Nature Table for July

Rivers & lakes dispense gifts for July

Every month, Hilltown Families features a new nature table whose contents inspire learning along a common theme easily spotted in our surroundings that month. A tradition carried out by teachers, environmental educators, and nature-curious families, nature tables bring a little bit of the outdoors inside for inspection, dissection, identification, creative play, art projects, and lots of other educational activities. The idea behind a nature table is to help open up children’s eyes to the unique attributes of each season, and to help them learn how to see these things in nature for themselves. A nature table can include a variety of items, and is often accompanied by a set of books and/or field guides so that children can take part in further learning at their own will.

When the air is thick and muggy and temperatures stretch beyond the thermometer’s eighty degree marker, we head to the river. Though the river is a major feature in our landscape no matter the season, the hot days of midsummer compel us to develop a much more intimate relationship with the ripples and rapids than we’ve upheld throughout the rest of the year. Our far-away glances and detached musings about river-bottom happenings slip silently into the current, transforming as they cool into true knowing – our feet dig deep into the sandy river bed, our hands feel the rocks’ soft surfaces, and our veins pulse a little cooler, a river in miniature inside of ourselves.

July is indisputably a time for swimming, a time when we direct all of our attention to eradicating our skin of prickly, sticky sweat, a time to submerge ourselves with abandon into the dark water that rushes down from the hills. In the summertime, we experience our landscape much differently than we do any other time of year – and not just because it’s full of life. Warm weather grants us the opportunity to explore wet places without protection – bare feet, bare arms, bare bellies.

We can learn a lot by seizing summer’s opportunity to be at home in a familiar body of water. In submerging ourselves into a lake, stream, pond, river, or ocean, we also immerse ourselves into an up-close-and-personal study of that body of water – we see who lives in it, what grows in it, how the water moves, and where the current has deposited treasures. Observing a body of water from within offers us an entirely different experience than observing it from the bank or beach – when our entire bodies are involved in our learning, we’re able to experience the place with all of our senses and our memory of the place is imprinted much more deeply.

This month’s nature table honors the discoveries made when heading down into the water. Collected at lakes, rivers, and a few of New England’s ocean beaches, the table’s contents reflect the diverse plant and animal life that can be found in and around bodies of water, and the treasures that can be found when you look closely enough.

Our July table contains:

  • fish spine
  • driftwood
  • bit of root that grew around a rock
  • hollow tube of birch bark
  • chunks of pottery from a riverbed
  • variety of shells
  • wasp nest
  • oak gall

River- and beach-related curiosity is satisfied this month by reading:

Robin Morgan Huntley, Intern
A native to Maine, Robin joined Hilltown Families in early 2011. She is a graduate of Antioch University with a masters in education. Her interests within the field of education include policy and all types of nontraditional education. For her undergraduate project at Hampshire College, Robin researched the importance of connecting public schools with their surrounding communities, especially in rural areas. Robin lives in Shelburne Falls, MA.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: