Monday, July 25, 2011

Nature Net News Flash Summer 2011

Dear Parents,

We hope you've been having a fun and safe summer full of nature adventures. In case you're running out of ways to keep your kids occupied this summer, never fear - Nature Net News Flash is here! With fun activities, programs and events, you can keep the outdoor fun going all summer long.


 Nature Passport:

Nature Passport is an at-your-leisure program geared toward family learning and discovery at over a dozen nature centers and museums throughout the area. Available free online, at Nature Net sites, and throughout the community, Nature Passport leads young explorers on adventures in the wild. Use the clues offered by Ringo Raccoon to get movin', find area mysteries and other exciting bits of nature.  

Pick up your free Passports at any Nature Net site or order
online. Don't forget your friends and neighbors -- get Passports for everyone!

Summer History Break:

Take a break and learn some history at Upham Woods this weekend!
Through this season's Upham Woods CANOE (Children and Nature Outdoor Experiences) Program on July 23, you can take a trip across the river or hang out and explore the camp. Take a guided history hike of Blackhawk Island, learn about the historic Dell House, River Rats, and the Snyder Family who once farmed the island OR stay on the mainland and collect all kinds of “water bugs” and examine them in the wet lab. Enjoy the summer weather through a summer scavenger hunt around camp. Don't forget to get your Nature Passport stamped while you're there!

Find out about other area events for families on the Nature Net Events Calendar. 

Looking for frequent tips, ideas and local updates? Be sure to check out Nature Net's Facebook page - we post daily and weekly craft activities, games, blogs, tips, events around town, and ideas for getting outdoors with your kids. "Like" us and let us know what you think!

Nature Net News Blast Summer 2011

Sign up to receive Nature Net News in your inbox! See the original newsletter
 Dear Teachers,

Summer is in full swing! Hopefully you are finding time to relax and have fun. As you gear up for the school year, take a look at these resources, workshop opportunities and some new ideas for integrating nature into your classroom this fall.

This Nature Net News Blast has it all!

Teacher Workshops:

Summer Workshops Are Here! Check out this and other upcoming programs for educators:

Growing Minds: Garden-Based Learning from the Ground Up: July 25-29, 2011 – Community GroundWorks, Troy Gardens, Madison, WI
This 5-day, 20-hour course is designed for K-12 teachers and community educators interested in building their skills in youth garden education, development, and management. This course will emphasize an inquiry-based, hands-on approach to garden-focused learning. Course topics include youth garden design and construction, funding and resources, recommended tools and equipment, organic gardening methods, cooking in a garden kitchen, garden-based nutrition, nature study and games, earth art, chickens, program evaluation, and the role of youth gardening in the sustainable agriculture movement. Course instruction will take place outdoors in the award-winning Kids' Garden at Troy Gardens. Enrollment is limited to 22 educators. Cost is $135. 1 semester unit of graduate credit available at additional cost of $60. To register, or for further information, contact Nathan Larson at or 608-240-0409.

Read more and find out about other workshops!

Opportunities for Science Teachers:

ECB Climate Literacy Collaborative: Are you a grade 8 science teacher? You can be compensated for a climate education evaluation study in Fall 2011! The Educational Communications Board has recently produced a climate literacy digital resource, the Climate Literacy Collaborative, which targets climate science concepts that are typically difficult to teach and learn, and supports 21st Century learning skills through STEM content. Participate in the study — either as implementation teachers or comparison group teachers, and help evaluate their effectiveness! Register for the study here.

Wisconsin Science Festival: Mark your calendar for this inaugural experience designed to engage the next generation - and everyone else - in science. Participate in this free festival, September 23-35, including K-12 fieldtrips and teacher workshops across the Madison area. Visit for more information!

Nature Express:

 Planning for next year and looking for a way to make your outdoor exploration fieldtrip dollars go further?
Check out Nature Express - a program that provides funds for nature fieldtrip buses to any Nature Net site. You may receive up to $80 per bus to offset the cost of your second trip! More tips for designing effective field trips can be found on Nature Net.

More Nature Net Online:

Follow the Nature Net blog and "like" us on Facebook for frequent tips and ideas, local opportunities, and interesting articles for parents and educators - plus the same great resources found on Get started with these posts on nature journaling with your students, nature education apps, and Nature Net resources for educators.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Nature Net News - July 2011 - Buzzing Bees

Nature Net News
Your source for tips & tricks for exploring nature with your kids

Dear Reader,

What's the buzz about bees?
"How doth the little busy Bee
Improve each shining Hour,
And gather Honey all the day
From every opening Flower!"
"Against Idleness And Mischief" by Isaac Watts

Bees are busy pollinators, and their pollination helps produce over one-third of the human diet! That's not even including the delicious honey in everything from our morning tea to our lip balm.

However, bees are often vilified due to the little stinger that they use for defense, in addition to their aggressive relatives, including the wasp, which patterns itself after the bee. Some bees, such as the bumblebee, sting very rarely and are quite mild.

