This fall, our class tracked the migration of 18 whooping cranes from Wisconsin to their winter home in Florida. We learned about the unique personalities of the chicks, how they imprinted on a crane-puppet (robo-crane), and how they trained with the ultralights to learn the migration route. Each week, we followed their progress - the successful days of flying and the many stop-overs. After 76 days and 1,976 miles, we were elated to learn that the "crane-kids" had reached Marion County, Florida after the longest migration ever! Tragically, severe storms that swept across central Florida on February 1st and 2nd claimed the lives of all but one of the cranes.
From Journey North: "This tragic storm is a powerful reminder of the conservation challenges whooping cranes face. The new Eastern Flock dropped from 81 to 64 cranes as the result of this single storm."
And Operation Migration: "Our hearts are aching for the young birds that were lost. These
chicks were like our children; the start of a new generation of life
for the species. We also lament the loss of a year's work by the
many dedicated people who helped to raise them from eggs, and of the
funds so generously given by so many."
Operation Migration has established a "Remembering the Class of 2006" memorial fund so the work with these endangered birds can continue with a new group of chicks in 2007. One member of Operation Migration has suggested that donors consider
contributing $18 - one dollar for each of the lost chicks,
and $1 in celebration of #615's survival.
My students had a connection to the cranes and hopefully this terrible tragedy will now hold more meaning for them, as will the importance of conservation and environmental stewardship.
Photo by Damien Ossi, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Using mini oreo cookies, the children used plastic knives to scrape off the frosting (and eat it!) to make eight phases of the moon. We also used a dab of cake frosting to "glue" each moon down to the plate. This activity is from a site called Paper Plate Education. It was simple and so fun - a great way to wrap up our study of the moon!
Despite a temperature reading of 3 degrees Fahrenheit, we braved the cold for a chance to use our snow catchers. We learned about seven main kinds of snowflakes: hexagonal plates, needles, irregular crystals, capped columns, hexagonal columns, spatial dendrites, and stellar crystals. The children cut out ilustrations of these snowflakes, then glued them on the edges of a large black piece of construction paper. After lamination, we attached a piece of black felt to the middle of each paper with staples. On this cold morning, we found mostly hexagon plates and stellar crystals.
Bundled up and magnifying glasses in hand, we went outside early Tuesday morning to observe the snow while it lasted. The cold temperatures allowed the snow to stay powdery and light - perfect for finding individual flakes. With the task of using their 5 senses to explore and observe snow, a few surprised children asked, "Can we really taste it?" How many kids would have listened if we had said no?
From these observations, the kids were asked to make two predictions. First, each child collected snow in a small paper cup. Inside, they marked a line on their cups to guess how much water would be left after the snow melted. Most children thought there would be more water left.
Next, two snowballs were put in plastic ziplock bags. One bag was left on the table, the other was placed inside of a mitten. We asked, "Which will melt first?" All but two children thought that the snow in the mitten would melt first. What a surprise to find out that the bag on the table soon became water while the snow in the mitten still held it's snowball form!
Because the results were unexpected for the children, these experiments gave us a great opportunity for discussion. Can you explain the results?
To launch an upcoming study of snow in January, my class visted the Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry yesterday. While there, we saw a small exhibit on the photographs of Wilson "Snowflake Bentley." Bentley lived in Vermont in late 1800s and was the first person to take photographs of individual snowflakes. His story is beautifully illustrated by Mary Azarain in Jacqueline Briggs Martin's Snowflake Bentley (Caldecott Medal). His real photographs are also available in Snowflakes in Photographs by W.A. Bentley himself.
The exhibit, "A Snow Story," also included the stunning photography (see above) of a modern-day Snowflake Bentley, physicist Ken Libbrecht. He has a wonderful and informative website devoted to snow crystals, snowflakes and other ice phenomena.
Here are some interesting facts we learned from yesterday's field trip:
Snowflakes are not white; they are clear.
Chicago's biggest recorded snowfall of 23 inches was on Jan. 26-27, 1967.
Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley took over 5000 photographs.
Filmmaker and author, George Levenson, has a created an award-winninng book and video entitled Pumpkin Circle: The Story of a Garden. He captures "life in the pumpkin garden with time-lapse photography of seeds sprouting, flowers opening, bees buzzing, pumpkins growing, and jack-o-lanterns glowing."The 20-minute video is narrated by Danny Glover. The book and video are a wonderful way to wrap up a study of pumpkins or to calm an energetic group of children during this busy, crazy Halloween season!
Just before the first frost, we were able to get daffodil bulbs in the ground. Planting in the "Secret Garden", a secluded courtyard in our school, added to to the excitement. We planted about 30 bulbs under a lovely crabapple tree. We hope to learn about this plant's life cycle and sketch the daffodils when they emerge in the spring.
A few years ago, we planted Red Emperor tulip bulbs with the plan to participate in Journey North's Tulip Garden Study. Each bulb had been marked with the gardener's (child's) name on a popsicle stick. Unfortunately, I did not follow the advice of the experts to protect the bulbs from predators with chicken wire. It was too much work. The next day, we found holes where our bulbs had been and the popsicle sticks were scattered about. The squirrels had enjoyed a feast! One child from another class was convinced that the popsicle sticks were the problem. He said that he sticks had marked the spot of each tulip bulb so the squirrels knew exactly where to find them! I only hope that daffodil bulbs aren't as tasty!
To show what they remember about whooping cranes and their migration, each child records a fact on a crane illustration. Our flock continues to grow and decorates our classroom windows. Here are some facts the kids have learned:
The ultralight can't fly in stormy weather.
Only two whoopers have mommies to take them where they're supposed to go.
Robo-crane is a robotic crane that can spit out treats and make a sound that tells the cranes it's safe.
Whooping cranes cool off by spreading their legs and toes when they fly.