Amazing Corn Mazes

1usamapmazeCorn (also known as maize) is amazing! It is one of the most versatile vegetables and was originally cultivated in Mexico over 7,000 years ago. According to the Department of Agronomy at Iowa State University, the Europeans first discovered corn in 1492, when Christopher Columbus and his sailing crew discovered this new grain in Cuba. 

1corn cakesFresh corn on the cob is a summer favorite for many corn lovers; however, corn can also be enjoyed any time of the year in soups, salads, salsas, breads, muffins, fritters, pancakes and casseroles. It can be used as cornmeal, cornstarch, corn syrup, corn silk tea, corn oil, and popcorn. Did you know it is also used in glue, ethanol, whiskey, and penicillin? Even decorating with colored corn, creating cornhusk dolls, weaving cornhusk baskets, and making corncob toys can be fashionable artistic activities. You can find cornhusk craft projects throughout the Oak Meadow curriculum.

1corn-mazeIn the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, corn mazes became another featured aspect of corn usage. These popular configurations are currently found in every state in the US. The biggest maze in the country is the Richardson Adventure Farm, located in Spring Grove, Illinois.  Along with enjoying fall festivals and viewing the beautiful fall foliage, you might like to make plans for packing up a picnic and visiting a farm near you to enjoy some old fashioned family fun meandering through a corn maze. Here is a list of corn mazes for each state in the US.

Happy Fall and Happy Funtober!

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Let us know!

Tell us about your favorite corn maze.

Happy Earth Day to You!

Happy Earth Day to you!

Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on or near April 22nd. This special day was created and first celebrated forty-five years ago in 1970. It was founded by Wisconsin’s U.S. Senator, Gaylord Nelson, who strongly believed in the need to support environmental protection and to provide environmental awareness.

apple heart with child holding earthFamilyEducation.com offers eight simple ways to celebrate Earth Day with your children:

1) Read a nature-inspired book.

2) Up-cycle trash into an eco-friendly craft by creating a craft from recycled material.

3) Take a family hike or bike ride.

4) Build a bird feeder and feed the birds.

5) Open your windows to the fresh spring air and listen to the sounds of nature.

6) Get outside, pick up trash, go on a scavenger hike, or plant some flowers.

7) Cook with local produce and grow your own vegetable garden.

8) Conduct a science experiment that teaches about the greenhouse effect.

Celebrating Earth Day is a beautiful way to demonstrate your love for the planet. evergreen_3rsRemember to make every day Earth Day, and teach your children the values in recycling, reusing, and reducing. Practicing the three R’s of the environment helps to restore and replenish this beautiful world in which we live. No matter what the ages of your children might be, loving and protecting the planet  is one of the most important lessons we can teach to them.

I’d like to leave you with a story that offers inspiration to me. It is called “Being Green“. This is a lesson in conservation that we all need.

Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the much older woman that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this ‘green thing’ back in my earlier days.”

The young clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

She was right — our generation didn’t have the ‘green thing’ in its day.

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over.

So they really were recycled.

But we didn’t have the “green thing” back in our day.

Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags, that we reused for numerous things, most memorable besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks. This was to ensure that public property, (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribbling. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags.

But too bad we didn’t do the “green thing” back then.

We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.

But she was right. We didn’t have the “green thing” in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that young lady is right; we didn’t have the “green thing” back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana . In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she’s right; we didn’t have the “green thing” back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

But we didn’t have the “green thing” back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service in the family’s $45,000 SUV or van, which cost what a whole house did before the “green thing.” We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.

But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the “green thing” back then?

sacramentoearthday_dana gray

Immersing Yourself in the Emerging Spring – Part 2

Here is Part 2 of “Immersing Yourself in the Emerging Spring”, written by Oak Meadow’s k-8 teacher, Sarah Antel. 

Into the Forest

The forest is a place where the spring awakening can be observed and experienced. It is often in the forest that magic can happen. Your child can experience hearing similar to that of an animal with large ears; have them close their eyes and cup their hands around their ears. They can slowly turn around and see if they hear noises they did not hear before. You could each try it and count how many sounds you each can hear.

