Twitching 101 & Miracles

A gorgeous day, a set of Outdoor Learning backpacks, some new resources purchased at the Reifel Bird Sanctuary, and a couple of primary classes ready to embrace learning outdoors, all conspired to create the conditions for miracles in the Livingstone Garden this week.  We grouped in the library for Twitching 101:

  • Everything in the backpack goes back in the backpack (binoculars, compass, magnifying glass, waterproof notebook, pencil, ruler)
  • If you can’t see through the binoculars, ask a friend for help
  • Take good care of the binoculars and put them back in their special case
  • In Vancouver, the mountains are north – Use this information to check your compass skills
  • The new resources from the Reifel Bird Sanctuary are kept in Backpack #1. Feel free to use them and then return them to the bench in the garden.
  • The birds are most likely to come closer if you are very quiet.
  • There are several sources of food for birds in the garden. See how many you can find.

We converged on the garden.  Nothing close to quiet was even remotely part of our Twitching endeavours.  Yet, our recent Green Thumb Theatre production had brought a new level of cool to “twitching” – the British term for people out in search of rare birds.  In our case, we’re happy with any birds.  Frustrations over binoculars that didn’t work were overcome.  Sea gulls were spotted in front of the mountain view.  All the budding twitchers looked north, some checking the direction with their compasses.  None of the usual “murder of crows” appeared.  The chickadees were scared away from the bird feeders with the commotion.  Then it happened.

“Eagle!”

“Look!”

“The white head one!  It’s an eagle.  It’s an eagle!  Look!”

“A bald eagle.  I’ve seen one before.”

“I’ve never see one but I know they are alive”.

“Look the seagulls are chasing him.”

“He’s circling.  It means something!”

And then the second bald eagle appeared.  More euphoria from the group.  One little girl with saucer eyes, runs up to me with  the laminated Pocket Naturalist Guide shrieking, “But where?  Where?  Where is it?”

I paused to help her find the birds of prey section.  My scanning finger hit the Bald Eagle.  She looked down.  Looked up.  Looked down and looked up again.  And what did those eagles do? They defied logic and flew closer to the noisy kids in the garden.  Perhaps they knew, they were the superstars of our bird watching venture.

“It’s a miracle,” gasped my wide eyed twitcher, still clutching the British Columbia Birds – A Folding Pocket Guide to Familiar Species (2017 Waterford Press Inc.).

These are the pinnacle moments every educator strives to experience with their students.  At these times, the joy of the learner is paralleled by that of the educator.  It is miraculous and defines why teachers love to teach.

City Life in a Temperate Rainforest

This blog post is intended for families in the school community to help get students prepared for the rainy season.

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I understand that in the far north, the Inuit people have many words for snow and ice.  Each word indicates an overt or sometimes subtle difference in the snow and ice.  It could reflect the conditions or qualities within the ice and snow.  As a Vancouverite, we see snow as fluffy which translates into not good for snowballs but very pretty.  There is “perfect snowball” weather which translates into good for building snow people, forts and snowballs.  Then there is wet snow which is horrific for driving in and is generally a wet, soggy mess.  There is slippy ice we can see and black ice that forms a slick surface and is hazardous on foot and in the car.  Our vocabulary around ice and snow is pretty basic.

Vancouver is an amazing place to live and is a popular tourist destination because of the oceans, the rivers, the lakes, the mountains and the green.   Basically it is amazing because of the water.  It provides an astounding range of things to do and a diversity of plants and animals in our own backyards.  It is a place that beckons us to “Get Outside”.  The reality is this amazing city exists because we live in a temperate rainforest.  The temperature remains mild throughout most of the year.  We don’t have snow and ice very often so we don’t really see the nuanced differences.  What we know is rain.  Throughout the year, it sprinkles, floats down water, drizzles, mists, showers, rains, rains cats and dogs, pours, and sleets.  I challenge you to add to the list of words and expressions to describe our plentiful precipitation.

The question that always comes up is what to do when it rains.  One option is to just stay inside.  I must admit, I love a rainy day when I can curl up with a good book and a pot of tea.  However this is just not a feasible everyday option.  Life goes on, even on a rainy day.  We have places to go and a body that requires activity to be healthy.  I believe there are three understandings to be ready for the rain.

Number 1:  Wardrobe Matters  If you are warm and dry, you are ready for anything.

The standards include:

A waterproof coat, preferably with a hood.  This allows maximum flexibility to do stuff.

Boots.  There will be puddles.

An umbrella.  I have purchased many and have left them all over the city.   I worked at Lost Property for Metro Transit when I was in university and there were hundreds of umbrellas of every size and colour left on busses.  Guess what the most common colour was abandoned in the Lost Property Department?

 Number 2:  Attitude Matters  Regardless of how miserably you complain, it will rain.

 If you choose to be miserable because it is raining, you are committing yourself to a lot of bad days.  When you frown at the world, it frowns back.  Smile and make a rainy day plan.

 Number 3:  Observe Rainy Day Life  Life in the rain is different.  Not better or worse, just different.

 Just after my daughter’s 6th birthday, we went traveling in Italy.  A torrential downpour hit one evening in Venice.  People ran for cover.  Our family was the only one strolling down the street and delighted with the break from the perpetual heat.  My daughter looked up at me and said “Oh, Mommy.  It smells like home.”

It did.  And it was glorious!

Perspective is everything.  Expect rain.  When it comes, dress appropriately and venture outdoors.  Adapt your activities to accommodate the changes.  Running on wet concrete can be a problem.  Find another option.  Going for a walk under a big umbrella is a good option.  Open your eyes and look for changes.  One of the first songs I learned in kindergarten at Queen Mary Elementary School from Mrs. Hicks was “Robin in the Rain.”  There is a reason there is a song about it.  Look how the plants and animals respond with joy to the rain.  Close your eyes and take a big breath and try to describe it.  Look up and notice how the clouds change.

Expect that almost every day will be an outdoor day.  And smile about it 🙂

Wild About Vancouver

Wild About Vancouver is a celebration of the outdoors being held from April 18-25, 2018.  Activities are planned by individuals, schools, sports organizations and community groups and centres.  All activities planned during the week are free to participants.   The goal for the week is to generate lots of energy, ideas and momentum for participation in outdoor learning, activities and fun that continues well beyond the week long celebration.  There are lots of opportunities to participate.

  1. Get ideas and register on the Wild About Vancouver  website. Tweet out lesson ideas, activities, events and blog links.  Be sure to include @WildAboutVan so we can retweet and generate some excitement!

Hashtags #getoutside #getoutdoors #outdoorlearning #outdoorclassroom #natureschool 

3.  Email blog posts to banack@ubc.ca

4.  Encourage a friend to participate in an outdoor activity.

  • Ideas from University Hill Elementary School for the 2018 Wild About Vancouver
    • scheduled weekly nature school / outdoor learning experiences
    • Hatch butterflies in the classroom
    • Create a butterfly garden for them to live in when they are released
    • Create an Outdoor Classroom
    • Start a leadership group to teach playground games
    • Plant Potatoes.
    • Start Worm Composting
    • Raise salmon fry  and release them into the wild
    • Read Gillian Judson’s new book, A Walking Curriculum with your staff or community group and try out a few of the walks or ALL 60!
    • Host an Earth Day Barbeque

#GetOutside  #HaveFun

For those interested outdoor enthusiasts outside the Lower Mainland of Vancouver, British Columbia, consider of the continuing the movement in your community!