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.  

The Green 15

Lori Spencer, fourth-grade teacher

Lori Spencer, 4th-grade teacher, the Nevada City School of the Arts


Inspired by naturalist John Muir Laws,  Lori Spencer uses a simple and effective strategy to encourage her class of fourth graders to get outside. It’s called the “Green 15,” which is a weekly homework assignment to spend 15 minutes outside. It doesn’t sound like much time, but it makes a big impact when done regularly.


The requirement for the Green 15 assignment varies each week. Her seasonal fall activities include:

  • Listen for three different bird sounds. (Students didn’t need to identify the birds.)
  • Collect three different leaves and make a rubbing of each one.  (Variation: Collect three different colors of leaves.)
  • Find an animal’s tracks and draw a sketch of what they looked like. (Works best after a rain when tracks can  be more easily seen).
  • Find or rake up a big pile of fallen leaves and play in them. (My personal favorite!)

Lori varies the ways her students “turn in” their Green 15 assignment—sometimes they write about it, but other times they simply check off that they completed it. One student showed he had completed a Green 15 assignment by bringing in a photo of himself perched atop a very tall tree.

INSIDE: Making the Most of the Contest

While talking to Lori about her Green 15, she told me how she incorporates the Who Am I? mystery contest clues into her morning routine.

I have a brainteaser on the board every day, and on Monday mornings it’s always the clues from the Who Am I? contest. I read the clues on Sunday night and write them on the board before the students arrive on Monday morning. The kids read the clues and discuss their guesses. Then I go through the clues one-by-one asking them, “Does your guess fit this clue?” By the time we get through all four clues, some guesses are eliminated. Once we narrow down their choices to those that fit all of the clues, the class votes on the answer they want to submit. I type it up and hit the “submit” button. They were so excited when we won, and I loved the books we got to go along with our water ecology study.

You’ve got one more week to play before October’s drawing. Read the clues in the left column and your students could be the next winners!

OUTSIDE: Nature Prompts

Lori’s idea for the Green 15 was inspired by naturalist John Muir Laws, and she also uses his prompt suggestions to help her students observe more closely and deepen their 15 minutes in nature. These three prompts are applicable to all outdoor experiences: “I notice . . .”, “I wonder . . .”, and “It reminds me of . . .”

Lori Spencer with 4th-grader Riley Powers

Lori Spencer with 4th-grader Riley Powers

Here’s a sample of responses that resulted from standing under a fig tree.

  • I notice that the fig leaves are different colors—some are green and others yellow.
  • I wonder why one side of the leaf is sticky.
  • It reminds me of a hand because of its shape.

For more details about why these prompts are effective for developing skills such as observation, asking questions, and making connections, go to John Muir Laws: Nature Stewardship Through Science, Education, and Art.



John Muir Laws website—Find resources, information, and suggestions for nature journaling with kids, outdoor sketching, inspiration, and much more!

For parents, the book Fifteen Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids by Rebecca Cohen is an inspiring collection of activities gives families an idea for every day of the year, requiring little planning, no expertise and relatively little resources. Some activities are easily adaptable for the classroom.