Bird Bingo

We have another fine game of bingo for your to play this weekend. Bird Bingo! All you need to do is download and printout our bingo card and then race your friends and neighbours to get either a row, or the whole card. Tested in a 1 km radius from my house in Galway City – there’s nothing too difficult in here. If you’ve missed our previous bingo games, and want more to do this weekend, then why not try Tree Bingo and Seashore Bingo too.

Learn about rocks

Different Types of Rocks
This activity makes the rock cycle real for your child. Processes that take millions
of years can be recreated at far lower temperatures in your kitchen. You and your
child can also finally make use of all those broken crayons you have in the cupboard.
Just be prepared for a bit of a mess. This is also a good opportunity to discuss the Leave No Trace Principle of ‘leave what you find’ with your child and explain the importance of not removing rocks from their natural setting.
What You Need:
At least 5 full sized different colored crayons
Measuring spoons
Iron, ideally that you don’t use much anymore
Two thin cloths that you don’t care about
Metal spoon you don’t care about
Small (approximately 3 x 3) metal tin you don’t care about
Oven glove or Mitt
What You Do:

  1. Cover your work area with newspaper.
  2. Remove the paper from the crayons. If you don’t have five whole crayons,
    just pick up enough pieces of different colors to total about five crayons.
  3. Grate the crayons into the bowl, using one of the smaller sets of holes.
    Because the grater is sharp and the crayons are hard, an adult should take the lead. Tell your child that this process is like the process of weathering which, over millions of years, wears rock down to gravel, sand and mud. You need about 10 teaspoons of grated crayons to make all the rocks and have some left over to compare with your crayon rocks.
  4. Help your child cut three 4 x 6 inch pieces of foil.
  5. Tell your child that you first will make sedimentary rock, which is made when sediments, like sand, are buried and pressed by tons of overlying layers.
  6. Ask your child to measure 3 tsp of the grated crayons into the center of one of the pieces of foil. The pile of grated crayons should be about 1.5 x 1.5 inches.
  7. Help your child fold over both edges of the foil to cover the pile of grated crayons.
  8. Next, on a hard smooth surface, not carpeted, ask your child to stomp on the foil wrapped crayons. Have your child move around to make sure all the parts are crushed together.
  9. Help your child unwrap the crushed crayon. The particles should be partially fused together, but crumbly, and the different colors of crayons will still be visible.
  10. Tell your child the next type you will be making is metamorphic rock, which forms when rock layers are buried so deeply that the Earth’s heat and pressure changes them.
  11. Ask your child to measure 3 tsp of the grated crayons to put in the center of one of the pieces of foil. The pile of grated crayons should be about 1.5 x 1.5 inches.
  12. Help your child fold over both edges of the foil to cover the pile of grated crayons.
  13. Ask your child to wrap the crayons with another piece of foil.
  14. Heat up the iron to low heat. Cover the ironing board with one piece of cloth, cover the crayon covered foil with another piece of cloth. The crayon wax can melt quickly, and you don’t want it getting into your iron or ironing board.
  15. Press the warm iron upon the cloth covered foil until the foil feels warm. An adult should take the lead here.
  16. Let cool for a few minutes.
  17. Help your child carefully open the foil. The crayon pieces should be more fused than with the sedimentary rock. Some parts might have melted, but individual crayon colors should still be visible.
  18. The third type of rock your child will make is an igneous rock. Igneous rocks form when the rock melts completely.
  19. Help your child construct a mould for his igneous rock by folding a piece of foil into a 3 x 3 inch tray. The sides should be about an inch high, creating a 1 inch space on the bottom. Place mould on dish in case it leaks.
  20. Have your child measure three teaspoons of the grated rock into the pie tin.
  21. Heat the tin over the stove at low heat, stirring constantly.
  22. Remove after the crayon melts completely, which won’t take long.
  23. Pour the liquid into the mold. Explain to your child that the liquid represents lava, or liquid rock at the earth’s surface. It would be called magma if it melted below the earth’s surface.
  24. Let cool for several minutes.
  25. Help your child remove his igneous rock from the mold. Once your child has made all of his rocks, have him arrange them in a circle. Challenge him to describe how the sedimentary rock could be changed into metamorphic (more heat), and how the material in an igneous rock could become part of a sedimentary rock
    (weathering, burial and pressure). This activity will help your child appreciate how rocks change, given enough time.

Nature Diary Late July

We’ve had a let up from the constant rain in the west these last few days and the garden is buzzing with pollinators again. There are different plants in flower now, so new places to look for dragonflies and other pollinators. This red-tailed bumblebee photobombed the selfheal picture above! Download the Nature Diary for the next fortnight to see what else to look for.

Do one simple thing for nature today

This poster is designed to make it really easy for children to take that first step outside and start interacting with the natural world. take as

Each of these tear-off tasks is simple to do and can take as short or as long a time as you or your child wants.

