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Home Sweet Home: Build or install a nest box this spring! Here’s a great spring activity to try at home or at school. Nest
Kim’s Spring Activity Guide
Our Outdoor Activity Consultant, Kim, has rustled up some exciting Spring Activities to keep our Pathway community busy!
2. Help the Birds
From The Canadian Wildlife FederationEncourage birds to nest around your property by providing mud and nesting materials.
- Choose a spot at the edge of a flower or vegetable garden to establish a mud hole. Use a hose or a bucket of water to wet the earth.
- Squish the soil using your hands, a stick or a shovel, until it reaches a muddy consistency.
- Try to find clay soil. Don’t worry if the mud contains small bits of grass or other plant fibres.
NEST LINING MATERIALS
- Stuff a mesh onion bag with materials such as dead twigs, pine needles, leaves, feathers, moss, dry grass (as long as it’s chemical-free), strips of bark, and plant fluff from plants such as cattails or cottonwood.
- Hang the bag from a clothesline or tree branch in your backyard.
- Some materials that were previously recommended for nesting are now considered unsafe. Do not provide hair (human or animal), string, yarn or loose bits of thread, as birds can become entangled in these materials. Likewise, do not provide pieces of felt or cloth, dryer lint, plastic, tinsel, cellophane or aluminum foil; these can be choking hazards or cause internal blockage.
3. Create a Wild Bee Sanctuary
For a detailed outline visit this link at the David Suzuki Organization
- Fill your yard with flowers
- Plant native
- Go organic
- Add water
b. Make a Bee Bath
Use a shallow plate and place it at the ground level where you’ve noticed bee activity. Place a few flat stones in the plate to create landing pads or islands and safe places to crawl out should they fall in. Add fresh water but don’t submerge the stones. Birds and butterflies will use it, too. Replace the water every few days to eliminate mosquito larvae… more here
Make a bee home
Honeybees and bumblebees live in social colonies, but most wild bee species are solitary. About two-thirds of solitary nesting bees use tunnels in the ground to lay their eggs. About one-third use hollowed-out plant stems or tunnels in dead trees or fallen logs… Want to discover the best homemade housing you can make for bees in your backyard? Read more here
4. Plant a Pollinators Garden
5. Create a Spring Checklist
With your kids, make a checklist of things that make you think of spring. Go on a hike in the forest, check off all of the things that you see and feel on your list. Try to ensure that the list is multi-sensory, so things like feeling the warmth of the sun and different smells of the seasons are also on the list. Feel free to add to the lists as you are walking and noticing more things.
6. Colours of Spring
Pick up some paint chips from a hardware store. On your outdoor adventure, hand them out to your kids and see if they can find matches to many different colours. They may think it’s impossible, but this gets them to really look at items to find a match. Remember to look up, blues often match the sky!
If paint chips are not available to you, crayons will work too.
7. Meet a Tree in your Neighbourhood
Have your kids pick a tree that you really get to know over time. They can get to know it in so many different ways (draw, take bark rubbings, look with a magnifier, or use a camera). In the spring, they will be looking for the buds starting to explode into leaves. Most people think that buds form in the spring, but with careful observation, you will see that buds are actually on the tree all winter!
8. Disc Golf
Get your family involved in this fun, active, burgeoning sport. Peterborough has three easily accessible, free courses for you to enjoy. The courses are at the north end of the Riverview Park and Zoo, TASS, and Hamilton Park just south of Jackson Park. In outlying areas of Peterborough, there is one at Mount Julian Viamede and Ennismore Waterfront Park. Or, you can make your own course anywhere you would like by simply identifying objects as your targets. All you need is a frisbee, or a disc, and a good arm! www.peterboroughdiscgolf.ca
9. Take a Hike
10. Discover the Pathway Robin Cam
A cheery sign of spring’s arrival, the American Robin is one of our most familiar and beloved birds. Watch a female robin live as she incubates her eggs. Enjoy a nesting craft and read-along with ‘Bird Builds a Nest’.
Visit the live nest cam here
Three Activities for Earth Day
Here are three wonderful activities from our Outdoor Activity Consultant, Nature Nancy, to celebrate Earth Day. Enjoy making a ‘Sense Poem’, capture ‘Nature through the Window’, and find out ‘Who Lives Nearby’. Don’t forget to report your Landmark to get points on the Pathway Individual and Group Leaderboards and be entered into the monthly prize draw.