These buzzing beauties are in danger due to many modern factors, including pesticides (they don't distinguish between bugs), climate change (seasonal changes are affecting the synchronization of flower openings and bee emergence), and even cell phones (which can disorient bees so they cannot find their way back to their hives).

So take a look at this issue of Nature Net News and learn more about these buzzing critters. You'll definitely bee-come more interested!


Kathe, Sarah & Brenna
The Folks at Nature Net

Did You Know..... 
Bees have existed on this planet for over 100 million years, according to a fossil found by Oregon State University.

The European honey bee is Wisconsin's State Insect, despite being a non-native species.

Bumblebees are considered eight times more effective at pollination than honey bees at pollinating certain types of fruit, like blueberries. However, honey bees produce more honey.

Only queens and worker bees have stingers. Male bees have no stingers.

Bees have two pairs of wings!

What To Do This Month:
Come watch the busy bees pollinating the beautiful outdoor gardens at Olbrich Botanical Gardens!

Join The Bee Hunt, a scientific study to understand the impact of climate change and other factors on plant-pollinator interactions.

Check out the Butterflies Flutter By Walk on Sunday, July 10 at the UW Arboretum!

Learn about pollinator gardens (watch this clip from WPT's Wisconsin Gardener, read this article, check out these guides from the Pollinator Partnership, and visit these Community GroundWorks resources on gardening with kids) and cultivate some native plants in a sunny spot near you to attract and observe bees and other pollinators. 

Tricks of the Trail for Parents:

Buzzing Bees Beware!
While bees are amazing critters, when provoked, a little bee will give up its life (and a sting) to make sure you leave her hive alone. So, while bee-watching, make sure to stay out of the bees' way. Leave them alone and they'll do the same!

Instant Outdoor Expert:

How To Tell a Honey Bee from a Bumblebee
Shape: The honey bee is very streamlined with a "waist" and looks much like a short wasp. A bumblebee has a circular body and is noticeably fuzzy, especially on its bum(ble). It is larger than the honey bee.

Color: Honey bees have black and orange-yellow stripes, while bumblebees have black and yellow stripes.

Movement: A bumblebee is very slow and lazy and meanders from side to side, while a honey bee zips around and is always in a rush.

Temperament: Bumblebees are very gentle and will only attack under extreme provoked circumstances. Honey bees are more aggressive.

Featured Nature Net Site:
Olbrich Botanical Gardens
Stroll 16 acres of outdoor gardens featuring stunning landscapes and Midwest-hardy plants. The Outdoor Gardens are free and open daily. Or, visit the tropics in the Bolz Conservatory, filled with exotic plants, flowers, orchids, birds, and a waterfall.

Also be certain to learn more about pollinators at the annual Butterflies and Blooms exhibit, starting July 13th and going through August 7th!
Admission to Butterflies and Blooms:
Ages 13 & up: $5
Children ages 3 - 12: $3
Ages 2 and under: Free
Olbrich Botanical Society members: Free

Nature Craft: 
Paper Plate Puppet
What you need: 2 paper plates, yellow paint, black paint, small triangle of black paper, strip of paper, tissue or wax paper, black pipe cleaner, pencil, glue or stapler, scissors.

1. Paint the bottom-sides of the paper plates yellow and let dry.
2. Paint black stripes across the plates and add eyes and a face. Let dry.
3. While paint is drying, cut four wings out of the tissue or wax paper. Once your bee is dry, attach the wings with glue or staples to the top plate.
4. Using the pencil, poke two holes in the plate above the eyes and thread the pipe cleaner through them for antennae.
5. Glue or staple the triangle of black paper to the back of your bee, giving it a stinger.
6. Staple the two plates together so they form a pouch, or bee body, leaving an opening in the back with enough space for your hand to fit through. 
7. Place your bee puppet on your hand and buzz around!
(Nature Craft adapted from DLTK's Crafts for Children)

Suggested Reading:
"Buzzy the Bumblebee" by Denise Brennan-Nelson (preschool)
"The Very Greedy Bee" by Steve Smallman (2-5)
"In the Trees, Honey Bees!" by Lori Mortensen (2-6)
"The Life and Times of the Honeybee" by Charles Micucci (4-8)
"Are You a Bee?" by Judy Allen (4-8)
"The Bee Tree" by Patricia Polacco (4-8)
"The Beautiful Bee Book" by Sue Unstead (4-8)
"The Magic School Bus: Inside a Beehive" by Joanna Cole (4-8)
"A Bee's Life" by Nancy Dickmann (4-8)
"The Hive Detectives" by Loree Griffin Burns (9-12)

Nature Net News - June 2011 - Pond Life

Nature Net News
Your source for tips & tricks for exploring nature with your kids

Dear Reader,

"I wish I were a muskrat, eye deep in the marsh."
Aldo Leopold
The croaking of the peepers is one of the first signs that summer is on its way and new life is teeming in a wetland nearby. From skating water bugs to baby bullheads waving tentacles in a friendly hello, the pond is one of the epicenters of life during early summer. 

