Chesnut Changers Become Predators, Prey and Migratory Fowl

Our first 4th/5th grader Ecology Club meeting was our best kick-off meeting yet, because of guest leader William Betz, who recently graduated UGA with a Bachelor’s of Science in Forestry. Known to many of the kids as “Billy,” the head lifeguard at the neighborhood pool, Mr. Betz was immediately enthusiastic when asked to teach our kids some of what he knows. He devised and led two games to teach us about animal survival skills and habitat loss.
First we played the Thicket Game, in which the “predator” must stand in one place, close his/her eyes and count to 30 while all the other “prey” hide. Whichever prey the predator can see from his/her vantage point is called out and becomes a predator for the next round, during which the prey must move closer to the predator. Mr. Betz led the pre-game discussion, during which the students named animal adaptations that help prey survive (i.e., camouflage, scaling trees, etc.). As we played, we paused to think about why prey would ever intentionally move closer to its predator (i.e., habitat loss), and what made some of the students acting as prey better at “staying alive” (i.e., staying still, wearing colors that blended in with the environment).
Next we moved to the lower field to become migratory water birds. For this Migration Headache game, Mr. Betz created three areas:  the nesting habitat, stopover habitat and wintering habitat. The kids gave examples of migratory water fowl (herons, cranes, etc.) and then transformed into their best bird-selves (one stretching the definition to become a dragon instead), flapping their wings and cawing as they migrated from the nesting habitat to the stopover habitat. At first, there were enough stopover bases for all the birds, but as the game progressed, habitat loss occurred, and some slightly tearful birds had no place to land. They cheered up when they became baby birds in the nesting habitat by the game’s end, at which point we discussed human events (draining a swamp for new construction, polluting water) and natural events (drought, avalanche, tsunami) that create habitat loss.

When Mr. Betz asked what humans could do to help, the kids suggested making laws to preserve natural wildlife habitats, creating national parks, and planting trees.

The Chesnut Changers thank Billy Betz for lending his expertise and time to make our first meeting so informative and action-packed!

Where Can You Buy Organic Seedlings Locally?

dcg plant saleWHAT: Dunwoody Community Garden Fall Plant Sale (Includes organically grown cool weather vegetables and perennials)

WHEN: Sunday, October  5, 1-4 pm

WHERE: Inside Brook Run Park


Arugula (Rocket and Wild)
Brussels Sprouts
Mustard Greens
Bok Choy
Lettuce (Several varieties)
Kale (Italian and Blue)


Japanese Maple Trees (small)
Candy Lily
Balloon Flower
Toad Lily

Earth Day Is in the Air(waves) at Chesnut

“Hello, my name is Spectro the Spark! I’m going to tell you how you can save me, and electricity!”

Thus began yesterday’s Earth Day PSA (public service announcement) from fourth and fifth grade Chesnut Changers, Adams Hollis and Akeem Smith.

Adams Hollis reminding his friends to save electricity

Adams Hollis reminding his friends to save electricity

Their group was one of four that formed at a recent 4th/5th Grade Ecology Club meeting, to create announcements about environmentally-friendly actions their peers could take.

After examining their own earth-friendly practices, the students chose three main subjects to promote:  conserving electricity, biking and growing your own food. This week, in support of Earth Day (April 22), several students performed their advertisements over the morning announcements. Special thanks to Ecology Club Teacher Sponsor Ms. Griffin for helping these students step into the spotlight.

“Save the Spark” by Akeem Smith, Adams Hollis and Audrey Mothershed

Akeem Smith takes the mike

Akeem Smith takes the mic

Hello, my name is Spectro the Spark! I’m going to tell you how you can save me and electricity!  First, you can turn off appliances when you’re not using them, such as a tablet or TV. Second, you can replace your light bulbs with the energy efficient ones or use solar panels. Third and finally, you can turn off the lights when you are not using them. These were a few ideas of how you can save me and electricity.




Bike Riding PSAs by Madison Wright, Courtney Butler, Sarah Lewallyn and Ryleigh Hixon

Audrey and Madison promote biking

Audrey and Madison promote biking

photo 1#1:  Riding a bike isn’t just for playing. You can also go places. Instead of driving you can ride a bike and get stronger. And when you ride a bike you can exercise more.

#2:  Student A: (SIGH) I wish I had a fun and healthy way to get to school. Student B:  Well, biking is one way! Biking helps the environment and it’s fun. Maybe you’d like to bike with a buddy. This is a healthy way to help the environment and have fun with your friend. Biking to school can help everyone and yourself have a healthy lifestyle. Student A: Thanks, I’ll try it tomorrow!

Sarah, Ryleigh and Courtney do a skit to encourage biking with a buddy to school

Sarah, Ryleigh and Courtney do a skit to encourage biking with a buddy to school

photo 1 copy

At-Home Action Icon canstockphoto2179142AT-HOME ACTION:  Go through the Chesnut Changers Sustainability Checklist as a family, and take your own Sustainability Pledge.

Chesnut Changer’s Report: Menna Michael, 4th Grader

Chesnut Changer's Report

On  Jan. 16, 2014, Ecology Club learned how to upcycle. Upcycling is when you take something you don’t need and make it useful.

We took an empty milk carton and made wallets. tetra paksFirst we cut the top and bottom and cleaned it out with a disinfectant wipe. Then we folded it into 3 creases. We pulled it back up and cut the sides to the first crease. We put duct tape on the sides and corners. Finally, we folded it in and on the creases, then put Velcro on it and you are done.