1. SENSE POEM (GR. 3-8)- USING ALL YOUR SENSES TO CREATE A POEM
How many words can you think of to describe the smell of a flower? How many words can you think of to describe the movement of a cat?
Take a sheet of paper and a pencil and find a comfortable place to sit outside. Sit there for several minutes and use all of your senses (likely not taste unless you brought out a snack). Ask yourself all of these questions.
What do I feel?
What do I smell?
What do I see?
What do I hear?
What do I taste (this can be imagined)?
Answer each question with some words that fit with your experience.
For example, I see….bright yellow flowers, fluffy clouds, windy trees, busy ant.
In order to create your sense poem, take away each of the questions and just use the answers that you wrote next to the question. Try your own sense poems and compare on different days/time of day.
Here is my example:
Monday Morning by Nature Nancy
Cool wind, tickling grass, warm sun
Oats roasting, fresh-cut grass, sweet lilac waft
Bright yellow flowers, fluffy clouds, windy trees, busy ant
Honk, vroom, screech, caw, buzz, whoosh, chirp chirp Chocolate…Mmmmmm!
2. Nature Through the Window (Gr. 3-8)- Creating a Frame in a window to observe and draw the out of doors
You will be looking at nature from inside and out. Follow these steps:
1. Make a frame using a piece of construction paper (or plain white paper) by cutting out a rectangle from the middle.
2. Find a window in your home and place the frame on it. You may be looking at a combination of things in nature and human-made items outside. Move your frame around the window and see if it changes what you see. What do you see? Birds, trees, weather, insects, flowers….roads, buildings? How did your scene change when you moved the frame?
3. Compare the smells, sounds, and feeling you detect when you are inside and compare that to when you go outside.
4. Leave your construction paper frame on a part of your window and sketch what you see through the frame.
3. Who Lives Nearby? (Gr. 1-6) Creating a map of your neighbourhood and finding evidence of other creatures sharing our habitat.
- With paper and pencil in hand, walk around your neighbourhood and observe
examples of creatures living in this habitat.
- In order to do this, you will need to make a map of the area that you are
observing. When you find evidence of different creatures that you recognize then
record it on your map. See the example to the left.
- For example, you may see a robin’s nest in a tree and will mark that on your map where it was found in your neighbourhood. Enjoy!
Soaring Towards 10,000!
Pathway Explorers have been busy logging Landmarks and we’ve reached a record number, soaring towards our goal of 10,000 Landmarks! The winter provided so many new and exciting activities for our community and photos have warmed our hearts. We’re already at 3,216 – incredible work!
We’ve had some super ideas from families and other groups this winter proving – rain, snow or shine – it’s great to be outdoors. Some of our favourites include:
- The Chickadees celebrated the winter season and made garlands out of edible items for their wintering friends in the woods. They decorated with Cheerios, raisins, raisins, peanuts, air-popped popcorn, oranges, and pomegranate peel shaped with cookie cutters. Such a creative way to explore Landmark 11 – Celebrate Each Season
- The Myles Family took advantage of a cold snap and when Rogers Cove was transformed into a giant outdoor rink. They went skating on the open ice, feeling the effects of the wind and listening to the deep sounds of the ice. It was so much fun they went back the next day!
- Children at the Compass Early Learning and Care-Home Childcare Program built a snowman this season! They used snowballs, stacked them, and added a face and a “unicorn horn”. They wondering if any animals might come nibble on the carrot nose and horn.
- After a beautiful dump of perfect snow early in the week, the grade 5s and 6s from Mrs. Monti and Mrs. Belk’s classes from Millbrook South Cavan Public School explored Medd’sMountain on snowshoes as part of the Think Outside program with Nature Nancy. The snow was deep enough to see how effective snowshoes really are. The Millbrook trail system is a close walk from the school and has amazing trees to walk through, marvel at, and use for hiding during a game of “Reggie the Squirrel”.
- Camp Kawartha worked with the Grade 8s at Highland Heights! They engaged in a variety of team-building activities that the students absolutely loved! They completed activities aimed at working together to balance a ball while traveling. They amped up the challenge by placing the stand that the ball had to sit on, on top of a snowbank!
- Immaculate Conception made suncatchers from collected materials and positioned them in the pan. Despite a warm spell, they were so happy when the temperature dropped and they saw their sun catchers come to life!
