Den building is a fantastic activity for all ages. You can do it at any time of year, but also rmember to use fallen leaves and branches. by doing this your are practising the principles of Leave No Trace.
Dens make perfect birdwatching hides, as well as shelters and basecamps for woodland walks. Building a den is also great fun for the whole family and a wonderful way to spend time together, so head outdoors and try out our top tips.
Get everyone to set about collecting natural materials from the woodland floor. Make sure kids aren’t breaking off living branches or damaging trees. If you use any unnatural materials such as string or rope, remember to take them home at the end of the day.
You will need:
long, straight branches and sticks
lots of thin, bendy sticks
materials to cover your den, such as dried leaves, twigs and grass
Beware. Make sure to avoid picking or walking through bracken, as it can be home to ticks.
Why not hold a den-building competition?
How to build your den
Coming up with your own den design is part of the fun, but here are a couple of simple ideas to get you started.
Find a tree with a fork in the branches that’s quite low down.
Make a frame by propping some long, straight sticks in the fork and fanning them out. Also make sure that any branches are really secure – you don’t want them slipping.
Weave bendy sticks in and out of the upright sticks to make the walls. Leave a gap at head height for a window.
Cover your den with natural materials so it’s camouflaged and weatherproof. You could use mud to stick them on.
Scatter a carpet of dried leaves on the floor to make your den extra cosy.
Find two forked trees that are close together and place a long stick between them.
Prop a row of sticks against it on each side so you end up with a tent shape.
Weave your bendy sticks in and out of the upright and add your plant materials.
Make a mini den
This activity is a lovely way for very small children to have a go at den building. Simply collect a handful of small sticks and prop them up against a tree trunk or fallen branch to make a mini den. Make the inside of your shelter nice and cosy with some fallen leaves. Now it’s ready for child’s favourite teddies or dolls.
Don’t forget to dismantle your den and Leave No Trace of your visit.
Before you head home, please remember to take your den down. On your next visit you can have fun building it all over again, or you can experiment with a different design!
Want to do a bit of community science? Flower-Insect Timed Counts are a fun and hugely useful way to contribute to our scientific knowledge about pollinators. You’ve probably heard people voicing concern that bees and other pollinating insects are in decline, and you can help scientists collect the data they need to study the problem.
All you need is a sunny day, a tape measure, a patch of flowers, and a recording sheet.
Summer is a great time to get outside and learn more about the environment.
Rock pooling and enjoying the ocean is a great way to spend the afternoon. This hands-on experience will introduce kids to the wide variety of sea creatures that lurk on our shores. Getting their hands wet will make an everlasting experience for them.
What you need:
Buckets or clear tupperware containers
A field guide or ID sheet
A Camera and or pens and paper
An adult to help you keep an eye on the tide.
On the day:
Half fill your buckets or containers with seawater. Have more than one to keep bad tempered animals apart. Use your hands to carefully lift crabs, starfish and other sea creatures into your containers.
Nets can cause damage to rockpools and are best avoided.
Use a guide to identify your creatures. Take notes, sketch them or photograph them. Return the animals to where you found them and you’ve finished looking. Wash your hands before eating.
Here’s some tips to keep the rockpool safe for future generations and to leave no trace of your visit:
Don’t take living animals or plans with you…
Don’t prise limpets, anemones or seaweed from their rocky homes.
Be careful not to damage delicate animals.
Replace rocks to the same position once you’ve looked underneath.
Today’s post is a really short one. Today we are highlighting a fabulous collection of information and activities put together by Ireland’s Marine Institute. The Marine Institute is the State agency that provide scientific and technical advice on all things marine to the government. But they also have great educational resources and they’ve pulled lots of these together into “Oceans of Learning”. It’s a huge site, with competitions, art, videos, activities. The one thing drawing it all together is that it’s all about the sea! Check it out here:
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.
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 Grater Bowl Measuring spoons Foil 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 Stove What You Do:
Cover your work area with newspaper.
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.
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.
Help your child cut three 4 x 6 inch pieces of foil.
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.
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.
Help your child fold over both edges of the foil to cover the pile of grated crayons.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Help your child fold over both edges of the foil to cover the pile of grated crayons.
Ask your child to wrap the crayons with another piece of foil.
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.
Press the warm iron upon the cloth covered foil until the foil feels warm. An adult should take the lead here.
Let cool for a few minutes.
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.
The third type of rock your child will make is an igneous rock. Igneous rocks form when the rock melts completely.
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.
Have your child measure three teaspoons of the grated rock into the pie tin.
Heat the tin over the stove at low heat, stirring constantly.
Remove after the crayon melts completely, which won’t take long.
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.
Let cool for several minutes.
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.
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.
The pH of the ocean is changing due to the amount of carbon dioxide being absorbed into it. This simple experiment will show you how this will affect the shell structures of the animals in our ocean. Download the instructions and have fun. All you need is a few empty shells and some vinegar.
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: https://bsbi.org/herbology-hunt
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.