At-Home Action Icon canstockphoto2179142AT-HOME ACTION:  Upcycle any composite material container into a wallet or coin purse. To try this at home, use any composite material and follow these instructions.

Audrey, Adams, Ryleigh and Jaxon show their finished products

Audrey, Adams, Ryleigh and Jaxon show their finished products

A Start to Garbage-Free Living for Chesnut Students

IMG_4031This month Chesnut begins participating in its first TerraCycle brigade, giving Chesnut students a way to reduce their footprint every day at school. Our thanks go to new Wellness Team parent Alison Bardill, whose dream it was to launch this program ever since she attended Kindergarten Round-up.

TerraCycle is an international upcycling and recycling company that collects difficult-to-recycle packaging and products and repurposes the material into affordable, innovative products.

To understand the importance of this program, we began discussing the “Three R’s” (reducing, reusing/upcycling and recycling – in that order) in our after-school Ecology Club meetings. We watched this video on how traditional landfills operate, and this TerraCycle “What Is Garbage?” video to introduce the idea of “zero waste:” life without garbage.

It claims a startling statistic, “99% of everything you buy becomes garbage within one year of purchase.”

This TerraCycle Drink Pouch Brigade video demonstrates how Chesnut students can now reduce their trash while giving their empty drink pouches new life. During lunch or the after school program, empty plastic drink pouches (with or without straws) and empty drink pouches with spouts can be placed in two collection containers, located in the school cafeteria. TerraCycle sponsors pay for our collections to be shipped to TerraCycle where they are made into innovative products from tote bags and pencil cases to plastic lumber and pavers. On top of helping the Earth, for each unit of waste collected, Chesnut will earn TerraCycle points redeemable for donations to the school. terracycle image

“I Ate A Rainbow and Now I Feel So Strong, I Could Pick Up the School!”

2013-12 Chesnut Rainbow SuperKid copyRight before winter break, Chesnut students arriving at the gym for P.E. were greeted by members of Chesnut’s Wellness Team. Coach Lonny Dykema, alongside PTC Wellness Team parents Jo Chin, Angela Renals and Jessica Spencer, launched Chesnut’s second series of Farm to School nutrition lessons. After reviewing how this lesson — “Tasting a Rainbow of Plants” — had gone the previous year, the group had altered some of the activities to increase student participation and applied learning opportunities.

The goal was for students to be able to:

  • Identify the six plant parts and understand that all produce we eat is a plant part
  • Understand the value of eating many colors of fruits and veggies every day
  • Taste fruits and vegetables of various colors
  • Make suggestions as to how to add color to their plates.

To meet these objectives and the correlating National Health Education Standards, Coach’s team devised a lesson plan with three main activities:

Roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds

1. “What’s in Your Grocery Bag?” – Plant Part Identification Game: Students split into groups, each with a poster depicting the 6 plant parts (root, stem, leaf, flower, fruit, seed) and a grocery bag with a variety of fresh produce that the children were to place in the correct places on their posters. The kids dove in, passed their bags around, and largely correctly labeled their items. The challenges were at times the coconut (seed), garbanzo bean (seed) and asparagus (stem AND flower).

Many kids asked for more

2. “Tasting a Rainbow:”  Students each received a mini rainbow to sample: one snap pea (green), olive (blue/purple), chickpea (white/tan), bell pepper (yellow), pear slice (red) and kumquat (orange). We hunted for each by color, tasted, then challenged the students to name the food. Just as the slightly exotic pomegranate was a favorite last year (and requested again this year), the unknown kumquat met with rave reviews this year. Part of the fun in these lessons is encouraging the kids to be open to trying new foods and to developing a taste for them. We also discuss why we left the skin on their pears, and why we eat the kumquat’s peel:  because the color (in the skin) tells us where many of the nutrients are.

rainbow of produce3. “Turn This Plate from Simple to Super:”  Slides depicted various typical kids’ meals (bowl of cereal, mac n cheese, cheese pizza, hamburger and fries, school lunch with chicken fingers and fries) alongside a rainbow of whole fruits and vegetables. We asked the kids to suggest how they could add more color to their meal with colorful whole foods. We had so many hands in the air with suggestions, we had to take 3 or 4 for each meal. When items like ketchup, Fruit Loops or pepperoni were suggested, we had an opportunity to compare colorful whole foods to colorful processed, or changed foods, and think about which gives our body more fuel (“super powers”).

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Salad Tasting and Garlic Planting for the Kids; Collard Green Bounty for the Teachers

Back in October, Ms. Little’s second grade science class came out to the garden to harvest lettuce and taste it in a salad. After the empty bowls had been cleared away, it was time to get to work! Garden Leader Carissa Malone had placed pencils into the soil to show the kids where to plant each clove of garlic.

Couple weeks later, the garlic has sprouted!

Couple weeks later, the garlic has sprouted!

After planting a clove, students removed the pencil to mark the space as full. The pencils turned out to be the perfect garlic planting tool because in addition to holding available planting spaces, they helped the children push the cloves down into the soil (cloves need to be planted 4-6 inches deep).

Collard greens for teachersMeanwhile, another delicious veggie was in season in the Chesnut Garden:  collard greens! Ms. Malone cooked up a huge batch and brought them in for the teachers to enjoy, along with a note welcoming them to take home future weekly harvests. Ms. Hobgood and Ms. Neal were happy to share in the bounty, each receiving a bunch of leafy greens for nutritious home cooking.