Urban Farm Scavenger Hunt in Decatur This Saturday, 3/19


Come visit a real-life science lab – an organic farm! This scavenger hunt will feature hands-on interactive activities and engage kids and adults on all levels. Participants will explore pollinators, micro-organisms with microscopes, and nutrition plus we’ll have a tasty science activity with local Chef Phillip Meeker and a tractor ride!

What: Georgia Organics family event in partnership with the Atlanta Science Festival at Love is Love Farm
When: Saturday, March 19, 2016 from 12 p.m.- 5 p.m.
Who: Families with children (activities geared towards children 5 -12 years old)
Where: Love is Love Farm in Decatur,Georgia
Cost: $4 for Georgia Organics members, $5 for non-members

Note: there will be a tasting station, but no lunch served at this event.

Making a Home for Mason Bees at Chesnut

IMG_0524When the fourth and fifth graders voted on second semester Chesnut Changer activities, they agreed they wanted to do more to take care of animals in our environment. Some suggested building birdhouses or bat houses. Then we remembered that insects are part of the animal kingdom, and we might do something that was beneficial to both the bugs and our garden.

So in our February meeting, we read this article together to learn how honeybee populations are suffering, making it difficult for these pollinators to handle all our nation’s crops. We watched excerpts from this “Growing a Greener World” episode about mason bees to discover how this native bee is a hard-working, gentle pollinator that rarely stings.

Then we got to work using recycled materials (paper grocery bags, toilet paper rolls, reused flower pot) to create a place for mason bees to nest. We also filled two reused canisters brought from home to send more mason bee nests out into the world. The students finished by drafting a letter to the Facilities Action Team Chair to ask for help with the Chesnut Garden installation:ScanAt-Home Action Icon canstockphoto2179142AT-HOME ACTION:  Raise Mason Bees to Grow Our Bee Population

By making your own mason bee nests, and participating in the Crown Bees company’s “Bee BuyBack” program, your family can help increase our country’s pollinator population. For more information, go to the “When to Do What” tab on the Crown Bees website.

Chesnut Changer’s Report: Ariyon Malone, 5th Grader

Chesnut Changer's Report

Today we went searching for different kinds of leaves outside our school. We found some evergreen trees with spruce, pine, holly, and ivy leaves. We also found some deciduous trees with several other leaves including beech, magnolia, sycamore, field maple, and oak leaves. We also found a few pine cones. When we found all we needed we went back inside and made leaf glitter by crunching the leafs. After that we glued them on posters to give to our teachers. Ecology was great! We all had a good time.
Ariyon Malone

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!

Chesnut Changers Learn the Science of Fall Colors

At our first Ecology Club meeting, Chesnut Changers were nature detectives, going on outdoor scavenger hunts. The fourth and fifth graders had leaf guides they used to identify the trees growing around our school. To prepare for our outdoor exploration, we reviewed these tree trivia facts. See if your student can tell you these answers.

Even adults might be surprised by the answer to number 6…

1. Why do we need trees to survive?

A: To make its food, trees take in carbon dioxide and put out oxygen. The more trees around your house or school, the more oxygen-rich air for you to breathe!

2. The tree trunk passes water from the roots up to the leaves. Leaves collect the sun’s energy and use it to make tree food out of water from the soil and carbon dioxide from the air. Trees also put water into the air, where it becomes rain. What is this process called?

A: Photosynthesis

3. What is a tiny new tree called?

A: Seedling

4. What is a young thin tree called?

A: Sapling

5. Broad-leafed trees are deciduous, what does that mean?

A: They lose their leaves every fall and grow new leaves every spring.

6. Why do leaves change colors in the fall?

A: The color was always there, but the green that comes from chlorophyll was hiding it. As the days become shorter and cooler, the tree stops growing. As it slows down and stops photosynthesis, chlorophyll goes away, and the other leaf colors can be seen.

7. What are trees called that keep their needle-shaped leaves all year long, staying green even in the winter?

A:  Evergreen, or conifer, because they have what? Cones!

8. How can you tell how old a cut down tree was?

A: Count the rings of the exposed stump. A tree adds a new ring every year.