1Mid May 2011 134A common place for many small creatures to hide is under rotting logs. If you slowly roll one over you may find a variety of insects and spiders, worms, fungi and molds, and perhaps a salamander! If you do find a larger creature like a salamander when you roll a log, set the log off the the side of where the animal is so you do not accidentally squish it. The animal will find its way back to its hiding spot. Keep in mind that salamanders are very sensitive as they breath through their skin. If you pick one up, make sure to not have lotion or bug spray on your hands. You can always rub dirt on your hands to help block the salamander from these products. 

18796358_f248You and your child can make a terrarium so observation skills can be practiced even if the weather is inclement as well as learning the invaluable skill of caring for a living organism. There are almost as many ways to make a terrarium as there are things to fill it with. One of my favorite methods is to use a quart sized canning jar.

 

Begin the collection of materials by examining the forest floor. What can each of16a01348109b26f970c016304b39c5a970d-pi you see when you look closely at the layers of soil in the woods? Scoop some of these layers up and gently lay them in the bottom of the jar. What does your child notice the next layer is in the woods heading up from the soil? Try and use materials from each layer, as is appropriate to the size of your jar, to create a miniature habitat. You can plant seedlings and moss in the soil, insects and other small creatures can be added if you do not plan on keeping the terrarium much longer than a week. Once the terrarium is complete, sprinkle some water into the jar if the soil seems dry, then spread a piece of plastic wrap over the jar top, use a rubber band or canning jar ring to hold the plastic in place, and carefully poke several small holes into the plastic wrap to allow fresh air to circulate.

Finally, you may want to build a fairy house with your child; this is a long time favorite 1b40d695e828a3993e309e9543a892a32outdoor activity that effectively explores the magical side of our surroundings. I like to use natural objects from nature. When I have built these with children, I ask them to allow plants to grow, that is, trying to not uproot a plant or use leaves that are attached to a living plant. I have had fun with students by altering the fairy house when they are gone in such a way so the child imagines that fairies or gnomes visited during the night. Two books that I have found inspiration in are, Fairy houses… Everywhere! by Barry and Tracy Kane, and Fairy Houses written and illustrated by Tracy Kane.

191VB0ZlJQyLSpring holds so many promises of new discoveries with each day. A favorite book from my childhood that I still use is the true story of a family that ventures outside the night of each full moon of the year. They wrote about what they did and the animals they saw; I highly recommend Walk When the Moon is Full by Frances Hamerstrom.  I hope you are able to take the time to slow down with your child and spend some extra moments with a discovery or question that may be found in nature.

Immersing Yourself in the Emerging Spring – Part 1

Oak Meadow’s k-8 teacher, Sarah Antel, wrote this inspirational two-part article.

The light is winning over the darkness of night, the snow patches are becoming far and few between, and evenings are spent out on the porch again. While I am sitting watching nightfall, I find myself holding my breath and listening hard for one of my favorite harbingers of spring: the song of the spring peepers, a small frog that sings mightily this time of year. 1spring-peeper-frog_722_600x450

In the spring there are many events occurring, almost daily it seems, as plants and animals begin the annual spring awakening. One’s senses seem almost to explode with information from your outdoor environment. You can help your child to experience this sensory wonder through some favorite activities.

At the Water’s Edge

Creeks and ponds are beginning to swell with both plant and animal life. Take a little field trip to a creek, river, lake, or pond. Your child may see newts or tadpoles in the water; they may observe green leaves emerging on a pond’s bank. Many of the creatures living in the water are too small to see with a glance; most are insect larvae, or baby insects not more than an inch or two long.

You and your child can observe these fascinating creatures by creating a net to temporarily catch them with. All you need is a metal coat hanger, a stick, sticky tape, and an old pair of tights or nylons. Bend the coat hanger to make a diamond shape; take one of the legs from the nylons and stretch it over the diamond. Have your child find a stick outside about half his height. Unbend the hook of the hanger and tape the stick to it to make a handle. When using the net, make sure to scrape along the bottom in the mud, as this is where many of the smaller creatures hide.

Rocks are usually easy to come by along a river’s or creek’s banks. Your child can choose two rocks that easily fit in her hands; she can get them wet, and then rub the rocks together to see if they are soft enough to form ‘rock paint’. After rubbing the wet rocks together, have your child run a finger along one rock, if rock paint was made, she will see the colored natural paint on her finger. Your child can paint with it, or he can put designs on his face, hands, and arms.

Spring Shoots

 

It’s Sugarin’ Season!

