mystery The answer to the clues may be found at the bottom of this column.    Teachers and Parents: Enter to win an entire set of Dawn’s nature books of one title for your home or classroom. It's fun and easy!
Just read the clues below. They describe an aspect of nature—a plant, animal, mineral, habitat, or natural process.
When you're ready to make your guess about who or what I am, click ENTER NOW.
Who Am I?
spacerglass1 Clue 1:  I'm a member of the "dog family."
glass1 Clue 2:  I live throughout North America in deserts, prairies, forests, and even in towns and cities.
glass1 Clue 3:  You might hear me howling at night to communicate with my pack.
glass1 Clue 4:  Don't let me trick you—I am NOT a wolf.
Do you think you know who I am? ENTER NOW.
Entries should be submitted no later than noon on Friday.
If you guessed correctly, you’re automatically entered into the monthly drawing for a set of nature books from Dawn Publications.
A contest winner will be announced at the end of September.
Throughout the school year, clues for a new Who Am I are posted no later than Sunday night, so you can use them with your class on Monday morning.Good luck!
The answer to last week's mystery was: SEASHELLS Although Inside Outside Nature blog is changing it's focus, this weekly "Who Am I?" will remain the same! Teachers, click here to get ideas about how to use the contest with your students.  

Monthly Archives: September 2012

Art + Nature = Fun & Inspiration

Single file along the trail.

Last weekend I participated in a wonderful art event that took place entirely in nature called Trails and Vistas. We hiked two miles along a rocky trail, over big granite boulders and through wind-blown junipers. Every so often we stopped to be entertained by an enchanting artistic expression.


We listened to  storytelling and poetry, watched  modern dance,  and were entertained with both humorous story-telling and thought-provoking poetry.


The artists’ backdrop was a brilliant blue sky, playful clouds, and panoramic views! As I passed  a sign for “Stephen’s Pass,” I was reminded that we were walking on the Pacific Crest Trail.

One of the goals of this art and nature event was to build community and inspire environmental stewardship through creative expression, and I especially appreciated our guides encouragement  to be gentle on the earth and with one another…something important to remember whether we’re  in the mountains or in our classrooms.


The activities below encourage children to express their own creativity through a combination of art and nature.



A big “thank you” to David Parry-Jones  for the stunning photos.


Inside: 3-D Dioramas

On the Trails and Vistas hike many 3-dimensional art lined the trail (small books filled with paintings and poetry hanging from trees and paper boats floating in a small pond. In this activity, children create a 3-D Diorama of the plants and animals in a particular habitat. A great resource is the newly-released book Nature’s Patchwork Quilt by Mary Miche.



Outside: Story Circle

A Native American storyteller left us all in laughter as he told the story of a talking turtle. Listening to the story outside gave it added drama.

This outside story-telling activity uses a Talking Stick. Some indigenous tribes used a Talking Stick at gatherings when people came together to tell stories, make decisions, teach children, or solve disputes. A Talking Stick is a carved ceremonial wooden staff that is passed around a circle from one member to another so all can speak and be heard. According to tradition, only the person holding the stick is allowed to speak, while others in the circle listen.

Materials Needed: wooden stick, yarn, feathers, beads


  1. Wrap yarn around bottom & top of a Talking Stick and decorate with feathers & beads.
  2. Take students outside and sit in a circle
  3. One student holds the Talking Stick and begins the story of the “Further Adventures of Suttles and Mako.” (These characters are based on the book Granny’s Clan, but you can adapt it for any story your students know.)
  4. After several sentences, that student passes the Talking Stick to the next student who adds several more sentences to the story, then stops.
  5. Each student adds to the story until the last person brings ends the story to a conclusion.


More Fun with Art and Nature

Make a Paper Collage, as in the book Over in Australia, illustrated by Jill Dubin.






Trina Hunner, illustrator of Molly’s Organic Farm, suggests having students make watercolor sketches of Seasonal Vegetables to reinforce concepts about the seasons.



After reading the book, In the Trees, Honey Bees by Lori Mortensen, children will make Placemat Pictures by drawing two pictures—one showing what bees do in the morning and the other showing what bees do at night. Then they’ll create a placement—one side they’ll use for breakfast, and then they’ll flip over it to use the other side for dinner.



Worldwide Nature Connections

My heightened senses absorbed the breathtaking beauty of the high Sierra Nevada mountains—sparkles of light danced across a crystal blue lake, the wind whistled in the trees, and the scent of pine filled the air. As Goethe said, “A joy shared is a joy doubled,” and I was sharing this mountain experience with 31 nature educators from Japan.*

I formed a special connection with several of these nature educators who were also classroom teachers. Although we had just met, we sat together on the banks of the lake as comfortably as old friends.

Thankfully, their English was better than my Japanese, and we were able to talk about teaching, children, and nature. But we shared something much more important than words—we shared a nature experience that touched our hearts.

We became deeply connected not only to nature, but also to one another. Our differences dropped away, and we were a part of one beautiful world. Truly, nature transcends the boundaries of country and culture.


*They were part of Japanese Nature Games Association, a network of over 11,000 members whose goal is to give children and adults joyful experiences of nature as a vital step towards promoting attitudes of caring for the planet. This association is part of Sharing Nature Worldwide, founded by Joseph Cornell, author of Sharing Nature with Children.




Inside: Mystery Animal Photos

When you can’t go outside for a nature experience, bring nature inside using photos.  Shoshana Leah, a special education teacher in Linda, California, used her students’ love of animals as a motivator in her language arts class. You can adapt this activity to suit your students’ interests and needs.

Pass out an animal photo to each student, instructing them to keep their animal a mystery by not showing their photo to anyone. Give students time to carefully observe their photo, noticing all of the details. One at a time, have students come to the front of the room and describe their animal to the class. When they’ve finished, the rest of the students guess what animal has been described. Alternately, students draw a picture of the animal being described and then compare it with the photo.

This activity, adapted from the “Mystery Animal” activity in Sharing Nature with Children, helps students sharpen skills in observation, listening, language development, and speaking.


Outside: Owls and Crows

One of the activities I played with my new-found Japanese friends was Owls and Crows. It’s a running and tagging game that can be used to review information, reinforce facts, and awaken students’ enthusiasm for learning. Read complete directions on the Sharing Nature Worldwide website.


More Nature Fun and Games

Both adults and children like playing the Camera Game, an observation activity. A  natural setting with both close-up and panoramic views is ideal, but a school yard garden works great too!

Download a PDF of Sharing Nature Activities for Families and Youth Groups that can also be used in the classroom.

The website provides resources for many outdoor nature games.