Amateur Naturalist – 2014-2015

Amateur Naturalist Project

Come and join us in exploring nature. We will be keeping journals, finding plants, insects, birds, and mammals. We will be learning about ecology, good stewardship of our green spaces, and of course, the natural world. The Amateur Naturalist project will be meeting at Redwood Regional Park every meeting, rain or shine, where we will do a short learning activity to get started before hiking in different areas of the park to explore and find fauna and flora for our journals. (Digital cameras or drawing with pencils are both great.) Hikes will be 2-4 miles, depending on the energy and stamina of the kids. If there is rain, Redwood Regional has two very nice weatherproof shelters for us to use for activities


Planning the meeting:

September – Learning how to be in nature, basic safety rules for hiking.  We’ll also talk about nature journaling and doing our very first. hike.  We should also discuss what it means to be an Amateur Naturalist too,  right? That should open up a great discussion.

– – introductions, get to know each other’s name?
– -general discussion on visiting a Home, whether it be yours a friend’s or wildlife. What are the rules for visiting someone’s house? How does that apply here, in the woods?
– – Learning and studying nature: how do scientists learn about wildlife and plants? Do they collect them and take them to the laboratory? Sure, but what kind of information does that give you? What kind of information doesn’t it give you? So what do naturalists and ecologists have to do if they want to know how animals and plants work in the real world?
– – what would be some of the tools they use? Can we use those same tools? Go over the tools we’ve brought (I’ll have a box of lenses and loupes), cameras, field journals, our reference books).
– – what are our most important tools however? (our senses, patience, being quiet and still and patient)

And after all that, we could possibly do a short play from Hands-On Nature, there has to be a more general, or introductory one in there we could have our junior leaders do. Let me look…be right back….okay, they don’t have any general introduction ones, but they do have a play about rotting logs, one about forest floor workers (microbial world) and one about the importance of air. I find pictures/drawings on the internet for each character, put them on a wooden stick, and voila, a play! I can bring copies of the play for Isabella and you to play the parts with – very simple, but kids love it, I don’t know why.

And then we go hiking and look for things to draw and take pictures of!

How the project meeting went and what we did:

We met at Canyon Meadow/Redwood, and spent some time at the picnic tables meeting each other and talking about what “amateur” and “naturalist” means, along with some famous ones (Darwin!). We then did a short play from Hands On Nature about

– – We then headed out to walk on the trail out to the first shelter, taking our time and looking at plants.
– – We found a huge fallen tree by shelter, but it has been so dry that not a lot of rotting is taking place.
– – we did some drawing in our notebooks of leaves and anything else the kids found.

October – Birds
Planning the meeting:
– – thinking about design of feathers, short activity coming up with your own “feather”
– – bird boxes

Some resources and websites
Ask a Biologist – 23 functions of feathers and more

Cornell Lab of Ornithology – more wing shapes, but this site has a lot of information and fantastic videos:

Page by David Darling, a science book writer, with some simple experiments for understanding how birds and planes stay up in air
Raptor Research – basic wing shapes and more
PBS Life of Birds video and lessons – more general information
Seagull simulator – a master glider – and more:

What we did:


November – Reptiles
– – Snakes and Lizards, what could we see here in Northern California?

December – no meeting

January – Amphibians:
– – Frogs and newts, what do their eggs look like? Tadpoles and more..
February – Invertebrates
– – Millipedes, insects, spiders, crustaceans (crabs and land
relations), and worms.
– – Which ones can we find?
– – catching some land crustaceans for observation

March – Insects (invertebrates that get their own meeting)
– – The essential bug-hunting kit
– – attracting moth (maybe a home project?)
– – rearing ladybugs (can buy ladybugs)

April -Mammals:
– – Tracks and looking at structure of legs that make particular tracks
(i.e., how is a bear leg different from a bobcat, and why are their
prints so different?).
– – Scat, a scientist treasure trove

May -Plants
– – basic introduction to botany and photosynthesis (find a fun activity)
– – Ferns and spores (April might be okay month to find spores)
– – Learning about nastic movements, or plants responding to stimuli
like touch. I have some carnivorous plants that would show this very nicely!
– – Flowering plants and trees
– – almost too many things to do, although maybe concentrating on ecology??

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