Fibonacci Sequence & Golden Ratio Drive Nature-Based Education

Nature’s Patterns Reveals Mathematical Reasoning

The Fibonacci sequence describes the pattern in which flowers fit the most seeds possible into their centers.

Nature is filled with patterns – spirals, in particular, are especially noticeable in species of plants and animals. Sunflowers, for example, seem to spiral their seeds from their centers in some sort of mathematical pattern. Snail shells, too, show growth rings that become gradually larger as they spiral away from the shell’s center. Evergreen cones, heads of broccoli and cauliflower, and tree branches all display noticeable iterations of this spiraling pattern, too.

The spirals that appear all around us are no accident of nature – while they’re beautiful to look at, their purpose is much more important than vanity alone. Beneath the aesthetically pleasing shapes of petals, seeds, and branches are two fascinating mathematical concepts that explain nature’s tendency to expand in spirals. Read the rest of this entry »

Nature’s Patterns Reveals Mathematical Reasoning

Nature’s Patterns Reveals Mathematical Reasoning

As you gaze into the center of a flower, did you know that you’re regarding an incredible example of mathematical reasoning? Nature’s patterns, as it happens, are deeply rooted in the Fibonacci Sequence and the Golden Ratio.

It’s the ultimate in a marriage between the aesthetic beauty of nature, and its mathematical base that makes it make sense. Read on to discover what a learning opportunity this is for the family to share! There are many resources on-line, in your community, and of course in your backyard to explore these theories.

Read more and see great videos in our post, Fibonacci Sequence & Golden Ratio Drive Nature Based Education.

[Photo credit: (cc) Steve]



Thunderstorms: Those Rumbling Science Shows

Summer Thunderstorms Inspire Folktales and Science Learning

The feeling of a summer thunderstorm is familiar to us all – the temperature drops, the breeze cools, bright leaves rustle endlessly louder, and a distant echo of thunder rolls across the darkening sky. Though they can be scary for youngsters (and anxious pets), thunderstorms are an important part of summer weather, bringing much-needed rain to the landscape and cooling the oppressive heat that hangs in July’s muggy air.

Thunderstorms remained quite mysterious for centuries, and cultures worldwide have developed a variety of folktales to explain their occurrence. Read about these follktales and science learning thunderstorms inspire

Pressing Plants and Flowers Supports Nature-Based Learning through the Generations

Creative documenting of summer blooms capture memories and learning

Herbariums are collections of preserved plants and are fun ways for families to preserve summer memories while supporting an interest in botany and local habitats.

As the many flowering plants of the summer grow buds, burst into bloom, and fall to the ground to make way for the next wave of plants to come into season, children often collect specimens of their favorite colorful plants in an attempt to preserve them for endless enjoyment and examination. Inevitably, flowers in a vase will wilt, but carefully pressed and preserved plants can maintain a version of favorite plants that can be enjoyed and examined no matter the season. Pressed plants and flowers can be used for a variety of purposes, and lend themselves in particular to art projects and scientific observations. When compiled as a collection, pressed flowers can serve as a family herbarium – serving as documentation of springs and summers past.
Read the rest of this entry »

Nature-Based Education Supported via Berkshire BioBlitz

6th Annual Berkshire BioBlitz

Families are invited to be citizen scientists in the Berkshires, June 19th & 20th at the Berkshire Bioblitz! From their participation in the bioblitz, kids will learn to identify plant and animal species that they see often, and learn about the role that each species plays within the local ecosystem. Participate in a mammal tracking workshop, Owl Prowl and Moth-Light demo. Great for budding naturalists!

In celebration of local biodiversity, Berkshire County’s annual BioBlitz will be held at Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary on Holmes Road in Pittsfield starting at 12noon on Friday, June 19, and ending at 12noon on Saturday, June 20. This year’s free event is hosted by Mass Audubon’s Berkshire Sanctuaries at their Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary and co-sponsored by Berkshire Environmental Action Team, Dr. Augie’s Science Education Programs and the Berkshire 4-H. Canoe Meadows is home to a wide variety of plants and trees as well as turtles, ospreys, otters, and owls. Gentle, flat trails wind through the sanctuary’s scenic woods, fields, and wetlands, and along the edge of the Housatonic River.