School Gleaning

Nope, that is not a typo. Urban gleaning is making a comeback, and Chesnut’s Ecology Club is joining the movement. Traditionally, gleaning meant foraging for leftover crop after the farmer had already commercially harvested it. In this case, we are making sure the bounty on Chesnut Charter Elementary School’s front lawn does not go to waste.IMG_3219

Last weekend at Clean & Beautiful, Ecology Club families scoured the ground underneath the school’s front lawn chestnut tree, collecting about 50 unopened burrs and fallen chestnuts. The children worked together, using bbq tongs and heavy duty gloves. Chesnut Changer parent and Boy Scout leader Kevin Trammell took the bounty for roasting at an upcoming camping trip. IMG_3217

At $5 a pound or more, these nuts are fallen treasure! They are also amazing sources of Vitamin C, providing more than 70% of the daily recommended amount in one cup.

When Ecology Club meets next Thursday, we’ll continue gathering these nutritious seeds. Stay tuned for details on a plan in the works to host a tasting, and donate extras to our neighborhood food pantry.IMG_3215

Chesnut Changer Family Saves Honeybees

Thank you Chesnut parent Laurey Bryant (mom of Chesnut Changer Sydney Lachin) for sharing this story of a local bee rescue that took place at their house. As bee populations have dwindled worldwide, It’s inspiring that this family kept their cool and found a way to help these bees survive:

Last, spring, when the family discovered a beehive in between the walls of their garage, they realized the bees had gotten in by way of an A/C wall unit.

Bees in Wall

The hive filled a 2 ½ x 5 ft area!

As mom Laurey Bryant told it,

“After many phone calls and price quotes of over $600 we found a beekeeper that offered to come remove the bees at no charge. She called in a more experienced beekeeper to assist her. They were very enthusiastic and taught us a lot. Richard borrowed a Bee Suit and cut the sheet rock. He  was involved in the process. Sydney and I stayed in the house until they were through vacuuming. As you can imagine bees were everywhere! The two beekeepers were here for over 4 hours.”Bees- day after“The beekeeper said the hive was several years old! I have included a picture of the honeycomb that shows the cells containing different colors. Those colors represent different pollen sources. They put pieces of the hives in the ‘frames’ [as pictured below]. They will use them for the bees when they get home.”Bees Different types of pollenBee Hives in frames“The beekeeper was able to taste the honey and identify the primary flavor. In residential areas it is usually always a mix. She could taste Tulip Poplar in our honey. They gave us a five gallon bucket of the honeycomb and said it will produce about 2 gallons of honey. After checking carefully for bees and larvae, we took bites of the honeycomb and sucked the honey out. It was delicious!”Bee Honey Comb“It was an interesting and educational experience. The beekeepers said if you ever see honeybees swarming, contact the local beekeepers association and they will come and gather them.”

From the Puget Sound Beekeepers Association website:

honeybeesswarm“With recent losses of bee populations worldwide, seeing a few bees around the garden is something to celebrate. But what do you do when a few thousand bees show up? Most swarms are the size of a football, more or less. Longer days bring a surge of blooming trees and flowers which create a short window of time for healthy honey bee colonies to split and create new colonies. This split happens when honey bees swarm: roughly 10-15 thousand bees and their queen will leave an existing colony and land upon a tree branch or side of building. Once there, this mass of bees can resemble a very large pine cone or football shaped mass. Swarming is the natural process that honey bee hives go through to create new colonies and spread their genetics to new locations. Honey bee swarms are vulnerable outside the hive to weather, animals and more importantly people. They need to find a new home quickly. In a rural setting this is usually a hollow tree but in the city with loss of habitat this can take the form of a wall or attic of a house where they become a problem for homeowners. If you encounter a swarm it is important to remain calm and to call a beekeeper quickly before the bees leave to a new home or take up residence in an undesirable location. It is important to not kill or disturb the honey bees by spraying pesticides or even water on them.”

At-Home Action Icon canstockphoto2179142AT-HOME ACTION:  Who can you call? Marcy Cornell Welsh helped with this bee rescue. Her contact info:  Marcy Cornell Welsh, Honey Judge, Certified Bee Keeper, 678-642-4274, mcornell@gmail, www.etsy.com/shop/soapzilla (she makes and sells soaps too).