Nature Table for June: For the Love of Weeds

Nature Table for June

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.

It is hard to believe that we had forgotten the look of a landscape cloaked in green, but we had. The entire outline of our landscape has fluffed its green, leafy feathers into a brilliant and rounded version of its former self. The bones we had grown so accustomed to seeing have thrown themselves triumphantly at the sun – and suddenly there’s more green than we could ever have imagined.

In a landscape so lush and laden with countless shades of the same hue, it takes close observation to take note of the subtle differences from green to green. From a distance, oak leaves blend near-seamlessly with pine needles and dandelions camouflage themselves in even small expanses of lawn.

It is in this early part of summer that we re-ignite our feud with weeds, those specific green-and-leafiest that we have deemed inferior within our landscape. At the onset of summer (and especially in years like this), we still cling tightly to the tendrils of the young plants we have helped take root in our once inhospitable clime. We so enjoy our suddenly lush lawns, our patches of fresh herbs, our blooming bushes, and our seedling vegetables that we take the invasion of alien life quite seriously. Dandelions are eradicated with trowel and claw or beheaded by a mower, unruly grass species are cut short, and rogue wild berry bushes are hacked back. It’s a bit gruesome, really, and certainly lots of work!

Our young naturalists, on the other hand, do not share the same relationship with weeds. Spring’s burst of life (and subsequent sea of green) is still incredibly novel to these keen-eyed explorers, and their curiosity knows no bounds. Their lack of experience tells them that any (and perhaps every) plant could be something special, and they have yet to develop a means of thinking hierarchically about the green surrounding them.

This June, we’ve learned to let it be. Honoring every leaf and every shoot, we’re learning bushes, trees, grasses, and – yes! – the weeds. Not only are weeds ironically plentiful in our small corner of the earth, but the diversity in species has presented lots of opportunities to learn about classification of species. We’ve learned about the shapes, colors, texture, and general size of lots of familiar weeds just by simple observation and discussion – no fancy field guides or technical language necessary. And so it is that we’ve learned to let it be. June’s weeds are a reminder – in full force! – that our landscape is still alive.

Alongside lots of unknown species, our June nature table is filled with:

  • ferns (hay-scented and sensitive)
  • buttercups
  • dandelions (seeds and greens)
  • field grasses
  • clover (white and purple)
  • violets

While only a small amount of this month’s nature table work has been informed by the use of texts of any kind, here are some titles that can bolster such summer studies:

Robin Morgan Huntley, Community-Based Education Correspondent

A native to Maine, Robin joined Hilltown Families in early 2011 as an intern and remained over the years volunteering as a community-based education correspondent until moving back to Maine in 2016. Robin 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 currently lives with her husband, cats and rabbits in Maine and is a 5th grade public school teacher.






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