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.
While visiting Black Hill Regional Park, Barnesville eighth graders were introduced to a variety of different types of nature journals. They were given options to create their own, using materials like paper bags to make the covers. Some students decorated them using simple watercolor paints. Others created a tie dye effect using shaving cream and food coloring. (NOTE: Here's a link with instructions how to make your own tie dye stationary).
After creating their journals, they went outside to do a field observation. They sat near the edge of Little Seneca Lake (a reservoir that is part of the Montgomery County, Maryland Parks system) to listen, observe, record, sketch, and write.
Later, students went back to the Nature Center and some students shared their observations and journal entries.
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.
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.
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.
On Tuesday, April 12, the eighth grade class of the Barnesville School of Arts and Sciences went to Black Hill Regional Park. There, they learned about different layers of a forest, like the herb layer and canopy layer, and about how these layers can be damaged in circumstances like forest fires. They observed an area where there was a fire recently, as well as an untouched area, and discussed the differences. They also witnessed a tree climbing demonstration. Students learned about safety practices for tree climbers, pruning techniques, and how to keep trees healthy.
-- Guest Blogger, Nelli S., Class of 2016
Black Hill Park Naturalist, Tina Stachura, is working with Barnesville’s sixth grade students to make and install Bluebird boxes around the School’s campus later this spring. Students visited Black Hill where they learned about the Bluebird life cycle, habitat, and why naturalists encourage people to put up boxes to protect and preserve the species.
After assembling Bluebird boxes, the class headed outside to check on some of the boxes located around the Park. Students observed how to monitor the boxes to ensure they are not taken over by invasive species such as European Starlings and House Sparrows. When Ms. Stachura played the Bluebirds’ song on her iPhone, a pair of Bluebirds flew over the class!
While at the Black Hill Nature Center, students also observed via webcam a Bald Eagle in her nest feeding her two eaglets.
Next week, Ms. Stachura will be on Barnesville’s campus to help the students scout out locations for their Bluebird boxes.
Having learned all about bird nests earlier in the week, Barnesville’s early childhood and pre-k classes visited Black Hill Regional Park Nature Center. Naturalist, Lynette Lenz, showed them a live webcam of an Eagle’s nest and then took everyone outside to explore around the park to look for birds and their nests.
Black Hill Regional Park naturalist, Lynette Lenz, visited with Barnesville’s early childhood and pre-k students to talk about nests and the different materials birds use to build them. Ms. Lenz shared a book about birds and and brought a few real nests for the students to see and touch. The tiniest was that of a Hummingbird. In contrast, she explained that Eagles continually build on their nests year after year, so they can be as large as the classroom carpet and weigh as much as a car.
The classes went outside to gather materials and built nests of their own. They learned that Cardinals build nests in bushes, Robins use mud, and Hummingbirds use moss with spiderwebs as glue.
Later this week, the classes will go to Black Hill Regional Park for a nest scavenger hunt.
Barnesville 3rd and 4th graders went on a guided waterfowl watching tour at Black Hill Regional Park. Students spent time in a duck blind, used binoculars, and recorded bird sightings at several locations around Little Seneca Lake.
Before going out, students learned about the creeks that feed into it the lake and talked about why different types of birds would be found in different locations. The lake is home to Goldeneye Ducks, Tundra Swans, and American Coots, which look like ducks, float like ducks, but are not actually ducks!
Naturalists from Black Hill visited with the same group of students at Barnesville last week to prepare for the birdwatching adventure. They’ve been learning about identifying characteristics that are unique to the area’s waterfowl.
The entire faculty of Barnesville School of Arts & Sciences spent their February in-service day at Black Hill Nature Center being trained in Flying WILD, a national program that offers a whole-school approach to environmental education using birds as the focus. The Flying WILD program complements Barnesville’s multi-year bird study and Field Guide documenting campus wildlife. Barnesville is engaged in an ongoing partnership with Black Hill Regional Park that enhances outdoor and environmental education across the School’s curriculum.
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