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Distance Learning Young Naturalists Club

Why do seasons change? Virtual Field Trip

red trees
Photo by Artem Saranin on Pexels.com

The leaves are beginning to turn orange and fall…but why? What is happening in the solar system that makes the fall come here, while it is warm other places on the planet? And how do the plants and animals react?

Find out in this week’s virtual field trip!

WAYS TO LEARN ABOUT WHY SEASONS CHANGE:

Join the virtual field trip, Friday, Oct. 2 at 10:30 am.

On your own: DIY leaf chromatography

On your own: Model the earth and sun

Seasonal Change Virtual Field Trip: Friday, Oct. 2, 2020

This week’s field trip will try to get to the bottom of why leaves change color. We’ll show you a few experiments that offer evidence. Join us from 10:30 to 11:00!

If you missed it, here is the recording:

If you haven’t registered for our fall field trips yet, go here: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUpcu6qqTsoHNKDfYwskjOqiSjAU_4HxFma. You’ll receive the link to the call in your email.

If you can’t make the field trip, or want to get more out of it, try some of the activities below!

~~We’ll post the recording of the field trip here the following Monday~~

Leaf Experiment

Have you ever looked at the beautiful fall colors of the tree leaves and wondered:

Where do the fall colors come from? 

Well, the old saying that beauty comes from the inside is also true with leaves! When a leaf is first popping out of its bud in early spring, it already has its fall colors inside. Leaves are born with their fall colors.

To prove this you can conduct an experiment. You will need four materials for this activity:

  1. Rubbing Alcohol (Caution: this can be toxic if ingested. Ask for an adults help while handling)
  2. A small container
  3. A few green leaves from the same tree
  4. A coffee filter
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Materials for experiment
  1. Once you have gathered you materials, crush up your leaves by rubbing them between your palms.

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Crushed leaves

2. Place the leaves in the container. Carefully pour the rubbing alcohol over the leaves until most of the leaves are covered.

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Rubbing alcohol pouring over leaves
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Rubbing alcohol covering leaves

3. Stuff the coffee filter into the container so the bottom of it is in the rubbing alcohol

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Coffee filter in jar with leaves and alcohol

4. Now it’s time to wait. Let it sit over night. As the rubbing alcohol breaks down the leaf, the coffee filter will absorb the outer (green) and inner (browns/reds/orange) pigments in the leaves.

As you can see, all those colors were in the leaf all along! Try the experiment with a few different kinds of leaves to see the differences.

Now we see where the fall colors came from. But why do you think the trees don’t need the green anymore in autumn and winter? Leave your ideas in the comments!

All because the Earth is tilted

When fall and winter come, there is less and less sunlight each day. Since trees use sunlight for energy, the trees get less energy. Keeping leaves alive takes a lot of energy, so some trees drop them during this dark time of year.

But why are some times of darker and colder at all? Why are there seasons? It’s all because the Earth is tilted. It doesn’t stand straight up and down. Try the activity below to see why that matters.

Try this: imitate the tilt of the earth at home

Conduct this simple activity to see the difference between the effect of light that hits an object directly and light that hits the object at an angle.  

You will need:

  • a piece of graph paper
  • a ruler
  • a flashlight
  1. Tape the flashlight to the end of the ruler.
  2. First, model sunlight hitting the object directly:  
    • Place the ruler perpendicular to the graph paper (so it makes a 90 degree angle to the paper).  
    • Count the number of squares that you see covered by the light.  
    • Record that number in the table below.
  3. Next, model sunlight hitting the object at an angle:
    • Place the ruler at an angle to the graph paper (your angle can be between 0 degrees and 90 degrees).
    • Count the number of squares you see covered by the light.  
    • Record the number in the table.
LightArea:  # of squaresTemperature?
Direct
Angled

What do you notice about the difference between the angled light and the direct light? 

Which light (angled or direct) do you think would lead to higher temperature?  Why?  Could you hold the light for 10 minutes and test your hypothesis by measuring the temperature? 