  1. Download the file and print it onto recycled paper.
  2. Cut along the lines between each task so that they can be easily torn off at the top.
  3. Tear off the one on the far left so it’s clear to the children that they should do the same.
  4. Put it up where it can be seen like a noticeboard or on the refrigerator.
  5. Invite the children to tear off a task that resonates with them.

Herbology Hunt

This post isn’t about one of our self-designed activities. Herbology Hunt is an initiative from the Wild Flower Society supported by the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland.

Each month, Herbology Hunt gives you five wild flowers to find that are common in both Britain and Ireland. This month, you have to find Rosebay Willow Herb, Cock’s Foot, Honeysuckle, Foxglove and Field Forget-me-not.

I’ve pasted this month’s spotter sheet below, but for full details, and to download the sheets for other months, head over to the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland website:

The initiative has been running a while, and you can no longer get the free hand lens or t-shirt by spotting enough plants, but this is still a great activity, because all the plants are really common and easy to identify so this is great to get younger kids inspired.

Mammal Detective

Today’s activity is by my fabulous colleague Dr Colin Lawton who is our departmental mammal expert. Colin spends lots of time monitoring mammal populations and really knows how to recognise a mammal from the signs they leave behind. Burrows, droppings, paw prints and more – Colin is a true mammal detective. He’s made a pdf to tell you how to do it!

2 Minute Beach Clean

I saw this terrible video on Twitter last week of a machine that was designed to ‘clean beaches’. It basically scooped up 6 inches of sand and everything on top of it and sieved it through a fine mesh to leave nice clean sand. I wanted to scream “What about all the little animals!”. Yes, folks, that lovely sand is full of little critters, and lots of our gorgeous shore birds like those little critters for their tea. The only way to clean a beach is by hand. So this weekend, why not do a 2 minute beach clean. Not convinced? You will be – watch this:

So how do you do a 2 minute beach clean? Simple, pick up litter for 2 minutes. Take a snap of what you found, and post it on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #2minutebeachclean. Take care you don’t touch sharp objects and always wash your hands with soap or take hand sanitiser with you.

If you want to get more involved with caring for your local beach, then check out the Clean Coasts Website: The 2MinuteBeachClean is their initiative. They’ll show you how to join a regular beach clean, or organise your own beach cleaning group, and you too can become an ocean hero.

Practice Leave No Trace

Below are seven tips to encourage the kids in your life to practice Leave No Trace.

  1. Know Before You Go. Kids have few choices in life; therefore, finding opportunities to give choice helps build buy-in and confidence. When planning an outdoor adventure, gain kids’ input. Have them research the weather forecast and plan the best clothing to wear, provide trail choices within their ability, and allow them to choose their lunch and snack food.
  2. Choose the Right Path. Play a game of “ninjas and detectives.” Encourage children’s imaginations while guiding their powers of awareness and conscious foot-stepping with the power of role-playing. Ask them to pretend they are ninjas or spies—or any characters that require them to observe their surroundings without leaving “clues” as to where they have been. Parents can play “detective” to follow the ninjas’ trails as they attempt to remain unseen and unheard.
  3. Trash Your Rubbish. Play “I spy” with rubbish by creating a competition among kids (or between kids and parents) to see who can collect the most litter. This activity gets kids thinking about the accumulation of rubbish and its impact on parks and communities. Ensure you use gloves and do not collect any PPE or briken glass. See can you guess how long the different items take to break down.
  4. Respect Wildlife. Kids are naturally fascinated by animals they encounter outside, often wanting to touch or get close to them. Help them to understand how close they can safely be from an animal by asking them to stand with one arm raised straight out at shoulder height with their thumb up. Ask them to look at the animal with one eye closed and try to cover it with their thumbs. If they are far enough away, their thumbs will completely block sight of the animal.
  5. Minimise the risk of fire. When camping, play a firewood relay race. Create groups of two or more (or have a competition between children and parents). The objective is to gather dead and downed firewood of appropriate size. Once retrieved, sequence the firewood from smallest to largest in diameter. Any firewood larger than kids’ wrists are disqualified. The team with the most appropriate firewood wins. Finish this game by explaining that firewood should be no larger in diameter because it takes too long to burn into ash, hindering the decomposition process.
  6. Leave What You Find. Give kids a camera to take photos of treasures they find on the trail. Use a photo collage application, such as PhotoLab, to encourage creativity and save and share their outdoor adventures. This reinforces that they can keep the memory while leaving the objects themselves in nature.
  7. Be Considerate of Others. Encourage kids to be inclusive and polite when playing outdoors. Model and teach good manners, such as sharing the trail with others, and avoid bad behaviours, such as talking on phones while exploring.