Why should you consider enrolling your child in the Backyard Naturalists afterschool program? Studies show that spending more time outdoors is linked to fewer incidences of behavioral problems in children and leads to a healthier lifestyle. The program will include eight weeks of lessons structured to promote a better appreciation of the natural world by nurturing creativity and independent observation skills. Study topics will include learning about plants and animals, community interactions between species, nature journaling, illustration and a nature photography workshop.
The program will be held at the Highlands Nature Center on Thursdays for 5th – 8th graders. All classes run from 3-5 pm. Transportation will be provided from Highlands School and scholarships are available! The program is limited to 12 students so please download the registration form by clicking here or call 828-526-2221 today for more information!
Today we were focusing on learning about plants and forest ecology. Even though we lost most of our deciduous leaves in the heavy winds over the last week, there are still a lot of evergreen plants and other plants to learn about in the forest.
There’s even been occasional snow at this elevation, which makes for some beautiful pictures.
The landscape is beautiful at this time of year, and we are lucky to have some great young photographers that are eager to capture its beauty!
Today we were out exploring nature, specifically focusing on the pond ecosystems. Our botanical garden contains a small lake that is home to many plants and animals, including fish, snapping turtles, ducks, and lots of macroinvertebrates!
Even though it is starting to be consistently chilly weather, there are still a lot of green plants and a lot of life in the forest and at the pond!
The vivid colors of the trees add to the breathtaking nature of fall landscapes.
To investigate the pond ecosystem, we used D-nets and small aquatic nets to get into the mud and dead leaves near the shore, which houses lots of the life that lives in the pond. These shallow areas warm quickly in the sun and have a lot of detritus (decaying organic matter) that can serve as food for a lot of macroinvertebrates.
It’s always fun to get out and explore ecosystems that we don’t always see! Lots of cool stuff lives in ponds, streams, under leaf litter, or under dead logs! See what you can find!
Fall is upon us and things are changing rapidly in the forest! We spent the day looking for interesting fall changes in the botanical gardens and learning about reptiles and amphibians.
We went searching for salamanders in a stream in the botanical gardens. Chilly weather can make it more difficult to find amphibians, but we were successful finding a variety of salamanders including Black-bellied Salamanders, Ocoee Salamanders, and Two-lined Salamanders. Salamanders tend to be very photographic so we practiced taking good macro photographs with our slimy subjects.
Getting out and exploring nature in fall is always fun! We are excited to see what has changed next week!
Backyard Naturalists in Highlands, NC is back for a second session! We have a wonderful mix of new students and returning students. The returning students, who participated in the first session, are taking their skills to the next level while helping to mentor and teach the new students.
We spent the day exploring the gardens and practicing multiple ways to express ourselves through nature journaling.
There are so many small details that can be observed in the natural world! We try to heighten our powers of observation by taking time to focus on the small details and documenting them through the written word, drawings, and photographs.
The students also experimented with storytelling through pictures. A millipede, a snail, and a salamander served as our first subjects, and we followed them as they moved around the forest.
Over the next seven weeks, we will learn about a variety of topics including aquatic biology, birds, mammals, and trees. Meanwhile, nature journaling, photography, and video will help us to observe small differences and explore the wonderful natural world around us!
Fall is a great time to get out and observe nature! Enjoy!
The inaugural Backyard Naturalists class came to a close on May 16, 2012. The 8-week pilot program, which was held at Highlands Biological Station in Highlands, North Carolina was a great success. It was a learning experience for everyone who was involved and thanks to a wonderful group of children and hardworking staff we are now able to refine our curriculum and approach in order to improve upon our offering for the next group of students later this year. We conducted video interviews with each student at the beginning and end of the session. In addition, we also asked a series of questions at the end of each class to determine what was and wasn’t working each week, which the student followed up with in their journals. The feedback that we’ve received from the children and their parents has been overwhelmingly positive. We’ve also heard reports of student science grades improving and perhaps more importantly, most of our young naturalists now feel more comfortable playing in the forest.
Many came to the program with reservations about what they might find out in nature or if it was safe to play there. Now many of these same students have gained the courage needed to explore on their own and have attained a better understanding of how to use science, photography and journaling to record and understand their discoveries.In the coming days we will be sharing videos, student feedback and other findings from the pilot program so that those of you who aren’t able to get involved with a course right now might be able to put some of the techniques into practice at your home with your own children.
Most of all, I would like to thank our wonderful, very first graduating class of Backyard Naturalists! You will always be special to us the first group and we’re so glad to have had the opportunity to be a part of your journey. Thank you for all that you’ve taught us.
Program Coordinator & Creative Director
Want to know how to find the wildlife in your own backyard? Watch this short video to learn easy ways that you can discover all of the amazing animals living in your neighborhood.
Wildscreen has launched this creative communications competition to raise awareness amongst young people in particular about the animals and plants affected by climate change. Entrants are asked to choose a climate change mascot, whether it be the polar bear, koala or emperor penguin, and let their creativity run wild! They can paint, draw, sing, knit or even rap, embracing their creativity to come up with an innovative and exciting way of engaging others with climate change, with the very best entries being showcased on the ARKive website.
Visit the Create Climate Change Challenge page today for more information!
Things are coming together in preparation for our first 8-week pilot program in Highlands, North Carolina on March 19th. Our new brochure is scheduled to arrive from the printer today!
It is a happy day at the Highlands Biological Foundation. The cameras that the children will be using for the first 8-week Backyard Naturalist program have now arrived. Aren’t they beautiful?