Lately, we've been looking closely. In the meadows, under logs, in the grass. Noticing the little things. And there are many little things around at this time of year! Bugs, slugs, and other creatures, busy crawling and building and eating.
It's fun to find their homes too - intricately constructed little masterpieces. Like this ant home:
Here's a home that we have found in abundance at this time of year: the spittlebug spit home.
More hunting and discovering:
I became a bit obsessed with the mourning cloak butterfly this spring, after learning that it hibernates as a butterfly in the bark of trees over winter and it's one of the first spring butterflies we can see in the woods. How amazing is that?? So last week I was thrilled when we found a mourning cloak caterpillar - the circle of life!
Here it is, making friends with a snail:
And here's what that caterpillar will become: a mourning cloak butterfly.
Two books that we've used to help us to focus in at the little things around us:
Step Gently Out by Helen Frost and Rick Lieder [gorgeous close-up photos of insects]
Looking Down by Steve Jenkins [cut-paper illustrations in a wordless book show the many layers of our universe]
I hope you have fun looking closely at the little things around you this summer!
One of my local heroes is Frank Glew. I first learned about Frank when my oldest child was born and we received a copy of That Chickadee Feeling for a baby shower gift from a friend. We've read that book countless times, and have experienced that feeling ourselves at the Laurel Creek Nature Centre in the wintertime. It is truly magical to have a chickadee eat out of your hand!
In addition to writing many children's books on a variety of nature and environmental stewardship themes, Frank is an outdoor education extraordinaire. He has had many years of experience as a teacher, canoe trip leader, principal, parent and grandparent. His love of nature and of educating children is inspiring.
He's also connected to the Huron Natural Area in a special way - he's one of the people who helped to establish it as a city park.
I was thrilled when Frank agreed to come to our Tales and Trails group to read his book Samuel's Most Important Message. It tells the story of a Blanding's turtle named Samuel that Frank watched at Huron Natural Area. It's a story of conservation and working to keep our natural areas healthy for many species like Samuel.
Frank talked about turtles' shells - how they are just like a home, and they keep the turtle warm and protected. If turtles can take good care of their shell, could we join them and take good care of our shell too! We talked together about what this shell might be: our home, our community, our country, our world. All of us "creatures" need a healthy world habitat to live in!
Thanks, Frank, for encouraging us to take care of our "shell"!
This week, our after-school groups worked on planting native species at Breithaupt Park. An invasive plant, periwinkle, has been taking over sections of the forest floor - spreading from neighbours' backyards at a rapid pace. Volunteers weeded some of the periwinkle out in several areas.
Josh Shea, coordinator of Kitchener's natural areas, taught us about native plants that would benefit the forest. He told us that these native plants will grow where the invasive plant was growing - and take up that space on the forest floor. This will benefit the creatures who live in the forest.
These plants were purchased at Nith River Native Plants in New Hamburg - a great local source if you'd like some native plants for your gardens.
At first glance, our eyes might drift over a lawn or forest floor, not noticing anything in particular. But take a closer look.
What are the shapes? Lines? Curves? Pointy edges? Colours? Shades? Notice the edges of a leaf, the veins inside, and the gradations of colour. How many shades of green can you see?
When we looked closely, we noticed the intricacies of each individual leaf or flower.
When trying to draw what I see, I like to imagine the image entering through my eyes, traveling into my brain, down my arm, along my fingers and out through the pencil I am holding. We look, draw, look again...in a continuous cycle. We draw what we see. We draw what we see rather than what we think a leaf should look like.
This type of drawing can be relaxing, meditative, sometimes frustrating and hard work. But the results are amazing. We came away feeling calm and a bit more connected.
Each drawing was unique, like each of us.
What details will you notice the next time you walk across your lawn? Or through the forest? Will you see a world inside a leaf or a single flower? We encourage you to take the time to really see, and to even draw what you see!
Hammers, Huge Swings, and the Freedom to Play