Black Hill Partnership Blog
In the fall of 2015, Barnesville embarked on a school-wide partnership with Black Hill Regional Park to enhance outdoor and environmental education across the School’s curriculum. This blog chronicles related programs and activities.
Black Hill Naturalist Katrina Fauss introduced the topic of nature journaling to our 8th graders. She showed them a variety of different types of journals and explained the methodology of journaling.
To prepare for a journaling project at the Park, Ms. Katrina came to Barnesville to talk about techniques and lead students in a practice journaling exercise on our campus. She talked about “how to be still” while out in nature so students can concentrate on individual senses, giving each intentional focus -- first visual, then sound.
Students completed a “pick your place” template once they found their observation spot outside. They were given about ten minutes to complete a chart that recorded: time and place, weather, sounds, colors, animals, patterns, and discoveries. Once this exercise was complete, students then used a nature journal reminders checklist to help them remember more details. They were asked to sketch what they saw and draw the whole object and then a small part of it. They were prompted to think about making comparisons with respect to size, texture and smell. Students also added new details to assist them in going beyond what they already knew.
While at Barnesville, Ms. Katrina also showed the 8th graders how to tye dye paper using shaving cream. The colorful papers were used to make covers for their new journals, which students took to Black Hill Regional Park with them the next day.
In science class, 8th graders have been studying matter, so at the Park students were asked to pair what they’ve learned with their new observation and journaling skills. While observing nature at the park, they considered the continual lifespan of matter in the water cycle, carbon cycle, and the use of finite natural resources. The purpose of the exercise was to help students understand that while matter can't actually be destroyed, human interaction with the environment can change the way the particles are arranged, where they exist on the planet and in the atmosphere (i.e. by burning fossil fuels) and disrupt the balance of the cycle.
One student journaled about his observation of sitting on the edge of the lake at Black Hill Regional Park. He wrote a diamante poem about how the water impacted him. Another exercise had students spend some time in an area of the forest where there had been fire damage. Students explored the area, looking for evidence of the fire and examining areas of regrowth. Then, they were given the option of writing a story, poem or newspaper article about the impact of the fire.
EC/Pre-K had a wonderful time visiting Black Hill Regional Park. The students learned how to operate real binoculars and spent time birdwatching from a duck blind. They explored around Little Seneca Lake and tried to locate more birds as well as nests.
Back at the Nature Center, the preschoolers put their newly developed nest-building skills to work making nests using materials found in nature.
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Miss Tina, a Black Hill Naturalist, came to talk to Barnesville’s early childhood and pre-k classes about nature, birds, and bird nests. Preschoolers studied real bird nests then made some of their own! Pre-k students made observational drawings of their nest and designed a bird that would live there. They named the bird, drew the birds, and decided on characteristics of the new species.
Black Hill Naturalist Ms. Tina visited Barnesville and met with fifth and sixth graders to talk about plans for the Bluebird nesting boxes installed around campus. The group then visited Black Hill and continued that discussion with Ms. Lynette. She also talked to them about the other birds in our area and gave them tips for birdwatching and feeding.
Students spent some time birdwatching along the lake and spotted a Bald Eagle circling overhead with some Vultures and were able to compare their features.
While visiting the bird feeding station and bird blind located next to the lake, they saw Canada Geese, Buffleheads, Nuthatches, Titmice, Chickadees, Crows & a Downy Woodpecker.
Third and fourth grades had a grand experience learning about waterfowl from Jen Scully, a naturalist from Black Hill Regional Park. During the two-day field study, students learned the differences between loons, coots, and mallards. On their field trip to Black Hill, students used binoculars to observe different waterfowl in their natural habitat. As an added treat, they got to see a blue heron and a cormorant.
Ms. Katrina, a naturalist from Black Hill Regional Park, visited with the kindergarten class to teach them about how to explore natural habitats found on campus. Following is some of what they did:
- Learned how to use binoculars
- Talked about rules for observing birds in the wild
- Walked around campus looking and listening for birds
- Saw empty shells from molted Cicadas
- Walked behind the fenceline and found funnel spider webs and a fox skull!
- Listened to birds in Explorer Woods
- Found a Persimmon Tree -- foxes love persimmon fruit
A few days later, the class took a field trip to Black HIll Regional Park:
- Watched a live webcam of a Peregrine Falcon in Baltimore
- Talked about Bald Eagles
- Learned about Monarch Butterflies
- Helped tag Monarch Butterflies to help with a study by the University of Kansas
- Helped release Monarch Butterflies
- Saat in a bird blind to watch for birds
- Explored different habitats around the Park looking for birds and other wildlife
Barnesville eighth graders got to see wildlife at Black Hill Regional Park from a completely different angle, kayaking along Little Seneca Lake.
Students spent the morning being trained on water safety and basic kayaking skills. Then, Black Hill naturalists, Ms. Tina and Ms. Katrina, who have been working with Barnesville students throughout the year, joined them on a water-based expedition.
Spotting beaver lodges, naturalists pointed out the underwater access points where the beavers enter the living areas. Students also saw turtles and young geese at two different developmental stages. The group paddled close to the Wood duck nesting boxes and learned that when babies are ready to leave the nest, they launch out onto the water.
In April, students visited an area of the Park after a wildfire and collected data to compare foliage and wildlife in areas affected by the fire to areas untouched. From the kayaks, they could see the same areas from a different angle and took note of the recovery taking place.
On this final visit to the Park, the Class of 2016 dropped off a gift to give back to the community for the experiences they had throughout the year. The students and their families donated a collapsible wagon filled with birdseed, clipboards, and other items the naturalists can use when other students groups visit the Park.
Tara Barnhart, Eighth Grade Teacher and Arts & Sciences Coordinator at Barnesville said, “This was an excellent way to close out the school year. As our eighth graders prepare to graduate and launch out onto new adventures, we have great appreciation for the many ways our partnership with Black Hill continues to open up new learning opportunities for our students.”
Naturalists from Black Hill Regional Park have been teaching first and second graders about native plants on campus. They spent a morning at the Park learning how to properly plant flowers and then put those skills to good use. Students helped plant different varieties of milkweed as well as black-eyed Susans and other butterfly and bird-friendly plants. After helping with the planting, they explored the Park and many of its beautiful gardens. The Black Hill naturalists gave students four ostrich and sensitive ferns that they brought back to campus and immediately planted in the School’s gardens.
Barnesville fifth graders, Toby A. and Auveen K., each earned 4th Place Honorable Mention recognitions in the Laughing Gull Silhouette contest at the 46th Ward World Championship Wildfowl Carving Competition and Art Festival. Local wildfowl woodcarving specialist, Gary Stenger, accepted the awards on behalf of the Barnesville students. Thanks to Mr. Stenger’s coaching and sponsorship, every Barnesville student painted a wooden silhouette of a Laughing Gull for the national competition.
As part of his senior project for The Global Ecology House at Poolesville High School, Robert W. (Class of 2012) returned to Barnesville to share his research on the Eastern Bluebird with Middle School students who will be monitoring nesting boxes on our campus.
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