The BioBlitz is an opportunity for biologists, naturalists and environmentalists to work in collaboration with the general public to gather in a given area and—in a 24-hour period— complete a formal survey of all living species while seeing first-hand the importance of a healthy, active ecosystem in their own community. Approximately 20 specialists will be on hand to explore, identify and educate, including local mushroom specialist John Wheeler of the Berkshire Mycological Society, Scott LaGreca, lichen specialist, Cornell University, and author of Insects of New England and New York, Tom Murray. Read the rest of this entry »

Take Me to the River: Honor Your Watershed at Shelburne Falls RiverFest

Local Celebration Inspires Community-Based Education

Celebrate the role of water in our local landscape at Shelburne Falls’ RiverFest, an annual community event celebrating local culture and local water. Families can learn about the local landscape, celebrate local history, and participate in the annual Frog and Flower Parade, which showcases community spirit and beautiful (and funky) handmade representations of familiar river creatures.

The rivers of western Massachusetts run like veins through our local landscape, each one giving life to the valleys through which it flows. Families can celebrate the life-giving nature of our local waterways at the Deerfield River Watershed Association’s annual RiverFest, a community celebration of the river’s role in local life. While RiverFest specifically celebrates the village of Shelburne Falls’ relationship with the Deerfield River, the Deerfield’s watershed feeds directly into the Connecticut River, a body of water whose currents have helped to define much of life in our part of the state. So no matter how near or far from the river your home may be, it’s still important to honor the river!

Held primarily on Saturday, June 6th, RiverFest offers a wide variety of events, including opportunities for both celebration and community-based learning. With the bulk of the festival’s excitement taking place on (and very close to) Shelburne Falls’ Main Street, it’s easy for families to explore and learn on foot. Main Street highlights will include live music and dancing throughout the day, fly-casting, river rafting, Native American storytelling, birds of prey demonstrations, various kids’ games and activities, as well as vendor tents and tables. Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrate the Turtle on World Turtle Day!

Laughing Brook Hosts Family Friendly Nature Celebration

Fascinating creatures that they are, turtles have been given their very own holiday! Families can celebrate World Turtle Day with a visit to Laughing Brook Wildlife Sanctuary to learn about local turtles, or can explore the wetlands of the Berkshire to look for these endangered bog turtles!

Unbeknownst to most of us, the nearby bogs of the Berkshires are the perfect habitat for a very precious and endangered species, the bog turtle! One of ten species of turtles found in Massachusetts, the perfect habitat for this tiny rare turtle can be found in the naturally alkaline wet patches of field and meadow across the westernmost portion of our region. Families can learn more about this and other species of testudines by engaging in community-based opportunities for hands-on learning about habitat conservation and species preservation.

Bog turtles are not exclusive to western Massachusetts. They can, in fact, be found as far south as Georgia, but local populations are nevertheless endangered. The closet turtle populations to those in the Berkshires are located 250 miles away, a separation that has been caused by land development. As a result, local bog turtles are genetically isolated – a fact that, when combined with habitat loss and other factors, puts them in danger. Luckily, researchers from The Nature Conservancy have worked to study and monitor bog turtle populations using turtle-mounted radio transmitters. Read the rest of this entry »

The Birds are Back!

Help Out with Spotting Birds

Springtime brings many migratory bird species back to western Massachusetts and, as these feathered friends return, opportunities for citizen science centered around species preservation arise! Help Mass Audubon to monitor some species whose populations are in decline, and learn about three fascinating bird species in the process.

Springtime is filled with sightings of all kinds of exciting natural wonders, and the season’s outdoor appeal makes it a perfect time of year not only for enjoying our natural surroundings, but for learning about conservation and species preservation, too! In particular, springtime ’tis the season for exciting bird sightings, as well as the discovery of new nests and treasure troves of beautiful and tiny eggs. As western Massachusetts becomes filled with northward-moving migratory feathered friends, families can learn to identify these warm weather visitors and, using resources offered by Mass Audubon, learn about and perhaps participate in efforts to support declining populations of a few key species.

Species to keep an eye out for this season include orioles, Eastern whip-poor-wills, and American kestrels. While all three of these birds can be found locally, their populations are in decline and preservation of each species depends on close monitoring by both ornithologists and citizen scientists. Read the rest of this entry »

Spring on Shaker Farm Comes Alive with Baby Animals

Hancock Shaker Village Celebrates Spring with New Life

Celebrate spring with baby animals at Hancock Shaker Village! The historic village opens for the season with a barn filled with new babies for visitors to welcome to the world. Families can take behind-the-scenes tours of the farm and learn about the village’s history and unique architecture, too!

Spring has come to Hancock Shaker Village in all its glory, bringing with it baby animals of all shapes and sizes! Opening for the season after months of snowy and frigid weather, the historic Shaker village is offering visitors the chance to celebrate the coming of spring by visiting with the farm animals’ new babies – chicks, lambs, piglets, and more!