Share your ideas in a comment!

Why the tilt causes seasons

You just modeled the tilt of the earth! Just like your paper, the sun hits parts of the earth at different angles. How does this create seasons? Watch this video to see:

“Seasons and the Sun,” from Crash Course Kids, explains why the tilt of the earth and the sun combine to create seasons

Click through the presentation below to review the ideas from the activity and the video:

How are the plants and animals adapting to fall outside? Share a picture or story in the comments!

Categories
Distance Learning Young Naturalists Club

A Call to Protect our Forest—by eating it

Last week, Brett taught us how to forage for tasty wild plants. He told us to only harvest a few plants from any patch. Today, we’re going to discover an exception to that rule. You can pull up every single one of this kind of plant.

It goes by many names: Garlic Mustard, hedge garlic, sauce-alone, jack-by-the-hedge, poor man’s mustard, jack-in-the-bush, garlic root, garlic wort, mustard root.

A picture of young Garlic Mustard

We will call this plant Garlic Mustard during today’s activity, but you can call it any of those names. Scientists have come up with a fancy Latin name to make sure other scientists know exactly what they are talking about. Alliaria petiolata is how scientists say Garlic Mustard. 

This picture of Garlic Mustard was taken by Leigh Casal on iNaturalist

Invasive- Have you heard of an alien invasion before? Invasive plants are kind of like an alien invasion, except they don’t come from outer space. Invasive plants come from distant ecosystems. They are able to grow extremely fast and take over the new ecosystem they are growing in, causing damage to their new ecosystem. They can take up all the food, space, or water, making survival more difficult for the original plants.

Garlic Mustard is an invasive plant from Europe. It’s been slowly taking over our forest for over 150 years! It can even release a chemical in the soil that stops other plants from growing. We need you to help save our forest. All you have to do is pull this plant up wherever you find it!

Luckily removing this invader is simple, easy and rewarding. But first we need to know how to find it.

Categories
Distance Learning Young Naturalists Club

Foraging for ramps

Today we are going to step into the shoes of our ancient ancestors and get a glimpse of what life would have been like 11,000 years ago. There are no farms, no stores, and you are getting hungry. Where do you go to get your food?

The answer, you have to find your food in the wild! This is known as foraging, the process of searching for, identifying and collecting food in the wild. You may already have done a little foraging yourself. Picking mushrooms, blackberries, or onion grass are all examples of foraging. 

What are some other things people might forage for? Take a minute to think about this before you jump into the next section.

Foraging in four simple steps

Step one: Choosing

The first step in our foraging adventure is to choose what edible plant you want to hunt for. There are all kinds of plants that can be eaten, but do a little research to see what grows near you. Make sure that your plant is edible before seeking it out.

As we go through these steps together, we are going to focus on one of my favorite seasonal foods, ramps. Ramps are a species of wild onion that are native throughout eastern North America. They are one of the first plants to pop up in the spring and now is the ideal time to find them!

Step two: Searching

The second step in our foraging adventure is searching for the plant. With a little bit of research I found that ramps like to grow in shady wet areas. They also like low-lying places where water might gather. We can use these clues to think about places near us that are the perfect place for ramps to grow. Can you think of some places around you that are shady and wet?

We thought the best place to look would be the bottom of hills where the soil was wet and mushy. Look at what we found!

Brett talks about finding the best places for wild ramps to grow. By doing just a little bit of research, you can narrow down your search for wild edible plants.

But wait!!! How can we be sure these are ramps? What if they are some other plant that we shouldn’t be eating? This brings us to step three.

Step three: Identifying

The third step in our adventure is identifying the plant. We need to be sure that this is really a ramp and not something that looks similar. There are some other plants that might make us sick if we eat them and we need to be careful to avoid them.

We already looked at some photos of ramps earlier, but we need to look for a few more clues to be sure they are ramps. Check out the video below to learn more!

Eugene teaches us how to identify ramps using methods like the smell test. It is important to make sure this is a ramp and not another plant that could be dangerous if eaten. Be sure to check with an adult or a field guide before harvesting a wild plant.