1-Sarah AntelOak Meadow’s k-8 teacher, Sarah Antel, shared this wonderful article on her thoughts regarding the tapping of maple trees. I hope you enjoy reading her wit and wisdom on the subject of the “Sugarin’ Season”!

It is hard to imagine on a subzero day, but trees will soon be ‘waking up’ as their life-giving sap starts to flow from the roots, where it was stored in the shortening days of autumn, to the leaf buds awaiting to unfurl. One tree in particular in the Mid-West and North Eastern United States and Canada provides more than beautiful scenery.

The Sugar Maple, Acer saccharum, is tapped this time of year so humans can harvest its sap; the liquid will ultimately be boiled into maple syrup or maple sugar. The Sugar Maple is tapped because its sap has the highest sugar content relative to other tree species (2%-3%). North America is the primary producer of maple syrup.  The weather is ideal for this sap flow; the nights are below freezing so sap stops flowing, and the spring days are warm and often sunny, which encourages sap flow. A weather pattern such as this prevents the tree from turning sugars to starch. Once the nights are above freezing, and the days warm into the 50s, the sap will turn and is no longer ideal for making high quality maple syrup.

1-Sap-Buckets-in-the-SnowThe modern maple sugaring industry has made sugaring an efficient and scientifically driven business. However, many of the tools used now still have distant roots in their ancestry. The Native Americans were the first people to make maple syrup. There are many stories of how this wonderful tradition was discovered. One story tells of how a warrior sunk his tomahawk into a tree trunk and water flowed out; his wife then boiled meat in the water and it made syrup. Another legend tells of a Native American finding a sweet icicle formed from the liquid of a broken maple branch.

Native Americans’ methods of making syrup were rather ingenious. Some tribes collected the sap in birch bark baskets or hollowed out logs. They allowed the liquid to freeze overnight, then they removed the layer of ice as the sugar did not freeze. Several nights of freezing and removing the ice left them with a much sweeter liquid as the sugar content became higher. Another method, which may have been paired with the ice removal, involved adding hot rocks to the sap; this would cause the sap to boil and the water to evaporate. The sugar again became concentrated and the liquid thicker.

1-home sugarin' grandpaToday, no matter a person’s level of technology, the methods of making maple syrup remain essentially unchanged. If you live in a part of the world where the weather allows for maple sugaring, you can make your own syrup with just a few buckets to collect sap in. If you do not live in a maple producing region, you can still include this rich lesson in your curriculum. Sugaring has so many cross curricular connections; one can explore density, history, measurement, botany, nutrition, geography, etc. The list goes on!

Whatever you choose to do with the information, enjoy sugaring season where ever you are, and the next time you put maple syrup on your pancakes, you will know a bit more about where your food came from.

1-sugar shack

Animals in Love!

Oak Meadow’s science curriculum in grades k-4 offer blocks of animal study. Did you know that some animals have a natural and innate ability to share love with each other? As we find ourselves nearing the special holiday of love, Valentine’s Day, here are some fun facts about animals in LOVE!

What animals kiss? Snails do. So do many fish. One fish, known as the “kissing gourami”, has been observed kissing for as long as 25 minutes! Manatees hug one another and kiss, too.

What animal brings gifts to his sweetheart? Male spiders offer the female delicacies, such as a fly wrapped in a web. This is done for self-preservation in that the present keeps the female’s attention long enough to give the male time to get away before the female tries to eat him.

How to elephants show affection? They wrap their trunks around each other and swish their tails back and forth.

How to elephants fend off unwanted romantic advances? WIth a slap of the trunk.

What is the most family-oriented animal? The wolf. Wolves usually mate for life, and they even make a point of controlling their population! Generally, a “pack” of wolves consists of a father, mother and their offspring. Only two in each pack mate, but older brothers and sisters all help raise the newborn.

Which animal is best at playing hard to get? The lady porcupine who, if not interseted, will threaten the male by raising her quills!

Which are the least romantic animals? Zebras, wild horses and the male orangutan (who is a real brute).

Which animals are most romantic? Gorillas, elephants and lions all show affection and are very tender lovers to their mates.

If you are interested in some concrete evidence of animals sharing affection, I think you will love viewing the BuzzFeed Community’s selection of “40 Photos of Animals in Love“.

