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 2013

Jo MacDonald Hiked in the Woods

While I’m hiking in the north woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Guest Blogger Mary Quattlebaum, author of Jo MacDonald Hiked in the Woods, is going to introduce you to one of her favorite forest critters!

By Mary Quattlebaum

Thanks much to Carol for inviting me to be a guest blogger.  I loved her reflections this month on the woods and her challenge to look and listen carefully. And in taking up her challenge, this is what I’ve noticed:

Western Gray Squirrel

Western Gray Squirrel

With autumn, the squirrels have certainly gotten busy!

Gray squirrels are very adaptable animals, meaning they can live in many different places.  I’ve seen them in forests, suburban parks and my backyard in the city.  Do you have squirrels close to your home or school?

Children can learn a lot about wildlife in general by watching squirrels. Here are some fun facts. Gray squirrels:

  • Can bury up to 25 acorns an hour.
  • Have large, leafy nests called dreys.
  • Use their large, bushy tails for balance, shade, and warmth, like a blanket.
  • Have front teeth that never stop growing.  Nibbling helps wear them down.
  • Elude predators by running in a jerky, zigzagging way, hoping to confuse the predator and cause it to change direction.
  • Give birth to furless babies that weigh only one ounce (about as much as a slice of bread or 10 pennies).
  • Communicate through chirps and tail flicks.  Their loud “kuk” bark warns other squirrels of danger.
  • Do not hibernate in winter but do become less active.  They rely on their fat and buried food to survive.
  • Have brains the size of a walnut.

imagesInside:  Squirrel Seek and Share
1.  Ask children to find the squirrel in each illustration in Jo MacDonald Hiked in the Woods and to tell what it is doing and why (hiding, sleeping, eating, staying motionless/being alert, running/bounding, or barking/warning other squirrels of danger).  Can they find examples of a squirrel using its tail for balance, warmth or to warn of danger through tail flicks?

2.  Share this poem with your students.  I loved it as a child because the rhythm and rhyme so vividly capture the sounds and behavior of a squirrel.  Which words did you like best?  Which words best describe a squirrel?  (As age-appropriate, point out rhyme, alliteration, and onomanopoetic words.)


The Squirrel

by Anonymous

Whisky, frisky,

Hippity hop! 
Up he goes

To the tree top!

Whirly, twirly,

Round and round,

Down he scampers
 To the ground.

Furly, curly,

What a tail!

Tall as a feather

Broad as a sail!

Where’s his supper?

In the shell,

Snappity, crackity,

Out it fell.

3. Ask students to write a poem or story about a squirrel preparing for winter, and then to draw a picture of it. What does it see and do?  What sounds does it make?  For younger children, you might, together as a class, write an acrostic poem to the words “SQUIRREL” or “ACORN” (a favorite food for squirrels).


Outside:  Squirrel Detectives
GraySquirrelPrints1. Look for squirrels and identify their actions.  (See Inside, #1, above.)
2. Listen for barks and leaf rustling.
3. Look for evidence, including:

  • tracks.
  • recently dug and covered holes for nuts.
  • small broken, chewed twigs and branches close to trees (evidence of squirrel nibbling, to wear down teeth).
  • acorn hulls or nut shells (evidence of squirrel eating).
  • leafy nests, called dreys, high in trees.
  • small saplings (possibly growing from seeds buried by squirrels).

4. Play a game of “Squirrel Says,” which is like “Simon Says” only the leader calls out squirrel things for the children to do (see Inside, #1, above).  Can be played indoors or out.

More Facts and Fun about Squirrels

  • In a Nutshell by Joseph Anthony, illus. by Cris Arbo.  Shows the growth of an oak tree, a source for one of squirrels’ primary foods.
  • Gray Squirrel at Pacific Avenue by Geri Harrington.
  • Read about Dr. Lishak’s research on squirrel communication and noises.


More about Mary Quattlebaum

quattlebaum_thumbMary Quattlebaum is the author of Jo MacDonald Hiked in the Woods and of two other picture and board books in the Jo MacDonald nature series.  Mary loves speaking at schools and conferences and telling kids that the model for Jo’s grandfather, Old MacDonald, is her father, who shared his knowledge of and appreciation for the natural world with his children and grandchildren.


The Great Nature Project


I just discovered this wonderful opportunity to get your students involved in a world wide celebration of life on the planet sponsored by National Geographic.

It’s called the Great Nature Project!


It’s simple to participate:

  1. Go outside.
  2. Snap a photo of a plant or animal.
  3. Upload it to a photo sharing website.

Go to The Great Nature Project’s educator page for both Inside and Outside ideas you can do with your students this week!

Use this collection of resources to dig deeper into biodiversity, explore citizen science, and develop photography skills. Plan your own species inventory during a bioblitz or learn about conservation of weird and wild flora, fauna, and everything in between. We encourage you to make the Great Nature Project your own—after all, we are all explorers.

And don’t forget to read my other new blog this week, Leaf It to Me!


Leaf it to Me!

fall_leavesAutumn officially arrived on Sunday, September 22nd. In my neck of the woods, the temperatures dropped and we had a brief  downpour…just enough rain to announce that FALL is here.

At the end of this week, I leave for my annual “pilgrimage” to the north woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I’m looking forward to seeing the incredible autumn colors in the forest. But what makes leaves change from green to yellows, reds, browns, and purples?

It all has to do with photosynthesis—how trees make their food using sunlight and a pigment in their leaves called chlorophyll. It’s the chlorophyll that gives leaves their green color. As temperatures drop and the days become shorter, trees stop making food and the amount of chlorophyll inside of leaves decreases. With less chlorophyll, the other colors in leaves (orange and yellow) become visible. These colors were in the leaves all summer, but the green color of the chlorophyll covered them up. When the chlorophyll leaves, the leaves show their other colors.

Red, purple, and brown colors are the result of other chemical reactions that occur inside leaves when the temperature drops—leftover food (glucose) in leaves causes red and purple colors, and waste products in leaves cause a brown color.

LeafExperimentsInside: Discover the Hidden Colors 

See the hidden colors in green leaves by doing a simple experiment from Home Science Tools. Using just a few  ingredients, your students can separate ALL the colors in a green leaf. Although it’s simple enough for elementary students, even my middle school kids had liked seeing the results from this experiment.

leafmanOutside: Leaf Man

Collect an assortment of leaves and other natural objects from outside. Then use the whimsical illustrations in Leaf Man, written by Lois Elhert, to inspire your students to make their own leaf collages of animals and people. Both young children and older students enjoy using their creativity in this creative activity.

More Facts and Fun with Leaves

F alling temperatures
A utumn activities
L osing leaves
L eaving summer behind