Hancock Shaker Village’s first day of the season will be Saturday, April 11th, 2015, and families can pat, snuggle, and gaze longingly at the young creatures in the village’s historic 1826 round stone barn. A unique structure, the barn was once home to 52 dairy cows in the village’s heyday and, though it has been restored since, it remains a prominent structure within the village. Families will not only delight in visiting the baby animals, but will marvel at the unique structure’s materials and design both inside and out!

In addition to baby animals and a spring-y landscape, families can enjoy special Behind-the-Scenes farm tours at 11am and 1pm, where interpreters will lead families on an exploration of the village’s Field and Forest Trail to see beehives, composters, orchards, greenhouses, and pasture land. Fun and informative for children of all ages, the tour will give visitors a look at the farm’s inner workings and the cyclical nature of farm life. Exploring the greenhouses provides a glimpse of newly sprouted seedlings, beehives teach about pollination, and composters illustrate the final stop for bits of plants and vegetables.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Art of Eric Carle: Bees, Butterflies, and Other Bugs

The Art of Eric Carle:
Bees, Butterflies, and Other Bugs

On View April 7 – August 30, 2015

Amateur entomology takes the spotlight at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art during the next few months, as a new bug-themed exhibit fills the galleries! The Art of Eric Carle: Bees, Butterflies, and Other Bugs will be on view from April 7th – August 30th, 2015, and brings with it not only beautiful and delightful images featuring a host of insects, but a swarm of special bug-themed and Eric Carle-centric events as well.

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Sparked by copious amounts of time spent outdoors as a child, Eric Carle’s picture books have often featured lovable insect characters, from fireflies to ladybugs to the iconic starving green caterpillar. The images featured in the exhibit are full of wings, crawly legs, and stingers, but portray the crawliest of earth’s inhabitants beautifully, with respect, reverence, and the light, playful style unique to Carle’s artwork.

In addition to a bug-filled gallery, the Eric Carle Museum will hold special events to accompany the exhibit. Over the next few months, families can take advantage of opportunities to engage in bug-themed hands-on art making in the museum’s studio, and can create their own original bug creations to add to a community art project that will adorn the trees in the museum’s orchard. Additionally, special events featuring bug-themed storytelling and comedy will be held, and the museum’s Children’s Book Festival (held on June 6th) will be bug-themed as well!  Read the rest of this entry »

Become A Citizen Scientist & Get to Know Your Local Dragonfly!

Community-Based Education Right In Your Back Yard

Families can join in on an important citizen science project called Dragonfly Pond Watch.

While a season filled with winged insects may seem months away, now is the time to begin learning how to be on the lookout for seasonal indicator species! Certain creatures who migrate to warmer climes during Massachusetts’ winter can help to make the start of warmer weather with their presence. Just as returning robins dotting late-winter feeders mean that spring is near and the emergence of salamanders marks spring’s first good rain, the appearance of dragonflies can serve as an important seasonal indicator, too! Read the rest of this entry »

Mixing Conservation with Art Releases Creativity

Junior Duck Program Motivates Kids to Study Nature with an Artistic Eye

Combining artistic expression and conservation, the annual Junior Duck Stamp Program gives children the opportunity to study local waterfowl and practice using their artistic skills to portray them in their native habitat. The competition even provides curriculum materials to support families and educators in expanding children’s learning as they participate!

Since the beginning of the 20th century, the commonwealth of Massachusetts has been a leader in the study of waterfowl species and their habitat. In keeping with this scientific tradition and commitment, children of almost any age are invited to participate in this year’s Massachusetts Junior Duck Stamp Program! An annual art contest that pairs the study of waterfowl with artistic expression, the Junior Duck Stamp Program provides a platform for learning about conservation, the environment, species identification, and artistic expression!

Open to children in grades K-12 (or of the age equivalent to grades K-12), participation in the Junior Duck Stamp Program requires young scientists and artists to create original pieces of artwork that showcase a species of waterfowl native to Massachusetts. Children may use visual aids in order to create their pieces, so as to ensure that the shape, size, coloration, and surroundings that they create are accurate, but all works of art should be entirely original, rather than drawn or painted as a copy of a photograph, drawing, or other representation of a bird. Read the rest of this entry »

FrogWatch Citizen Science Opportunity for All Ages

Learn More About Amphibians While Helping Larger Efforts In Identifying Species

FrogWatch USA is a citizen science program that provides people of all ages with the opportunity to learn about amphibians and help with conservation efforts. Every year from February through August, volunteers collect data on the calls of frogs and toads. This data is then used to identify the species, gain information on their populations, and is used directly in conservation work.