Home Sweet Home:
Build or install a nest box this spring!
Here’s a great spring activity to try at home or at school. Nest boxes provide wonderful habitat for many kinds of birds, and having avian families in your yard gives hours of enjoyment watching these feathered miracles.
In nature, holes in trees are prime real estate for wildlife. In fact, many kinds of birds need these holes, called ‘cavities’ for building their nests and raising their young. Especially in urban areas, dead or dying trees are usually removed, leaving a scarcity of nesting sites for our bird neighbours.
Luckily, nest boxes are quite easy to build with a few simple tools and some understanding of what birds need for protection from weather and predators. While there are many specialized types of nest boxes for specific species, a good basic design is suitable for many small birds such as chickadees, wrens, and nuthatches.
Here are some basic guidelines:
- nest boxes need enough space for a nest full of baby birds and access for parents
- the correct size of the entrance hole is important; it should be near the top of the box;
- nest boxes must be cleaned out every year, so make sure you can open up the box, and reseal it safely
- don’t put a perch on your box; birds don’t need it, but perches can help predators reach the young birds
- don’t paint or put a finish on your box; birds prefer untreated, natural wood
- provide ventilation and drainage; a few small holes near the top provide ventilation, and small holes in the floor allow moisture to drain
- use a predator guard to protect the entrance hole from being chewed by squirrels or other mammals who would destroy the eggs or young birds; a metal plate or piece of thick wood are effective (see examples)
- install securely at least 6 feet from the ground; avoid nailing into trees – a pole or post are ideal
Here are some plans for a simple nest box you can build from a 4 ft. piece of 1 X 6″ lumber
Chickadee Nest Box Plans from Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Note: Entrance hold diameter is 1″ for House Wrens; Use 1 1/8″ diameter for Black-Capped Chickadees; 1 1/4″ for White-Breasted and Red-Breasted Nuthatches
Join the Pathway #LandmarkChallenge
Got screen fatigue? Need an excuse to get outdoors with the family, build memories and enjoy activities that encourage kids to love learning? Well, this Family Day, the Pathway to Stewardship and Kinship is challenging every family to log ONE Landmark activity between Feb 15 and Feb 21. Discover all 30 Landmarks here.
For residents of Ontario, there is a daily prize draw for a $50 gift certificate to a local business. Simply REGISTER AND REPORT your Landmark at pathwayproject.ca or tag us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with the #LandmarkChallenge.
Our goal is 10,000 Landmark activities. Let’s do it together! Thanks for helping make this the best Family Week ever, by joining the Pathway #LandmarkChallenge!
We gratefully acknowledge the support of
Looking for a fun winter activity for all ages? Here is a free winter Bingo game cards from the Pathway!
Visit a special place, explore your senses, discover winter themed words and most of all, have fun!
This winter bingo helps with Landmarks 1,3,4 and 7.
Landmark 1. Explore outdoors together at least an hour a wee.
Landmark 3. Exercise the senses daily.
Landmark 4. Visit a favourite outdoor place each week throughout all seasons.
Landmark 7Share a nature-based picture book, song, poem or game each week.
Winter Wonderland: The Night Sky
Winter is a perfect season for an often overlooked family activity – exploring the sky at night. With winter’s early darkness and often crisp, clear weather, the stars take on a special brightness that is nothing short of breathtaking.
January and February are perfect months to view one of the most striking and unforgettable of all the constellations – Orion, the Hunter. Rising in the southeastern sky in early evening, Orion travels (like the sun) from east to west across the winter sky as the earth turns and night progresses, to finally set in the west before morning. Orion is easy to find, by facing south and looking for the three stars in a row that make up his belt. His shoulder and knee are two of our brightest stars, Betelgeuse and Rigel. Just below and beside him is Sirius, the dog star – Orion’s faithful friend.
Indigenous storytellers also saw a human-like figure in this unique combination of stars. The Ojibwe know him as Biboonkeonini – the Wintermaker. Wintermaker stretches out his long arms to beckon the cold and winds of winter. He also ushers in the traditional storytelling season of winter.
Early on a crisp, cloudless winter night, pack up the family, bring a thermos of hot chocolate and go out stargazing. Turn out the house and yard lights for better viewing, or travel to a park or open area with few lights. Look for patterns in the stars and make your own stories. If you’re lucky, you may even see a shooting star! What an awesome reminder of the wonders around us every day.
