Monday, April 29, 2013

Sketching and Journaling: "Watchmen on the Way"

                                            The Nature Journal of Maggie Hart

My dear friend, Maggie Hart, lives in California.  Her passion is nature observation, sketching, and journaling.  She also loves to share the wonder of nature with others.  We have inspired each other for years and it is so rewarding to have a close friend with a common interest.  Even though she lives in California and I live in Louisiana we somehow manage to connect on a regular basis.  She will call and throw out an idea to get my feedback.  Her idea never fails to inspire another idea in me.

There is great value in sharing ideas.  Keep a notebook handy to write down your ideas, because if you don't record them they will slip away.  I don't like trying to remember a brilliant idea that I did not write down. 

Maggie's brief journal entry includes so much of her history and life.  She has this beautiful moment to share with others.  I am so happy that she shared with me.

Remember:  Nature is waiting for you to pay attention.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Theodore Roosevelt Writes about Swamp Rabbits

Swamper Swimming by Gay Brantley
Theodore Roosevelt recorded events of his 1907 bear hunting trip on the Tensas Bayou in northeast Louisiana in an article called "In The Louisiana Canebrakes."
Here was his description of the swamp rabbits that he saw.
"Coon and 'possum were very plentiful, and in the streams there were minks and a few otters.  Black squirrels barked in the tops of the tall trees or descended to the ground to gather nuts or gnaw the shed deer antlers - the latter a habit they shared with the wood rats.  To me the most interesting of the smaller mammals, however, were the swamp rabbits, which are thoroughly amphibious in their habits, not only swimming but diving, and taking to the water almost as freely as if they were muskrats.  Thy lived in the depths of the woods and beside the lonely bayous."

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Seeking Wonder: Linking Literature to the Landscape

Louisiana Educators Seeking Wonder at Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Workshop funded by 2012 Louisiana Environmental Education Commission Grant
Literacy is a vital part of any kind of education.  Nature literature blended with life & environmental science is a good combination.  On Saturday, April 6, I had the privilege of sharing books about Louisiana’s natural world with a group of outstanding educators and librarians.    The Louisiana Environmental Education Commission funded this professional development workshop called “Seeking Wonder:  Linking Literature to the Landscape” through their 2012 Environmental Education Grant Program.  This program also funds individual teacher grants and research grants and it promotes environmental education programs across the state and in the classroom.  It is a fantastic program.  I conducted the workshop on Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge with U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Ranger Nova Clarke.

Someone can learn about the bottomland hardwood ecosystem by reading and looking at pictures, but experiencing the environment and observing some of the interactions in the ecosystem makes the learning come alive.  Doing both is even better. The workshop provided educators the chance to see what is happening out there in the environment after reading and learning some information about it.  What did we see?  We saw the food web in action.  We saw a big black ant tackle a damselfly and watched as the damselfly tried to escape.  One teacher made this great remark, “damselfly in distress.”   We spotted a bronze frog perched on a log over the water, and then someone shouted, “Look there’s a snake!”  The snake, a broad banded water snake, was closer to us than the frog.  Later we saw another frog and there was another snake.  Then we noticed:  damselfly-frog-snake.   Someone said, “see a frog, see a snake”, which is a good rule of thumb in this food web.  A green anole was displaying on a twig and we watched a turquoise ribbon snake glide from one branch to the next.  American coots walked on mats of aquatic vegetation and the pied-billed grebes dove under the water.  An alligator snoozed in the sun and red-winged blackbirds were busy defending breeding territories with their trills.   Cypress trees were in flower and we noted the difference in the condition of cypress trees trapped in the lake and the trees along the edge that experience the normal wet/dry cycle.  The trees out in the lake are slowly dying and the trees along the edge are thriving.  We experienced spring in the swamp with birds calling all around, everything turning greener by the minute, and the pungent way the swamp smells in the spring – wet and alive.  We jotted our observations in little notebooks, so we could remember what we saw when we returned to the classroom.  Then we could use our notes to create poems, essays, sketches, food webs, etc.

I want to thank all the educators who gathered at the refuge to experience the swamp spring with me and Swamper, the swamp rabbit.  And thanks to the Louisiana Environmental Education Commission for the great work that they do.  Remember:  Nature is out there waiting for us all.