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Naturalist Blog: Rain Dance

Eyes Open and Minds Ready for Observing Nature

October 4, 2012: After ending our workshop the previous week with a game about deer behavior, I sat a few feet away from a buck a few days later and began this workshop with an account of that experience. I then read the story “Gluscabi and the Wind Eagle” (from Native American Stories, Joseph Bruchac) about a boy who learns to accept the weather. This was my own way of accepting that we could not visit Fort Washington State Park because of the forecasted storms.

Before heading outside, I asked the group to brainstorm a list of the species of plants and animals that we know live in our local ecosystem. I thought that the list would be nice to have as a baseline and to return to add species now and in the spring. Everyone thought separately first and then called out from their lists as I wrote them on the boards. We filled the boards easily and enjoyed introducing some previously unknown species to each other. One member had an excellent idea to create a Talking Stick field guide as the year goes on.

In my revised rainy day plan, we next took a rain walk, hoping to make the best of the pouring rain to observe the ways in which the flow of the rain water dissolves rock under downspouts, breaks up stone walls, creates paths of erosion on hills, etc.

The challenge to our rain walk, however, was that there was no pouring rain. We took on more of a detective role then and looked for effects of the rain after the fact. We found beautiful patterns of erosion on exposed tree roots, a line of leaf litter deposited by a heavy rain, and stone flaking away near and on the church building. We also observed several decomposers such as pill bugs and millipedes helping to break down the leaf litter, and we enjoyed close looks at a treehopper and a large grasshopper.

Back in our room, we tried out some drawing techniques for capturing images quickly in our nature journals. Using Clare Walker Leslie’s Keeping a Nature Journal as a guide, we practiced making blind contour sketches and modified contour sketches of natural items that the day program participants had collected for us earlier. It was fun to see how quickly the drawings became more accurate with practice.

Finally, we brought out the Private Eye jeweler loupes as a tool for making detailed drawings. We had a great time just looking at the variety of collected items through the loupes before settling on something to draw (For more information about the Private Eye way of looking, visit their website.  And after drawing, some of us wondered what it would be like to look through the Private Eye into a mirror.

The naturalist workshop participants today kept their eyes open and minds ready for observing nature in whatever form it presented, whether it was raining or not.

-- Paige

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