Head on a summer Stroll

Take a stroll in the woods

Summer is a wonderful time for a wander around the woods. Escape the heat and enjoy a walk under the dappled, cool shade of the tree canopy. Watch as bees and butterflies glide from flower to flower in search of nectar, and see if you can spot deer, foxes or squirrels on your way around the wood. Before you go, talk toyour children about Leave No Trace and the importance of planning for your outing. Where will you go? Are dogs allowed, where will you park if you drive? Its important to check on the weather forecast so you are prepared for any changes in the weather, Repack any picnic foods into reusable containers so you will not bring any unnecessary packaging into the outdoors.

picnic in Fingle Woods

Credit: Adam Burton / WTML

Pack a picnic

The warm, sunny days that summer supplies us with are perfect for picnicking. Get your family and friends together, adhere to social distancing and pack a picnic and head out to the woods for some food and fun! This is a great opportunity to practise your Leave No Trace principles and bring home all your waste. Just remember you can also collect any litter you see and lead by your example!

Stop and smell the flowers

During the warmer months the woods are filled with a kaleidoscope of colour. Wildflower meadows sway in the warm breeze, the sweet scent of fragrant honeysuckle fills the air and striking foxglove attracts the buzzing of bees.

Watch wildlife

The hazy days of summer are filled with the buzzing of bees, bevvies of butterflies fluttering among the wildflowers and lots of activity from other insects, including grasshoppers, beetles and ladybirds. Reptiles bask in the sun, tiny toadlets venture out of the ponds they were born in and during the evening bats abound in search of prey. Remember the Rule of Thumb – do not get too close to Wildlife.

Wicklow Mountains National Park

It certainly looks beautiful, but living in the west, I’ve never actually had a chance to find out. One thing’s for certain though – the nature activities on their website are awesome! I’ve linked to a few of their resources previously (on butterflies and corvids), but they just keep adding new stuff, so now it’s time to check out their website for yourself.

They have fun worksheets (with puzzles and games) for plants and animals that you’ll find in your garden, some as gaeilge, and lovely posters to help you identify butterflies, bees, birds and trees. Oh, and a video showing every species of butterfly in Ireland in 35 seconds… You know what to do:

Wicklow Mountains National Park website

Square Metre Outdoor Project

Is your backgarden a jungle? We have a terrific way to explore nature in your own backgarden with the one square metre outdoor STEM project! This is a super easy to set up nature science activity that you can do in any season and just about any setting. In fact, we encourage you to explore lots of locations throughout the year!

This square-metre outdoor STEM project is a great activity for parents, teachers, or older kids to get involved with too especially if you need to supervise the use of scissors. Help your kids measure and cut the amount of string needed to create your backgarden jungle project.

Decide how you want to set it up and whether you want to simply place the string on the ground or if you want to try out some creative engineering!

Get down! Yes, you need to get down on your belly to really see what’s down there. Grab a magnifying glass and check it all out. You can push the grass aside if necessary to see what’s below the surface.

Set up your Square Metre

Before you can even begin your exploration of your area, you have to set it up! You will need to measure out one square metre worth of string. This will include using a measuring tape and some basic math skills to determine the correct length. Children may need to learn about theses measurements before you can cut the string needed.

Once you have the correct length of string, you need to set up or engineer your frame around your square metre of land. You can do this as simple as laying down the string you have cut and made sure that it is in fact positioned as a one-metre square.

OBSERVE AND RECORD DATA

Use a notebook or design your own sheets to record data, take notes, and draw pictures of everything you can see and find from leaves to moss, to grass, to dirt and water. Take notes on the bugs and insects that might be crawling around or take note of any footprints or droppings that are left behind. Are there any birds visiting? Remember to follow the Leave No Trace Principles and respect wildlife – do not get up close to the birds, observe from a distance.

Draw pictures of your area, document the weather conditions, time of day, season, or anything else that can help you learn more about your one square metre!

A backgarden jungle or one square metre outdoor STEM project is something you can set up on a nature hike, on a camping trip, at the beach, or in a jungle! Make a point to explore different outdoor locations.

Of course, it’s also fun to explore your own backgarden and learn more about what is living on the piece of land with you. You can try this for each season and note any differences or similarities you find. You can set it up in the same spot each time for a great experiment.

