Your Learning Connection | Vol. 5
Have you been feeling “squirrely” after all of this time spent at home? You’re not alone. While eastern grey squirrels do not hibernate in the same way as their relatives, the little brown bats or eastern chipmunks, they are gearing up for the spring breeding season by adding acorns and other food sources to their food caches, and sprucing up their “dreys,” or nests. Join Visitor Program Coordinator Daryn in observing these curious creatures at work:
To climb higher into the world of a squirrel, join our friends at the Center for Wildlife as they share fun facts about their ambassador squirrel, Skeeter, in their previously recorded video.
Do you know that squirrels actually help to plant our forests? They hide thousands of acorns each year. Even though they are amazing at tracking most of them down again, they always forget to collect a few here and there. Some of these forgotten acorns, nestled into the ground, are in the perfect position to begin growing into trees! Now it’s your turn to be a gardener! Using Garden Guides’ instructions, track down some of your own acorns, and experiment to find out if they are viable seeds to grow oak trees. Planting trees and other plants is a great way to celebrate Earth Day!
Want even more of a challenge? See if you can be like a squirrel, and add acorns to your diet by making acorn flour with an adult. Directions can be found on Honest Food’s Mechanics of Eating Acorns page.
***Remember, never eat anything that you find in nature unless an adult says it is OK.***
Can you count all of the trees in your yard? How about all of the flowers? All of the blades of grass? It would take a really long time to count each individual plant. Instead, scientists take samples of a small area in order to estimate the distribution of a species over a large area. One device that scientists use to analyze the number of organisms found in an environment is called a quadrat. Ecologists use a quadrat, traditionally a square shape, to count the number of plant and animal species in a particular area. For example, rather than counting all of the crabs on the rocky coast, just a few samples taken with a quadrat can help scientists estimate the number of crabs on a particular beach. By comparing multiple samples, scientists can track how species populations change over time. Quadrats are also a good tool to use in order to zoom in on a particular area in order to observe nature, and make comparisons between different locations. Learn more about how to use a quadrat, and how to create your own, with Program Coordinator, Emma:
Now, create your own science experiment! Use your new quadrat to collect data and answer a question about your environment using the Backyard Scientist: Quadrat guide. Share a picture of your quadrat, or any exciting plant or animal species you find in your explorations to [email protected] to be posted on our social media. Learn more about how marine biologists use quadrats and transect lines to count species in the tide pools using LiMPETS’s Field Sampling Techniques: Fact Sheet. Looking to become a citizen scientist yourself? Take a look at LiMPETS’s Home Page.
An adaptation is a body part or a behavior that helps a living thing survive in its environment. For example, humans have adapted to walk on two legs so that we can use our hands for other things. Animals that live on the rocky shore, like the sea star, use adaptations to survive the harsh and constantly changing rocky shore environment. Some of these adaptations even seem made up! With no blood, no brains, and no bones, the sea star has some awesome adaptations, like having two stomachs, that help it hunt and hide in the rocky shore! Join Henry Burke, Director of Programs, to learn more and get a close-up view:
Now it’s your turn! We challenge you to make up your own creatures, complete with adaptations, that are perfect for living on the rocky shore: Create-a-Critter.
Want to learn more about adaptations? Create-A-Critter-Advanced is a lesson that explores biotic and abiotic elements of a habitat and the adaptations that enable animals to live there.
Let’s make a mandala rock painting! Mandala is the Sanskrit word for circle, and is a popular art form that incorporates balance and symmetry. With roots in many cultures, mandala making can be a way to focus, meditate, and relax. Want to try making your own mandala? Perhaps you already have a smooth rock or you can find one in your yard that is perfect for a special mandala! This Mandala Rock Painting guide shows us how to make a symmetrical design using simple dots.
Radial symmetry is one of the principles of mandala design – each section of the circle is the same as every other section, like pieces of pie. Radial symmetry can be found in sea stars, in flowers like tulips, and even snowflakes. Bilateral symmetry is another type of symmetry. Imagine folding something in half and the two halves are the same as each other- this object is now bilaterally symmetrical. Go to Symmetry Scavenger Hunt to find some different examples of symmetry in your world!