If you want to continue your child’s education even when schools are closed, keep reading. You can help your Junior Kindergarten student learn science by going outdoors and learning. JK kids can directly observe plants and animals outside—in their own neighborhood, in a nearby park, or in a larger open space.
Part of what Junior Kindergarten students learn in local public schools in Cambridge, Mass., is listed here:
Student naturalists explore plants and animals in the classroom and outside. They ask questions and gather information about:
where animals live and why,
the parts of plants and animals, and what they do, and
the needs of living things.
At this age you can begin to keep a nature journal with your child.
Take a short walk and ask your child to describe three (or five, or seven) plants or trees on the walk. You can ask your child to draw them, or instead, just remember them. Together with your child, make up your own name for each plant or tree, if you want. You can use your own language, or English, for the name, whichever you prefer. You can write the names down if you want to, but that’s not necessary. If your child likes to draw, you can ask them to draw each plant.
Example of making up a name for a tree: “big tree with feather branches in front of the library.” (If your child enjoys learning and remembering new words and you know that a tree is called, for example, a willow, go ahead and use that word, which refers to a family of trees).
Ask your child to use as many ways of describing each plant or tree as they can think of.
Examples: “It is taller than our home, ” “I could fit three of me in the trunk,” “the tree’s bark feels rough.”
Take the same walk on a regular schedule. It could be Mondays and Thursdays, or just once a week, or at the same time every day.
TIP: Children are comforted by a regular routine, even if they don’t say so. School routines and schedules help them stay calmer and more focused and ready to learn. You can set up your own routines for home learning, if possible, but don’t worry if you can’t. Going outdoors for this activity will still benefit your child.
Each time you take this same walk during spring, ask your child, “What is different about this plant (or tree) since we saw it before? Let your child have time to think about shape, size, smell, color, or parts of the plant, and tell you about it. You can suggest some descriptive words, but let your child take the lead.
Observing seasonal changes in the environment is a great way to build vocabulary, and to build a set of observations that will naturally lead you and your child to form questions: why and how do plants grow? what do they need to grow and live? What is a flower, and what does it do?
EXTRA: If you want, take pictures (or draw) the plant weekly. You can go back and look at them arranged in time over the next few months, and use them to start a discussion with other family members. Learning words to describe the environment and seasonal change is an important part of science learning for a child at this age, and they can benefit from telling other adults what they saw (just like a scientist communicates to others!).
Cambridge Outdoors is working to expand our existing library of resources for outdoor learning with this post and future posts. We hope these posts will address some of the needs of parents during school closures in March/April/May 2020. Come on over to our Facebook Page, and tell us what you like about it, and what kind of other posts you’d like to see here. And tell us about your outdoor explorations, too!
This post was written by Julie Croston. If you use Instagram and Twitter, check out and use our hashtag #CambMAOutdoorLearning.
When you think of bees, you probably think of someone who looks like this:
The decline of the domesticated European honeybee, Apis mellifera, has had considerable media attention since colony collapse disorder reared its ugly head in the early 2000s. But scientists are documenting the decline of other bee species, native to the U.S. These and other local pollinators play a keystone role in our ecosystems. An example is this—
Bombus fervidus, or Yellow Bumble Bee. Robert Gegear, an assistant professor of biology at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and founder of the Bee-cology Project, will speak on Wed., April 3 at the Cambridge Public Library. His topic? The “beautifully complex interactions between plant species and the insects that pollinate them— intricate ecological systems that we humans are only beginning to understand.”
Meanwhile, The Cambridge Science Festival is once again coming to our city to inspire, confound, entertain, and wow residents and visitors alike. Many festival events are in “Greater Cambridge,” but it all kicks off at the Cambridge Science Carnival, April 13th. The carnival and robot zoo take place in the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School Field House. In the adjacent Joan Lorentz Park, from 1:00 to 3:00 (weather permitting) the giant local species puppets of the Cambridge Wildlife Puppetry Project will roam about.