On Friday, February 6, from 6:30pm-9pm, older students and adults can join the Hitchcock Center for the Environment and Mass Audubon for a FrogWatch USA citizen science training session at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary (127 Combs Road, Easthampton, MA). At this program, adults and older students can learn about our native frog and toad species and how to identify them, as well as how they can participate in FrogWatch USA.

Although this particular program is geared towards adults, it is a great chance for parents and caregivers to learn about the citizen science project so they can teach their kids about it – this is not only a great chance for students to become involved in a national citizen science project, but it’s also a wonderful opportunity for families to learn and work together in nature. Call the Hitchcock Center at 413-256-6006 to register. (>$)

Wonder how frogs survive the winter and don’t freeze to death?  Check out this article in Scientific American.

Animal Secrets Revealed at Springfield Science Museum

New Exhibit Satisfies the Animal Scientist in Young Children

What does an eagle feed its young? How do mother bats find their babies in a cave? Children ages 3 through 8 and their parents will answer these questions and many others while exploring Animal Secrets, the newest traveling exhibit to arrive at the Springfield Science Museum. The exhibit, designed by Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, begins on January 31 with a special Opening Celebration and will run through May 3, 2015.

Young children are natural scientists, curious about the world around them, and Animal Secrets was designed to encourage this curiosity and foster a sense of wonder about nature. Through dramatic play and multi-sensory hands-on activities, children will discover nature from an animal’s point of view as they explore immersive natural environments including a stream, woodland, meadow, cave, and naturalists’ tent. One of the most appealing aspects of Animal Secrets is that it is designed for both children and adults, allowing families to share in the enjoyment of learning together. Text panels and interpretive materials are provided in both English and Spanish. Read the rest of this entry »

Become A Citizen Scientist Through Project BudBurst

Mapping Nature Observation Connects the Seasons of a Plant’s Lifecycle

Nothing captures the passing of time quite like the impact of the seasons on plant-life. A great opportunity for Citizen Scientists to claim some seasonally-based nature education opportunities.

Generally when we study trees and their leafing habits, it takes place during the springtime when buds are just beginning to bust out into leaves. At that time of year, trees’ leaves are still intact and are easy to observe. However, fall is also a great time to participate in leaf-based citizen science, and Project BudBurst offers families the opportunity to participate in a large-scale phenology-based science project.

A project sponsored by the National Science Foundation, Project BudBurst’s fall opportunities for citizen science involve making observations of not only deciduous trees and their leaves, but conifers, evergreens, wildflowers, herbs, and grasses, too! Families’ role in Project BudBurst is to help scientists understand the seasonal changes that take place in plants by making observations about their fall state. Information reported by families is used to help scientists understand not only the way that plants look during the fall, but the full cycle of growth and change that they undergo throughout the year. And in supporting scientists in their quest to learn about plants’ changes, families will learn about them too! Read the rest of this entry »

Seed Capital Provides Return for Nature-Based Education

Seed Saving for Kids Provides Framework for Self-Sufficiency, Local Food Production &  Nature-Based Education

From seeds grows all kinds…food, education, self-sufficiency. The list goes on…

Spring’s first garden green can often seem like a miracle, but it’s really the fruit of fall’s labors – quite literally. As the growing season winds down, the chillier weather makes way for seeds – rather than endless home-grown foods – to become the center of farmers’ and gardeners’ attention. Learning about all things seed-like is a science exploration that can help children to deepen their understanding of where their food comes from, the anatomy and reproduction of plants, and the specific traits that distinguish one plant variety from another. Additionally, a look at the role that seed saving plays in modern farming and gardening can provide eye-opening insights for older children about the corporate monopolies that control the vast majority of the American seed (and pesticide) market. Read the rest of this entry »

Learn the Ways of Pollinators and then Support Them!

The Berkshire Museums BeMuse Program Series Tells all on Pollinators and how you can get Involved!

The Berkshire Museum will present a workshop and documentary screening with landscape designer and filmmaker Kim Smith on Saturday, September 20, 2014, as part of the Museum’s BeMuse program series. The slide-illustrated talk, Creating a Bee, Bird, and Butterfly Garden, begins at 10am and the screening of the film, Life Story of the Black Swallowtail, will follow the talk, beginning at 11:30am. Both programs are part of the Museum’s BeMuse program series. Come learn about these local pollinators, what habitats they thrive in, how you can support them and join Kim in a Q&A discussion following both the workshop and screening. Come curious and bring your questions!  Read the rest of this entry »

Bird Identification in Western Massachusetts Made Easy, and Fun!

