Sunday, April 10, 2011

Tapping for Sap

Last week the kids at Nature Preschool were going to learn about maple sugaring and take a field trip to Miss Jane's sugar house. I had this vision of creating a model maple tree that they could tap and pretend to collect sap.

So I found the largest piece of cardboard I had, and got to work crafting a maple tree. Then I recruited my five year old to help me practice collecting the sap. He was a bit dismayed at how slow the drips were, but once a puddle of 'sap' collected in the bowl he became excited about the process. As with many of our projects and experiments, I lost interest long before him. He continued to collect the sap for almost an hour and only stopped because his little sister started dumping the sap bucket!

How it works:
One child gets to stand in the back of the tree and starts the flow of sap by using a pipette to push water into the tap.

The other kids watch as the sap drips from the tap, runs through the plastic tubing, and finally collects into the bucket.

To keep a group of kids interested in the activity, be sure to have plenty of funnels, cups, spoons, strainers, and tubing for them to explore properties of 'sap'.

When I led this activity at Nature Preschool the kids were eager to be the one behind the tree and a line formed as they waited their turn. So I put additional pipettes in the water table and they played there until it was their turn to 'be the tree'.

** Check out my maple tree for yourself at the World Maple Festival on April 16th from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. in St. Johnsbury, Vermont! The Balch Nature School at the Fairbanks Museum will be leading a pretend "Sap Collecting" activity in the Kid Zone area. More information about the festival can be found at

Monday, April 4, 2011

Bird Nest Creations

Our lovely little bird nest that we made while walking in the woods this past week!

What began by pulling out some of the inner bark from a dead tree........

led to the creation of bird nests for an entire flock!

My son took this photo to show off his bird nest collection!

My son was so excited by the first little nest that he decided he needed to make one for his preschool teacher. Then he decided he needed to make them for all the kids in his class and the helpers in class too.

So we started a little assembly line of bird nest crafting. He pulled out the bark as I wove it into a nest shape. Then he found the perfect amount of moss and pushed it down into the nest. Then he topped each of them off with some fresh green grass from a tiny little patch that we have in the woods. 

In the end, the nests turned out so beautiful!

As we worked on the project I told my son how easy it was for us to collect the bark, moss, and grass but explained how a little bird would have to work much harder. He thought about it for a while and realized that birds don't have hands, and instead would have to use just their beak.  I also added how the bird would have to carry each little twig or blade of grass up to their selected spot in a tree, and how it would take hundreds of trips to finish the nest.

He became really quiet...and then asked if we could just give our 16 nests to the birds.
"They need it more than my friends. And we can just climb up the tree to make the nests for them."
So we talked about why this wouldn't work...but decided that we would put his nest in a special tree. Then we could check on it throughout the spring to see if any bird decided to take up residence.

~What a sweet memory this afternoon spent in nature will be!

Go visit Go Explore Nature today to see photos that other nature loving kids have taken!

Mud Tub

This was a lovely "mud tub" for sensory play but it got left outside overnight. So instead, it became a frozen mound of dirt. Imagine my almost 2 year old's surprise when she got her tools ready and nothing would scoop or move! It was like an April Fool's prank only she couldn't really appreciate the humor or understand what was happening.
Not to worry. I loosened up some of the dirt and she managed to get plenty dirty!

Bunny Basket

We've done a verison of this milk jug bunny basket every year for Easter. This year's is 100% recycled. The ears are made from cutting a paper towel tube and coloring in the pink portion. The eyes are milk jug lids. The different colors were my son's choice and it does have a fun psychadelic vibe to it! The rest is colored in with permanent marker since washable markers wipe off of plastic. Make sure to use hot glue so the pieces stay attached during those active egg hunts.
In past years our bunny baskets live on well after Easter. They are great to leave in the garage for holding small toys or for outdoor use when gathering scavenger hunt items!

Hand Trees

We received a couple more inches of snow today, but luckily I have my son's budding tree and sunflowers to make at least the indoors feel like spring! 
My daughter also tried her hand at the same craft as big brother....

And her's turned out just as charming. She loves when she gets to do the same projects as her 'DiDi'!

After she put the stickers on she was sure to count them, "one, do, free".

These hand trees are hanging in our dining room, reminding us of the treats that nature has in store for us. Later we will add them to our Nature Journals, along with all the bark rubbings and drawings of the trees we are going to learn about this month!

In my opinion, handprints and footprints make the best keepsake art projects! Today I found a great blog that has just that for every season and holiday: