June 8, 2019 – Fire and Fireflies

On Saturday, June 8, WRN kids got to learn all about fireflies! It was a gorgeous night. When we got to Laurel Creek, we saw two deer!

While we waited for the sun to set, we had a camp fire. We tried to roast the perfect marshmallow, but many got burnt. They still tasted good! 

We caught really cool bugs and put them in a bug apartment. We saw a raccoon scurry through the field. We played catch while we waited for dark.

After our fire, we hiked to the storm management pond. We heard green frogs and tree frogs. We saw a bat. We waited for it to get dark. We noticed orange flashes, they were fireflies! The male fireflies flash to impress the females. We actually caught some. They only live for a couple of weeks. We have never seen a firefly before, it was awesome.

Even though it was way past our bedtime, it was worth it. We hope to have more fun with fireflies again!
By Ada and Alice

Thanks to Ada and Alice, sisters who are WRN Kids members, for a great report!

This special evening program was the wrap-up for our 2018-19 year. Thank you to David O’Reilly, our naturalist this time who built a great fire and helped us discover lots of cool things. Thanks to Mary-Anne Cain for coordinating our programs at Laurel Creek Nature Centre.

Thanks to the volunteers who helped out over the year: Linden Imeson Jorna, Linda Dutka, Pat Bigelow, Zack Stevens, Kristi Neufeld, Cathy McKerron, and Giselle Carter who will be WRN Kids coordinator for 2019-2020. Also, much appreciation to Cathi Stewart for putting Kids on Facebook and to Paul Bigelow for putting us on the WRN website, managing registrations, and doing many other jobs.

And, as usual, thanks to the families who were part of WRN Kids this year! We love your enthusiasm about nature! Don’t forget to sign up for the fall!

Marg Paré
WRN coordinator 2018-19

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May 25, 2019 – Turtles

Today’s topic was turtles.  We played a game where some of us were turtles and the other ones were cars.  I was a painted turtle. I learned that turtles have trouble crossing roads.

We did a turtle circle.  The turtles were Shelldon, a painted turtle, and Franklin, a red-eared slider. Shelldon is covered with red and smaller than Franklin.  Shelldon was really fast and Franklin was kind of fast.

We went outside and saw frogs at the pond. We saw one green frog and lots of leopard frogs.  We saw a turtle nesting area by the pond, which looked like a giant sand pile. Turtles lay their eggs in sand. I felt wet by the pond because it was raining.  It started light and then got hard and then there was no rain. It was crazy!

We went back inside and the kids made turtle crossing signs. They are to keep people from killing turtles by running them over.  The grown ups made turtle nesting boxes.

I felt happy about today because I learned a lot about turtles. I liked being a turtle in the game and that was my favourite part of the day.

Coralie – WRN Kids member

May 4, 2019 – SpruceHaven

WRN Kids and WRN Teens were invited to SpruceHaven Farm to watch the bird-banding and see the Barn Swallow project with David Gascoigne. Then, Kids families went with botanist Jenn McPhee to learn wildflowers while Teens went with Sandy Hill, one of the owners of the farm, to plant trees.

… and the Kids found salamanders!

Eastern Red-backed Salamander

For a full report on the bird-banding with lots of photos, see David Gascoigne’s blog at: Bird Banding and Annual Visit of Waterloo Region Nature Kids and Teens to SpruceHaven

April 28, 2019 – Tree Planting

WRN Kids — Tree Planting — April 27, postponed to April 28, 2019

WRN Kids were looking forward to planting trees again this April, this time in the woods to fill in a thin area. But, on our last Saturday meeting day, there was a violent wind and we had to cancel! All those little trees still needed to get into ground so families who were available and some other generous helpers came out on Sunday afternoon to get the job done.

Mary-Anne Cain, coordinator at Laurel Creek Nature Centre, got us equipped and explained where we were headed.  We walked a long way to get to the spot!  Some folks worked at digging and planting and the others walked back and forth, carrying more trees to the planters.  Afterwards, we were all tired, happy and proud of our work.  Mary-Anne was probably the happiest of all since she has wanted new trees in that part of the woods for a long time!

Now the forest has about 40 new trees and we can go visit them to see how they’re growing and how that spot is filling in.  Thanks to Mary-Anne for the idea, to Paul Bigelow for organizing the finances, and to Paul (again), Jim Stewart, and Megan from Teens for answering our last-minute call for help…  and of course, thanks to the Kids families who reorganized their weekend, brought friends and siblings and worked so hard!  You’re the best!
Marg Paré

March 30, 2019 – Traditional Indigenous Skills

Have you ever wondered how the indigenous peoples teach their children? To make it as interesting as possible, they use games! We did the same, playing games to improve throwing, archery, and Lacrosse. Even though it was rainy, it was still an amazing outing that was very educational and interesting. Read on to learn more!

The first skill we learned was Lacrosse, a game played with nets on sticks that originally had no rules except try to score. It was originally played with the goals in each of the villages competing, and could prove lethal. In order to learn the basic skills of the game, (passing, catching, and scooping the ball) we were instructed to launch the ball into the air and attempt to catch it in our nets. Once we had mastered this, we moved on to passing the ball to each other with a fairly low degree of success. Lacrosse is a valuable skill because the indigenous peoples would use it instead of warfare. Now, on to the next skill!

After Lacrosse, we moved on to spear throwing, in which we tested our accuracy on moving targets by attempting to throw “spears” through rolling hula hoops. In this, we had more success, although the “spears” were really just sticks. Thankfully, no one was injured.

Finally, we moved on to my favourite skill, archery. We were instructed to hold a steady stance and fire two shafts each at the target. However, many of the adults present found the bows too light to draw, as they all only had a draw weight of fifteen pounds. Success was mixed, and I found it hard because it was raining in my eyes.

In conclusion, all of the skills were important, for both hunting and sporting purposes. In my opinion, archery was the most enjoyable, although I’m sure others felt differently. All of the activities conveyed a feeling of satisfaction to me, whenever I hit a target, or caught a ball. This was definitely one of our best outings yet!

Written by Spencer, WRN Kids member

Bravo and thank you to Spencer, our wonderful reporter this time!  It’s exciting to have Kids taking on this role!  Thanks also to naturalist Rachel for enthusiastically leading us out into the rain, to WRN webmaster Paul for posting this for us, and to all the WRN Kids volunteers, families and Kids for another great morning together!

February 23, 2019 – Predator-Prey Simulation Game

We started our meeting by talking about the Nature Connection Pyramid. It tells you outdoor things to do each day, week, month and year. The higher up on the pyramid, the more extreme the activity. Daily is like playing outside. Weekly is more like taking a walk in the woods or gardening. Monthly is like going to a conservation area – which we do every month with Nature Kids. And then yearly is out into complete wilderness. I thought that between going to school and playing in our yard we did okay daily. Weekly, we struggled a little bit. Monthly, we come to Nature Kids. And yearly, if you are an outdoor family, you are likely going to do something. We usually do it on holidays.

Then Rachel, who was our leader that day, told us how to play predator prey. She explained the different levels of the food web: herbivore, omnivore, carnivore, the disease and human. I’ve never played with the disease before. We started playing. We all started with 5 sticks, and we were trying to collect food and water and watch out for our predators – the people who could tag us. Everybody could tag the herbivores. Everybody except the herbivores could tag the omnivores. The human and the disease could tag the carnivores. Only the human can call out the disease. The disease can get everybody.

We all had 5 popsicle sticks – those were like our lives. Every time someone tagged us, we had to give them one of our popsicle sticks. There were food and water scattered around the play area. We each had a card with spots for food and water. There were 6 food and 6 water around the play area – and each one had a hole-punch with a special pattern on it. When we had a set of food and water, we could go back to where we started – which Rachel called the Nature Sanctuary, and if we were a herbivore, we could get 3 more lives; if you were an omnivore you could get 1 extra life; if you were a carnivore you couldn’t get any.

I was an omnivore. I started with 5 sticks, I got 6 from sets, and I tagged 22 people. I got tagged 9 times. How many popsicle sticks did I have at the end?

At the end of the game, Rachel asked how many sticks we still had, as well as how much food and water we had. Depending on how many popsicle sticks you had, she would either tell you that you were an endangered species or overpopulated. If you had a few popsicle sticks, it meant there were not a lot of your species left – either because you had too many predators, or because you didn’t have food and water. If you had lots of popsicle sticks, that meant that you were overpopulated. Then we talked about when one species goes down, their prey numbers go up, and then the prey go down because the hungry predators eat them and then it keeps repeating.

I thought the game was a lot of fun, and we had a big space. There weren’t many actual hiding spots, so you would normally just stay away from your predators while trying to get to the foods and waters. It was fun because you could hide from people and chase people and try to survive.

Written by Joel – age 9, WRN Kids member

Thanks to first-time reporter, Joel, for that awesome description!  Thanks also to Rachel, an amazing naturalist whom we met for the first time Saturday, to the WRN Kids volunteers who help out with whatever needs done, to WRN webmaster, Paul, for posting this, and of course, to the Kids and their families who make learning about nature together such fun.

February 2, 2019 – Off-trailing at Huron Natural Area

This Saturday, a group of us from Nature Kids went exploring off-trail at Huron Natural Area in Kitchener. Generally, we know to stay on the trails, so we don’t disturb living things in the forest, but in winter when the plants are dormant, much less damage is done. The children really enjoyed taking turns being leaders and forging a path through the forest. Using our new information about tracking from our last meeting, we discussed the tracks we found and followed their trails looking for more clues.

We came across an odd metal contraption in the middle of the woods, and after much discussion about its possible use: wolf trap? bear trap? tree trap? we decided it was evidence left from when humans lived on the property.

Further on, we came across an amazing root system of a group of trees that had fallen. There was lots of discussion about why the trees fell. The children put their great observation skills to use noticing fungus on the tree and small holes by the trunks where animals may have burrowed. There was lots of discussion about animal habitat and whether insects and other small animals were still using it as their home. Additionally, of course there was climbing on the trunks and poking holes through the root system with sticks!

Later, we came upon a creek that appeared to be frozen…. but we quickly discovered that it wasn’t very thick at the edges. We also saw a great spot for a small animal to find shelter under tree roots. Some of us imitated them, in a branch shelter we found.

To finish the morning, the children worked together remodeling the snow forts that someone had built. We had a great morning together exploring, wondering, discovering, and enjoying an amazing park!

Giselle Carter for WRN Kids

January 26, 2019 – Winter Tracking

Winter is tricky! Would we do snowshoeing or tracking at Laurel Creek Nature Centre for our January activity? The snow-rain-ice-snow over the previous few days didn’t make good snowshoeing conditions so the WRN Kids families transformed themselves into winter nature detectives and went tracking!

Our wonderful naturalist, Ian Hendry, got us thinking about how we might know what animals are around and we came up with lots of ideas. We bundled up, headed outside and found lots of evidence of creatures sharing space with us.

We saw tracks of all kinds. We found a tuft of deer fur beside deer tracks quite close to the nature centre door! We saw several different small mammal tunnels. We compared our feet size to tiny tracks.

We even saw an animal hole where we know an animal was in there breathing because of the ice crystals around the opening. We saw chewing and scratching evidence. Of course, we saw scat and learned a few unpleasant facts about rabbits’ strange eating habits! We even saw evidence of insects — a Goldenrod Gall and a cocoon! We saw lots of kinds of birds and an Eastern Cottontail Rabbit in person!

We learned lots about how to use our senses for tracking and we hope to practise our skills at home and in our neighbourhoods.

Stay tuned to find out whether we get to go snowshoeing for our February activity!

January 12, 2019 – Christmas Bird Count for Kids

WRN Kids and WRN Teens had a special opportunity recently: rare Charitable Research Reserve hosted their third annual “Christmas Bird Count for Kids” on January 12 and we were all invited!

There was a large group this year, including a few of our WRN Kids families. First, we all learned about birdwatching basics from Adam in the Slit Barn, then everyone headed out in small groups, each led by an expert birder (including Adam and WRN members David Gascoigne, Fraser Gibson and Josh Shea as well as rare staff Emily Leslie) to count all the birds they could find. The Kids were enthusiastic in spite of the cold, managed their binoculars like pros, understood why we walked to several different habitats, and saw an impressive number of birds! They enjoyed warming up afterwards with a hot chocolate in the ECO Centre next door.

As well, four of our dedicated WRN Teens volunteered to help out at the event, filling feeders, assisting group leaders, moving furniture, and washing dishes. While doing jobs that needed to be done, they were also super role models for the Kids.

Huge thanks to rare for hosting, the volunteer birders for continuing to inspire us all, the parents for getting their families outside, the Teens for volunteering early on a cold Saturday morning, and especially the Kids for wanting to learn about and protect nature!

Jenna Quinn, rare Program Scientist summarizes:
“Together, we identified 23 species and made over 900 individual observations, of (accounting for duplicate observations) approximately 275 birds. Canada Geese were the most abundant species we observed, and every group was able to spot a juvenile Bald Eagle perched in a tree. Two groups were lucky to see three Eastern Bluebirds, a rarity at this time of year.”

See the full results below. We’re all pretty proud to be contributing to Citizen Science with our Bird Count! Can’t wait to do it again next year!

WRN Kids & Teens coordinator
Marg Paré

November 24 2018 — The Night Sky

WRN Kids was a bit different this month; we met in the evening to learn about the night sky! Sadly, the sky was overcast so our program was all indoors. The Kids were still excited to learn about astronomy and had really great questions.
Ian, one of the amazing GRCA naturalists, showed us the night sky on his computer! With software that “sees” through the clouds, we used the computer as a telescope to see constelllations and planets, as a space ship to see the view if we landed on the moon or Mars, and even as a time travel machine as we sped up the changes in the sky.
IMG_2290
Afterwards, several volunteers from the KW branch of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada showed us their toys! We couldn’t see the sky through their several telescopes but we did get to touch them and learn a bit about how they work. After chatting with the amateur astronomers, the Kids took home sky charts to try out on a clearer night.

Thanks to Ian, the RASC volunteers, all the Kids volunteers, Mary-Anne from Laurel Creek who organized our evening — and to the wonderful Kids and their families. We all learned lots!

WRN Kids won’t be meeting in December. Our next activity is the Christmas Bird Count for Kids at ‘rare’ on January 12. See you there!