The Fun of Bird Identification in Western Massachusetts Made Easy

Blue bunting in West Chesterfield, MA.

Birds are everywhere this time of year, some migrating, some that stay with us over winter. Do you know who you’re sharing your yard with? Birds of all sorts have long since migrated to and from western Massachusetts, nesting here for the summer or passing through in their migrations… and it’s high time to get out and get birding!

Birds species can, of course, be identified by looking at them – their size, shape, color, feather pattern, and other distinctive markings help to distinguish one species from another. But what happens if you can’t get a close look at a bird? What if a flash of red passes by up ahead on a trail, or you’ve spotted a raptor soaring high above you? Often times you’re left with only a roadside silhouette of a sighting with which to try and identify a species, and using physical features alone can sometimes be very difficult. On top of the challenges presented by partial sightings are the similarities that some species share – it can be hard to tell which small, semi-spotted brown-and-white bird you’re seeing if you don’t have binoculars allowing you a closer look.

Click here to read on for resources on how to identify birds by their calls and upcoming birding events in Western MA…

Diverse Range of Animals & Resources in Western Mass Support Community Based Education

Animal Friendly Western Mass Stimulates Learning in Children (and Adults!)

Animals are a common interest among children. Whether they’re in love with cats of all shapes and sizes or fascinated by the destructive power of a shark’s jaws, children can learn a lot through having an interest in creatures. In utilizing the numerous animal-related community-based learning resources available locally, families can support children of all ages in learning about everything from biological classification to compassion.

Gecko at the Berkshire Museum

As far as learning goes, children’s animal-related interests often have much to do with their age and the developmental stage that they’re in. Young children’s interest in animals is generally limited to a curiosity about where they live, what they eat, and what they do all day – similar to the curiosities that children have about the people around them. Elementary-aged children slowly develop the ability to understand animals as a complex topic, and begin to consider ideas like adaptations, predator-prey relationships, natural habitats, and extinction. Meanwhile, older learners (teens and tweens) can explore an interest in animals by learning about the biological complexities of species classification, the role of conservation in species preservation, and the diversity of animal species and habitats around the world. Read the rest of this entry »

Explore & Connect to Where You Live through Nature Bingo & BioBlitz

Creative Nature Scavenger Hunt Stimulates Nature Education & Strengthens a Sense of Place

Outdoor adventures with kids have a way of turning into loosely-structured scavenger hunts. Woodland trails are littered with interesting treasures, beaches wash up endless items of interest, and the tall grasses of meadows reveal new treats wherever you part the seas of green. Supporting children’s interest in looking closely at nature and discovering treasures is easy enough to do. While unstructured, free play and exploration can uncover lots of natural wonders big and small, adding just a little bit of structure can help children lead themselves to certain discoveries or a specific learning goal, and will support learners of all ages develop useful skills that can be applied in many different educational and real-life contexts.

While we’ve covered the basics of nature scavenger hunts in an archived post, there are more possibilities for learning via nature exploration than we could ever list! The simplest way to open your family’s eyes to nature using a game-like structure is to use bingo-style cards to track your discoveries. Online resources for nature bingo abound, including boards filled with variations on camping bingo and MassAudubon’s nature bingo, which offers four different cards (one to match each season) that help to open players’ eyes to the interesting and exciting natural occurrences, connecting them to the seasons.

Read the rest of this entry »

Fibonacci Sequence & Golden Ratio Drive Nature-Based Education

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Nature’s Patterns Reveals Mathematical Reasoning

The Fibonacci sequence describes the pattern in which flowers fit the most seeds possible into their centers.

Nature is filled with patterns – spirals, in particular, are especially noticeable in species of plants and animals. Sunflowers, for example, seem to spiral their seeds from their centers in some sort of mathematical pattern. Snail shells, too, show growth rings that become gradually larger as they spiral away from the shell’s center. Evergreen cones, heads of broccoli and cauliflower, and tree branches all display noticeable iterations of this spiraling pattern, too.

The spirals that appear all around us are no accident of nature – while they’re beautiful to look at, their purpose is much more important than vanity alone. Beneath the aesthetically pleasing shapes of petals, seeds, and branches are two fascinating mathematical concepts that explain nature’s tendency to expand in spirals. Read the rest of this entry »

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