Later in April, the City Nature Challenge comes to Greater Boston with a full four days of identifying local species in urban, suburban, and rural habitats. Additional information about Cambridge events will be posted here closer to the date.
This month there’s quite a bit going on outdoors in Cambridge for kids, especially on Sundays.
Use your creativity to make box puppets of local animals at Art at the Farm on August 13th, watch the monarch caterpillars grow all month and then be released at Fresh Pond Reservation on August 19th, and become an insect detective (insective?) also at Fresh Pond on August. 26th.
Art and Nature will meet once again in a Cambridge open space on Thursday, July 26. Now postponed to Friday, July 27, due to the weather forecast.
The third annual Fly, Buzz, and Honk! Festival offers guided nature exploration for children, a pollinator relay game, puppet-making, make-your-own nature journal, National Moth Week activities, and an oud performance by Ghassan Sawalhi during lunch hour.
The Cambridge Wildlife Puppetry Project (CWPP), which has produced the event for the past two years, has become part of the nonprofit organization Green Cambridge. Over the past year, Green Cambridge has collaborated with the CWPP to create and distribute four wildlife trading cards for kids in the Cambridge Wildlife series. The four are a tree and three local species that help urban farmers and gardeners. The trading cards will be given out to children at the event.
We’re taking the Cambridge Wildlife Puppetry Project under our wing and carrying on its work.—Green Cambridge Executive Director Steven Nutter
“This was a natural fit,” says Green Cambridge Executive Director Steven Nutter, “Green Cambridge has always been involved in that nexus between the well-being of humans and a healthy environment in Cambridge. We’re taking the Cambridge Wildlife Puppetry Project under our wing and carrying on its work. That includes puppetry and parades and other ways of being outdoors, of taking in the wonder of the natural world.”
The event is open to the public. Activities from 10:00 to 12:00 are geared for children 3–12, and the musical performance is for all ages.
Rain date: Friday, July 27.
PICNIC MUSIC FOR ALL AGES
at the 2018 Fly, Buzz, and Honk Festival
Ghassan Sawalhi is a Palestinian music producer, engineer, composer, arranger and Oudist. At age 11, Sawalhi entered the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music in Ramallah to begin his journey with the Oud. Eight years later, in 2011, he co-founded Bil3axبالعكس (pronounced “Bil’aks”) a contemporary and alternative music band addressing political and social problems, which toured around major venues in Palestine, recording a debut album, 12 Richter.
In 2012 Sawalhi began his journey in music production and engineering by collecting old records of traditional Arabic music and editing them to sound clearer. Over the next two years, as producing & engineering grew into his passion, he produced dozens of singles and collaborated with well-known singers and hip hop artists in the Middle East.
In 2014 Sawalhi was accepted to Berklee College of Music, where he majors in Music Production and Engineering. In addition to his engineering accomplishments, he has actively maintained and improved his oud playing under Simon Shaheen, one of the world’s renowned oud masters. He has performed at major Northeastern venues including Ryles Jazz Club in Cambridge, Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Massachusetts State House. He continues to record, mix and perform in the United States.
Be the early bird. Check out Cambridge bird species before the sun is high.
Summer Bird Walk at Fresh Pond Reservation
Saturday, July 14th
7:30am to 9:30am
Register for parking and meeting place information and to receive information on cancellations due to weather.
The best time to look for birds during the summer is early in the morning, because that is when birds are most active. The air is cool and comfortable and the birds are hungry for breakfast. With walk leader Nancy Guppy, we may find adults feeding babies in the nest, and fledglings begging for food while following their parents. As always, beginning birders are welcome. Binoculars are available to lend. Register with Catherine Pedemonti at firstname.lastname@example.org
Feature photo: Frank Lehman. Dr. Lehman’s photograph of the Carolina Wren at Mount Auburn Cemetery is featured on the latest Cambridge Wildlife Trading Card produced by Green Cambridge, distributed free to Cambridge children at public events such as the Fly, Buzz, and Honk! Festival on July 26th.