Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Exploring nature with students in early spring

                                           This is  barely opening "saucer" magnolia blooms

     It has been an overly, overly long winter. So I was glad to get out with my college students and show them a bit of nature on campus. I actually informed them they needed to send a final text and put away their cell phones (some toward the back probably still didn't listen, they are so addicted to those things, like they're actually attached to their sorry wrists). I wanted them to be "in the moment" and enjoy nature.
    Although it was sunny and a cold wind was blowing, the 3:30 class did better than the 5:00 class when it came to observing and enjoying nature. After 5 it was beginning to really get cold and I put on a jacket on (back over my hoodie). But I think they all enjoyed some of it, a big difference from being lectured to in class!
    We began at the "alumni garden," which has two peeling bark maples and an old bell a former college president donated. In one class they tried to ring this old black painted bell that stood in the center of where they usually have petunias, but there isn't much in early April. Student Jade couldn't find the "clanger" underneath so it didn't make much sound at all!
    Then we went over to the science hall, which has a murky fish pond in back. The earlier class spied two big tailed squirrels run up a tree hanging over the pond, which had a big squirrel's nest on top, and the later class actually saw a goldfish and koi fish move in the murky water till they escaped back under a mossy grate and disappeared. It was really neat walking out of there-- saw several cedar waxwings flock into a tree (I think it was a bare cherry tree). Their light brown backs and black and red lines by the eyes really stood out among all the grayness.
    In front of the alumni garden I pointed out that the only "saucer magnolia" I knew of on campus was just beginning to bud--- actually it was all budded and nearly opened and blooming, even less so than the picture above. I said in 5-6 days it would be the absolutely prettiest tree on campus with its wine red and white striped flowers, shaped like an oblong tulip, somewhat. And the cherry trees were a long ways from blooming.
    I knew they were most surprised by our having a bald cypress and redwoods on campus. The cypress is supposed to be a "swamp" plant and the redwoods are supposed to be on the California coast. These "dawn" redwoods are Asian and won't grow to 300 feet like the American cousins you could drive a car through in California. And the cypress shows some trees are individuals and can adapt to odd situations. We also tried our hand at looking at handbooks.
    On their walk I showed them three places where they could be by themselves and sit, relax, maybe even meditate. Early spring is a good time to see what is out in the woods or in your park. So go out and enjoy nature!

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