Also, if you haven’t yet had the opportunity to read last year’s Heart of the Meadow blog post on “Personal Visions for Valentine’s Day“, I encourage you to take a moment to read and reflect on the special love that you share with your children and all those you love.

1Paws-for-the-News-picture-of-parrots-in-love-www.pawsforthenews.tv_

Magic Moon

moon over water

The Moon
by Robert Louis Stevenson

The moon has a face like the clock in the hall;
She shines on thieves on the garden wall,
On streets and fields and harbour quays,
And birdies asleep in the forks of the trees.

The squalling cat and the squeaking mouse,
The howling dog by the door of the house,
The bat that lies in bed at noon,
All love to be out by the light of the moon.

But all of the things that belong to the day
Cuddle to sleep to be out of her way;
And flowers and children close their eyes
Till up in the morning the sun shall arise.

In the first and second grades, the Oak Meadow curriculum suggests creating a monthly calendar to observe and understand the rhythmical monthly cycles of the moon. In third grade, the syllabus explores the moon cycle and its effect upon the plants and animals. The fourth grade astronomy block offers a more extensive study of the moon, including a focus on lunar eclipses.

 

bloodredmoon03Next week, a total lunar eclipse will occur in the late evening of April 14th and in the early morning hours of April 15th .  It is known as the blood moon eclipse and will be visible across North America. This blood moon tetrad will reoccur three more times at intervals of six months. The video clip by NASA explains this special event in further detail. Here is another video clip from “The Weather Channel” to further whet your appetite! 

 

Many poets have written inspirational poems about the moon. The famous Robert Louis Stevenson bookStevenson poem, “The Moon”, has even been put into a lovely book format, whimsically illustrated by Tracey Campbell Pearson.

 

 

 

 

The following poem was written by Olivia Freitas. Perhaps it would be a good one for your children to learn and recite in preparation for viewing this upcoming, extraordinary phenomenon of the magic moon.

Moon

the moon the moon
shining brightly in a pool of water
the moon the moon
glistening so brightly on the ground
the moon the moon
like a white shining marble floating in the sky
the moon the moon
what would we do without the moon

moonspell

Wilson A. Bentley – The Snowflake Man

“Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated. When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind.”

Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley 1925

Many Oak Meadow families who live in the northern hemisphere have received an abundance of snow this winter. It just keeps snowing and blowing! Old King Winter sits on his icy throne with sheer pride and pleasure, with his spritely right hand man, Jack Frost, at his side.

The snow flakes this season have been amazing! I have personally seen the largest snowflakes EVER in my life! Some have even fallen with crystalline color. It brings to mind a man by the name of Wilson Bentley, better known as the Snowflake Man.

Bentley was a farmer who grew up and lived in Vermont. As a young boy, he was home schooled. He had a natural affinity with nature, and with snowflakes in particular. He received his first microscope on his 15th birthday (in 1881) and began examining snowflakes. He soon discovered that no snowflake is like any other. At the age of 19, Bentley took his first micro-photograph of a snowflake, and this was the beginning of a passionate hobby. He spent his entire adult life photographing snowflakes, and by the time he died in 1931, he had photographed over 5,000 images. Imagine that!

The Oak Meadow syllabus in kindergarten and in first grade offers the artistic project of making paper snowflake designs. Mrs. Novak, a Title One Teacher Trainer at the Nashua, New Hampshire Elementary Technology Integration website (“Snowflake Bentley and Wonderful Winter Snow”) offers a wide variety of other artistic projects, games, and educational exercises on snowflakes that might interest you.

 

William Bentley’s official home site also provides an assortment of books for all ages on this marvelous “Snowflake Man”. If you are fortunate to live close to or pass by Jericho, Vermont, you can visit the Bentley Museum to view his photographed snowflakes and to learn more about his fascinating life and the captivating beauty of snow!

 

 

Oak Meadow’s fourth grade syllabus offers a block on poetry, which involves creating a portfolio of freestyle, rhyming and acrostic poems. Student Maren Doughty wrote a lovely acrostic poem on “SNOWFLAKES“…

Smelling hot chocolate
Now winter is here
Outside we go!
Wind howling
Freezing fingers and noses
Lots of snow angels shaped in the snow
All the gournd is covered white
Kids building snowman
Everyone is excited
Seeing snowflakes falling