Slice of Life March 8th, 2013 #slice2013

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Today I woke up to a winter wonderland.  Everything was coated in a layer of heavy snow, and powdered sugar flakes were falling at a steady pace, as if they were being shaken onto the world.

This afternoon, it was still snowing as I left school.  The dogs and I hopped in the car right away and headed to a local park.  Once there, we veered off the paved path and climbed down the ravine path.  At first, the path was clear.  It was beautiful and silent, with snow covering all the trees and the occasional sound of a pile of snow falling from a branch to the ground.

We hit our first obstacle about a half mile down the trail.  Suddenly, a large tree covered the path.  It was obviously a victim of Hurricane Sandy and I should have realized that where there was one, there would be many.  But I didn’t.  So we climbed over the trunk and went on our way.  Then we hit another tree.  And another.  And another.  For about a half mile, we were climbing over and under huge trees.  Entire trees were strewn across the trail and it took us double our normal walking time.  But at least the dogs got a lot of exercise jumping and climbing over the trunks and branches!

We ended up having to turn around and repeat the same jumps when the path became too difficult to traverse.  But it was a great walk regardless.  Lots of physical and mental exercise for everyone!

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Dublin and Bailey relaxing at the end of our walk.

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One of the easier downed trees

*Check out the shout-out that the Slice of Life Challenge got on The NYTimes Learning Network blog today!

Slice of Life- March 2, 2013 #slice2013

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Today was the culminating activity for the science enrichment class I am teaching with my biology colleague (and my biology teacher!).  We spent 3 hours traipsing about the woods with the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders and it was a great time.  We built eco-art, played games, and did some hiking.  It was cold, and even flurried for a good amount of time, but what a great day!

 

But my favorite part of the (freezing) day was on our walk back up to the parking lot.  I had been keeping an eye out for bluebirds, as I have been seeing them for the past few weeks but rarely have my camera with me.  I was thrilled to spot a group of bluebirds a few minutes later and whipped out my camera.  As I started snapping pictures, I got the attention of a few of our students.  They all froze and watched the birds as they hopped from branch to branch.

 

A pair of Eastern Bluebirds in Michigan, USA.

A pair of Eastern Bluebirds in Michigan, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Whoa!  I’ve never seen a real blue bird before!”, one student exclaimed with quiet glee.

 

“Me either,” a few others responded.

 

At that moment, I realized I was in my twenties the first time I saw a bluebird in New Jersey.  They were forced out of most areas by development and many conservation groups have been working hard to restore the population over the past fifty years.  Now, we are finally getting more of them in Monmouth County.

 

We watched the flock quietly for a few more moments, noting the contrast between the male and female bluebirds, and the sharp contrast between the red cardinal and the bluebirds.  It was a magical few minutes.  The bluebirds are just so bright and look like tropical birds flitting between the winter branches and few stalks of long grass.  They put a smile on anyone’s face!

 

I was so happy to be able to introduce these middle school students to the Eastern bluebird, and hopefully awaken a love of nature in them (even more than our 3 hour winter hike, maybe!).  Nature really is amazing!

 

A very blurry picture of one of the male Eastern bluebirds.  It's hard to keep the camera steady when your hands are frozen!

A very blurry picture of one of the male Eastern bluebirds. It’s hard to keep the camera steady when your hands are frozen!

Great Posts Around the Blogosphere

-Check out the Learning in the Great Outdoors Carnival over at Alone on a Limb! There are some great links to all sorts of classroom and child-related outdoor learning activities. I am about to go exploring right now. :)

-Get yourself over to the Cybils blog and look for the latest shortlists! I am surprised to see that I have only read one novel on the YA shortlist, but it’s one of my favorites of the year (The Wednesday War). I also have read about half the non-fiction titles and some of the graphic novels (a new genre for me this year) are already on my wishlist. :)

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