Or you can pick different spots around the garden to see if there is anything different to find. Maybe you see a footprint in the mud and you want to set up your nature science activity to include it!

Nature Diary – Late June

Summer is moving on, and while it hasn’t been so hot in recent days, we haven’t had much rain. Have you noticed how many of the trees have browning leaves? Perhaps you want to make a water bath for your birds? Check out this fortnight’s nature diary for other things to do, and to look for, listen for and to smell as the sights, sounds and odours of nature change with the season.

Download pdf: Nature Diary 18th June – 1st July

Texture Walk

Texture walk: how place feels
The simple act of taking a walk—a walk with a curricular focus or purpose—can have
wonderful educational impacts. This imagination and inquiry-focused walk is
designed to alert children to different aspects of the local natural world.
Step 1
For this activity begin with a brainstorm about ways to describe how things feel to the touch—smooth, bumpy, prickly, hot, cold etc. Children might be challenged to come up with as many adjectives as they can. Perhaps assign this task ahead of time—kudos to the child who comes up with the most unusual adjective!
Step 2
Once a list has been created you head outside to explore with your children. Take your
child on a texture walk around the garden, local green space or any outside environment. There are textures everywhere!
The challenge
Their challenge is to find something that matches each descriptor. They can record what
they find that matches each adjective and maybe even take a photo of an item to show the rest of their family. Remember to practice the Leave No Trace Principle of ‘Leave what you find’.
Wrap up
Give your child an opportunity to share what they found. Encourage them to classify some of the textures. For example, which were pleasing? Surprising? Curious? Unusual? They can identify additional categories.
This lesson is perfect for ages 5-12, with flexibility to increase to the challenge through the vocabulary list and related tasks. It can contribute to learning objectives in English, science, arts or other subjects, with options to extend the learning through tasks in creative writing, art projects and flora/fauna identification.

Species A Day

If you haven’t already discovered it, it’s time to hook up with #SpeciesADay from the National Biodiversity Data Centre. Each weekday and each weekend, the good folks at the National Biodiversity Data Centre designate a different species as #SpeciesADay. This weekend (13th/14th June) it’s the foxglove. Your mission is to get outside, find some foxgloves, take a photo, and tweet it with the hashtag #SpeciesADay. For bonus points, submit your sighting to the National Biodiversity Data Centre. Just go to their Start Recording pages: Start Recording

Click on Vascular Plants for this weekend’s species, and enter your data and upload your photo. You can record any of your sightings of any species, at any time, and help build a picture of Ireland’s biodiversity. Why not explore some of the other recording schemes while you’re on the National Biodiversity Data Centre website?

Critically Endangered Invertebrate Challenge

A few weeks ago, my colleague Colin Lawton from the NUI Galway zoology department wrote about the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and the IUCN’s work Saving Species. As a mammal expert, Colin mostly illustrated his piece with mammals. At the time I said I would do a follow up on endangered invertebrates.

What’s an Invertebrate?

Invertebrates are animals without backbones, and include animals like snails, insects, starfishes, and jellyfishes.  Invertebrates are often overlooked but they are massively important – just think of the work bees do pollinating our crops.

In the last few years, there’s been a big effort within the scientific community to better document the threats to ‘little’ species and now you can go to the IUCN website and find out all sorts of details about Critically Endangered invertebrates. So why not download our worksheet, that takes you through the steps to find some of the coolest, most wonderful, but critically endangered invertebrates on our planet.

Download: The Critically Endangered Invertebrate Challenge

Pond Dipping for Nature Detectives

Everyone loves pond dipping – catching minibeasts, tiny fish and tadpoles is so much fun!

Going pond dipping is a bit like carrying out a scientific experiment! What will you discover, who will spot the biggest animal, will you find more frogs or fish…? Turn your pond dipping adventure into a scientific experiment by making some predictions about what you might find, use the attached worksheets from the Woodland Trust to help you.

Don’t forget to record what you actually found. Were your predications correct?

Maybe you could be a real scientist and compare your predictions with what you spotted – were you right?

Before you go on your pond dipping adventure, there are a few t hings you need to know:

Water can be dangerous, so it’s important to stay safe. Remember – don’t go in the water (not even if you drop something!).

Remember to leave no trace of your visit – bring home any litter, do not remove any of the creatures that live in the water or around the pond and do not disturb their natural habitat.

Have fun and stay safe by the water.