Bundling up for an outdoor walk may be time consuming, but it can be worth the hassle, whether you take a field trip to a nearby park or refuge or just wander the playground or school neighborhood. Get ready for a winter observation walk by reading Amy S. Hansen’s Bugs and Bugsicles: Insects in the Winter. Youngsters will learn about winter habitats for monarchs, ladybugs and dragonflies but also how Amy creates words like “bugsicles” to describe a woolly bear caterpillar in winter:
“She’s getting ready to perform an amazing trick. She will freeze in the winter, thaw out in the spring, and start all over. Woolly Bear won’t need to breathe while she’s frozen. She isn’t dead. She isn’t really asleep. She’s a bugsicle.”
Now make sure each child has a journal and a good, soft pencil and head outside. Give each child or pair of children a small area to investigate – just a few square yards, like the children in the photo outside the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center in Fergus Falls, MN. (Check the link to see samples of student writing!)
Ask students to use descriptive words to write about their area – what colors do they see? Is there concrete or grass, mud or snow? What do any trees or plants look like?
Are there signs of wildlife? Ask children to imagine where an animal or insect could live in the space they are investigating. Under a log? In a frozen pond? Wrapped in a dry leaf? In the crack in the sidewalk?
Encourage children to write just single words or phrases that can be turned into poems or prose when everyone is back indoors, where they can also add artwork or research. There are also several ways to expand this activity:
· Return in the spring so children can write about changes in the area they observed in the winter. This can be a good “compare and contrast” exercise.
· Have children write poems about their observations to enter in the River of Words contest. Here is a SAMPLE from Whittlesey National Wildlife Refuge, WI.
· Partner with a park or refuge to have children write and publish a guidebook, like Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge (NM) Through the Eyes of Children.