of mere science in the elementary grades. . . Nature-study is not science.  It is not knowledge.  It is not facts.  It is spirit.  It is concerned with the child's outlook on the world."

Bailey wanted to share his love for learning and exploring in the natural world with all students.  I hope that we capture some of that spirit and share some of his joy with the students of North Shore Elementary.  Thank you to everyone who supports this endeavor!    

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Harold, The Wandering Iguana

Harold, after 7 weeks on the lam
Thanks to the kindness of neighbors and the first responders of South Haven, my green iguana Harold is back home.  Harold disappeared on July 2nd.  He was outside for his morning sunshine in his cage and although closed, it wasn't completely secured.  Harold nuzzled his way out and vanished within a span of five minutes while I was inside making his lunch.  My family and I searched the trees and bushes in our yard, the back ravine and our neighbors yards for hours and then days.  I left the cage open and stocked with food, hoping he would find his way back home.  I called the humane society and reported his loss in the hopes someone might see him.  Over a month went by and still sometimes I would go and gaze into the trees and wonder where Harold had gone. . . I finally put the cage away and faced the reality that he was probably eaten by a racoon or hawk.

Harold enjoys his freedom and when he is in my classroom, he spends a great deal of time hanging in the top of my ficus tree or sitting on my desk, keeping me from the distractions of paperwork.  His cage is more of a safe space for him; a place he goes when he wants to eat or escape the busyness in the classroom.  He appreciates his personal space.  Iguanas are not social creatures.  They prefer to observe the world from a distance and yet, he has a funny way of getting close to me without wanting me to pick him up or hold him.  When I'm in the room alone, he will most often wander over to where I'm working and find a place that's just a bit above me to sit.  He will cock his head and watch me.  He seems as fascinated by me as I am of him, and although neither of us could begin to imagine what the other was thinking, we have a working relationship and a certain fondness for each other.

My students think Harold is pretty cool even though I don't let them hold him or even really pet him.  They understand that he is not your average pet.  He is, in fact, a wild animal.  I'm not sure iguanas should even be called "pets."  I'm not sure pet stores should sell them, to be completely honest.  That being said, Harold lives in our classroom and my students and I hope to give him the space he needs and respect his privacy as much as possible.   Maybe there is a lesson in all of this and maybe not.  Either way, Harold makes our life a little bit better and I'm so glad that he is back.

Harold was spotted on August 23rd, about four blocks from home.  By the time the humane society contracted me and I arrived on the scene, there were two fire trucks, four police cars and lots of neighbors staring into a huge maple tree.  It took the tallest fire truck ladder to reach Harold.  By the time he was captured and riding down the ladder in the hands of a firefighter, he looked absolutely terrified and I was in complete shock.  Harold had survived seven weeks on the streets and in the wilds of South Haven.  He was a bit thinner and had a few scrapes and a missing toe but he looked pretty good, all things considered.  I can't imagine how he spent his days and nights or where he traveled.  That will be a writing assignment for my fourth graders.  I look forward to the stories they write.  As for Harold, he is keeping silent, as is his way.  
Harold, back home in his tree