Star watching connects with Landmarks 1, 3, 6, 11, 14, 17, 25.
Summer Report Highlights
We’ve had some super ideas from families and other groups this summer. Some of our favourites include:
- The James family learned how to geocache with their 10-year old boys
- The Nature Ninjas tried lots of new outdoor activities! They built an obstacle course in their backyard, and the kids challenged the parents to see who was fastest completing the course; they tried making paints using soil and crushed plants, and made pictures with all-natural materials
- Babbling Brook Daycare visited Jackson Park, and in one day, they saw a monarch butterfly, a grasshopper, a cardinal, as well as fish and geese in the pond and creek; they also made beautiful corn husk dolls when the corn was ripe
- The Warrens visit their favourite donkey on weekends, and feed her delicious treats
- The Chickadees researched edible plants in their own yard and created their own field guide; they also created clothes made from flower petals to dress up sketches of people
So many great ideas! Why not send us yours?
Bird of the Month: Black-capped Chickadee
While so many birds are flying to warmer places to spend the winter, the hardy little Black-capped Chickadee is preparing to stay with us all winter.
Chickadees are cheerful little birds that travel in flocks and seem to be always on the move. They have a black cap and bib, with white cheeks. They’re one of the easiest birds to attract to a winter bird feeder – a feast of black oil sunflower seeds will keep them happily visiting you all winter. You can hear their ‘chick-a-dee-dee-dee’ call all year ‘round, but on warmer days in winter, their slower ‘Dee dee’ song sounds like they’re saying ‘Honey!’ or ‘Hey, sweetie!’ That call shows that they’re feeling frisky, and thinking of warmer days and the breeding season.
Black-capped Chickadees are very friendly, curious little birds, and with a bit of patience and standing very still, you can often entice them to come and take a seed from your outstretched hand. What a memorable moment, especially for children, to be visited by these lighter-than-air feathered friends! If you’re working on Landmark 12 with young children (learn 5 birds in your neighbourhood), the Black-capped Chickadee is sure to be one of your neighbours.
Squirrel Nest Game
Eastern Grey Squirrels are the common tree squirrels found in many areas of southern Ontario, and are more often black than grey. What do they do in winter? They need to construct a well-insulated nest in tree branches or tree cavities for protection from the harsh weather.
Can you build a nest that will keep a tiny squirrel warm? This game is a great fall activity for families or school groups.
For this game, every player will need a small container with lid that will be their ‘squirrel.’ Pill bottles, old film canisters or baby food jars are all ideal. Just be sure that every player’s container is the same size (kids can work in teams for larger groups). Everyone can decorate their ‘squirrel’ if they like – just make sure you can still remove and reseal the lid. You will also need a small thermometer and some warm water – set all these aside while you prepare your nest.
- Take all the players outside to find natural materials for building a nest. These could be leaves, branches, shreds of bark or paper, ‘fluff’ from seeds like milkweed, or anything you can find that you think would make a good home for your squirrel.
- Each player builds their squirrel nest in a protected place that they can find again.
- A teacher or parent heats a pot of water to body temperature (warm water from the tap is fine too). Tip for teachers: having warm water ready in a thermos can be handy for larger groups.
- Everyone checks the temperature of the water in the pot (or thermos). Write down or remember the starting temperature!
- Find your own squirrel and bring it to the pot of water. Quickly fill your ‘squirrel’ with the warm water, put the lid on snugly, and take the squirrel to the nest you have built. Carefully place it in the nest, and snuggle the nest materials around it.
- Leave your ‘squirrel’ in its nest for 30 minutes. This is a good time for a nature walk, or an autumn scavenger hunt, while you’re waiting for your ‘squirrel’ to settle in its nest.
- After 30 minutes, come back to each nest with the thermometer. Carefully remove each lid, and take the temperature of the water inside. Whose squirrel stayed the warmest? Which cooled down the most? What kinds of materials were best for keeping the squirrels warm?
- You can play this game as often as you like, trying different decorations on your ‘squirrels’, making the most creative nest, and using different materials to keep the squirrel warm.
Hope you stay warm this winter too! Staying cozy outdoors in cold weather depends on having several layers of insulation and a good windbreak. Squirrels use the same tricks!