Did you ever go to your local pond to dip a fishing net (or a parent's really expensive butterfly net) into the waters, and pull out a netful of life? Did you ever catch and raise tadpoles, watching in amazement as limbs sprouted, and letting the little frogs hop off your hand deep into the pond from whence they came? Did you ever slip off your shoes and dig your toes into the marshy ooze?

'Tis the season for pond dipping, and that's just what this episode of Nature Net News is all about. Read how to collect and identify what you find, get some activity ideas, and make a couple of froggy faces.


Kathe, Sarah & Brenna
The Folks at Nature Net

Did You Know.....

A muskrat swims by paddling its hind feet and using its flattened tail as a rudder. They live in dry burrows or reed huts, but usually enter through an underwater tunnel.

Water lilies have a waxy coating that keeps their floating leaves dry so they don't rot.

A group of frogs is called an "army," and frogs don't drink water - they absorb it through their skin.

What To Do This Month:
Go to your local pond, lake or marsh and go pond-dipping! Bring a net and small jars or dishes to collect and observe bugs, fish, eggs, tadpoles, and other signs of life (be sure to let them go when you're done!) Record in a notebook and use a field guide to see what pond life you can find and identify.

Check out the latest club on the block: The Madison Family Nature Club! Come and join the fun at their Lake Wingra Outing on Saturday, June 4th!

Hot off the presses! Pick up a free Summer 2011 Nature Passport for fun family outdoor activities all summer long.

Tricks of the Trail for Parents:
Slip Splash!
Be careful when dipping at your water source. The ground near the edge can be muddy and slippery, so try to find a flat dry spot and beware of floating duckweed, which can look deceptively like solid ground. Even a dry dock can lend itself to topples, so keep both knees or a belly on the boards and don't lean too far out! It's always a good idea to keep a dry towel, socks or change of clothes handy. Finally, since insects tend to live near water sources, remember to wear long sleeves or bring bug spray!

Instant Outdoor Expert:
Pond Critters
Do you need help identifying all the critters you've captured? Check out the UW Extension's Wacky, Wonderful Water Critters illustrated guide for young readers. 

Featured Nature Net Site:

The Aldo Leopold Nature Center
Go pond dipping at the Aldo Leopold Nature Center in Monona! Pick up a Family Trailside Backpack (Free for members, $5 non-members) and dip away with all the supplies you need to collect and identify creatures in the pond! Drop-in hours are typically 8:30am - 4pm Monday-Friday. To ensure availability, you may wish to call in advance to reserve the backpacks. You can also enjoy the trails through the prairie, woods and wetland any day of the week from dawn to dusk!
The mission of the Aldo Leopold Nature Center is to "...teach the student to see the land, understand what he sees, and enjoy what he understands," in the spirit of famed Wisconsin conservationist, Aldo Leopold. Through hands-on, guided experiences, children and adults come to discover and explore the wonders of the natural world!

Nature Craft: 
Froggy Faces

What you need: paper plate, party blower, scissors, markers or crayons, tape or stapler, googly eyes (optional). 
1. Fold your paper plate in half. 

2. Cut a small hole in the center of the folded plate. 

3. Decorate the top half of your plate to look like a frog. You can cut eyes to pop out or use googly eyes. 

4. Place party blower inside the plate, with the mouthpiece through the hole and the curled part sticking out of the bottom with the curl facing upwards. Tape in place. 

5. Tape or staple the open end of the paper plate. 

6. Viola - you have a frog face! Have fun blowing on the mouthpiece to make your frog's tongue roll out!

Suggested Reading:
Suggested Reading:
"In My Pond" by Sara Gillingham (baby-preschool)
"In the Small, Small Pond" by Denise Flemming (toddler-6)
"Splash!" by Ann Jonas (preschool)
"Around the Pond: Who's Been Here?" by Lindsay Barrett George (4-7)
"What's in the Pond?" by Anne Hunter (4-8)
"Life in a Pond" by Carol K. Lindeen (4-8)
"Pond Animals" by Francine Galko (4-8)
"Would You Rather Be a Pollywog?" by Bonnie Worth (4-8)
"Pond Circle" by Betsy Franco (4-8)
"Near One Cattail: Turtles, Logs and Leaping Frogs" by Anthony D. Fredericks (4-8)
"Around the Pond" by Ann Cooper (4-8)
"Pond" by Gordon Morrison (4-8)
"Salamander Rain" by Kristen Joy Pratt-Serafini (5-12)
"The Prince of the Pond: Otherwise Known as De Fawg Pin" by Donna Jo Napoli (6+)
"Pond Scum" by Alan Silberberg (7-12)
"Pond" by Donald Silver (7-13)