Step four: Collecting

The fourth step in our adventure is to collect the plant or the parts of the plant we want to eat. With ramps every part of the plant is edible except for the seeds. The bulb has the most flavor, followed by stem and then the leaves. In fact, there are special ways of harvesting each part of this plant!

Here are the three methods that our forestry experts use. Some of these methods ensure the plant grows back next year so we can eat it all over again! Check out the video below to hear from one of our forestry experts.

Here we learned how to collect wild ramps using the whole-bulb removal method. We also talk a little about being safe while foraging. Make sure you do not collect plants from public parks or private property without permission.

This video used the whole plant removal method to collect the entire plant. When using this method it is important to only harvest a little bit of the patch, about 5% at most. We would also need to revisit this site later to plant the seeds of the remaining ramps. Why do you think this is important?

Here we learned how to harvest ramps using the cut-stalk method. While we used a pocket knife in this video a pair of simple scissors would work just as well.

This video used the cut-stalk method of harvesting to collect the stem and leaves of the plant. When using this method it is important to continue to harvest only 5% of the patch at most. Why do you think we can still only harvest 5% of the patch using this method?

Here we learned how to harvest only the leaves of the ramp using the leaf-only method. Ramps grow in tight clumps so make sure you are not harvesting too many leaves from a single plant.

In this video we learned about the leaf-only harvest method. When using this method you should always leave at least one leaf on the ramp so it can continue to grow and even produce seeds later in the season! 

Your Turn

We learned about foraging for ramps, but there are a lot of wild edibles out there. These include onion grass, dandelions, chickweed  and so much more. These plants are much more common than ramps. You may even have them around your home.

Here is an example of Darcy foraging for violets, following our guidelines.

Want to forage in your own yard? Darcy shows you how to identify and gather violets.

If you want to forage for plants, follow the four steps we learned about. Check out the summary below to review.

  1. Choosing

Try foraging for ramps or violets, like we show you here, or do good research. What are some plants you’ve seen recently that might be edible?

When choosing a plant to gather, first make sure it is something you can eat. Some plants even have to be cooked a certain way before they can eat them.

  1. Searching 

Research where your plant grows best. You can use that information to think about where you could find that plant, and make finding it much easier.

Gather plants from places where there are no pets or chemical pesticides.

  1. Identifying

There are all kinds of plants out there and many of them can look alike. In some cases plants that can make you sick or irritate your skin will look a lot like an edible one. Make sure you check with an adult before you handle the plant.

If you aren’t sure of your identification, stop at this step, and share what you’ve learn with us!

  1. Collecting

Be sure to only collect the edible parts of the plant you are finding. In some cases there may even be a way to collect those parts in a way where the plant will still continue to grow. Just like with our ramps example!

Did you hunt for an edible plant? Tell us about below!

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Distance Learning Young Naturalists Club

Week 2 and 3: Edible Plants and Amphibians

Blink and you’ll miss them!

April in southeast Ohio brings some special things that are only around for short time: frogs calling and laying eggs, delicious wild plants, mushrooms, and wildflowers. This week and next, we will show you how to find them before they’re gone.

Here’s what to expect:

Monday, April 6: Vernal Pools, Part 1

Wednesday, April 8: Foraging for Ramps

Friday, April 10: Ecosystems in a jar

Downy yellow violet blooming in leaf litter.
Downy Yellow Violet

Monday, April 13: Vernal Pools, Part 2

Wednesday, April 15: Eating Garlic Mustard to Save the Planet

Friday, April 17: TBD

Click on a link or keep scrolling through the blog to start.

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Distance Learning Young Naturalists Club

Week 1 Round Up

Hello everyone! Today we are going to wrap up the week by sharing what YOU found in the Signs of Spring and iNaturalist lessons.

Then we’ll challenge you to take it further, and investigate dandelions! You’ll investigate when, where, and how many dandelions have popped up–using both your observations, and others’ observations.

This Week’s Finds