Learning Landscape: November

Learning Landscape aims to inspire learning along with a common theme easily spotted in our surroundings that month. The hope is to bring a little bit of the outdoors inside for an inspection, dissection, identification, creative play, art projects, and lots of other educational activities. Download November’s Learning Landscape to help open up children’s eyes to each season’s unique attributes and help them learn how to see these things in nature for themselves.

The November Landscape

It’s dark outside these days, and the hills all seem a little less tall now that they’re devoid of the leafy fluff that extends their reach a little closer to the clouds. While it may seem that the change in seasons signals to the natural world that it should slow to a stop, there are beginnings amongst all of the ending.

This past week, my classroom hung the first few in a collection of bird feeders outside our windows. We’ve tracked goldfinches, blue jays, nuthatches, chickadees, and some small woodpeckers outside of our window, and the bird journal is quickly filling up with sightings. The buffet of thistle and sunflower seeds has attracted a wide variety of feathered folks, and we’re proud to feed them suet from a local farm. An outdoor snack time afforded us the opportunity to inspect our feeder-holding crabapple, allowing us to discover the many perfectly round holes pecked into its bark. We’re looking forward to continuing to learn how to identify the bird species found locally, and are planning to participate in some feeder-related citizen science this winter.

In addition to our bird studies, we’ve continued to learn about mushrooms of all kinds. An iridescent orange mushroom captured our interest this week, fascinating us all with its yellow spores. We also learned about chestnut trees, and the strict rules that dictate how and why their seeds can be obtained. A treasure discovered at a booth at the Ashfield Fall Festival, the chestnut’s spiny outside skin is surprisingly velvety inside. Though we’ve struggled to conceptualize the fact that access to natural genetic material can be controlled, learning about the chestnut tree’s history together has kept us curious for a few weeks.

With such a variety of items dotting our table, we’ve been constantly improving our skills in using field guides. Navigating through pages of shape-based categorizations and visual organizations has taught us how to look for certain characteristics in our treasures, and reading the descriptions of species has allowed us to practice using context in order to understand new vocabulary.

The things we’ve worked on identified this month (and some that we haven’t had to research) include:

  • Wild Cucumbers
  • Mint
  • Ginkgo Leaves
  • Wool (from Winterberry Farm’s sheep shearing)
  • Chestnut Pods
  • Amanita Flavoconia Cap
  • Bird Seed
  • Feathers
  • Local Apple

Some books to supplement learning about these items include:

Robin Morgan Huntley, Community-Based Education Correspondent

Robin joined Hilltown Families in 2011 as an intern and has remained with the organization ever since, first volunteering as a community-based education correspondent until 2016 and now as a contributing writer with two monthly columns. Robin is a graduate of Hampshire College and Antioch University New England, where she studied place- and community-based education. She lives on the banks of the Sheepscot River in Maine, where she and her husband are working to start a small farm. Robin teaches at Juniper Hill School for Place-Based Education and is the founder of our first affiliate community-based education network, Dirigo Learning.

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