Monday, November 24, 2008

Magic of Harry Potter Science

This past Friday, Norman Bird Sanctuary celebrated our first Family Nature Night of the fall: The Nature and Science of Harry Potter. As families arrived, each young wizard choose a wand (or I should say the wand choose the wizard) to decorate with milkweed “unicorn hair”, red-tail hawk feathers, and of course, a little sparkle. Each wand’s wood came from a tree found here at NBS. We used apple wood, maple, even evergreen branches from our yews (a dark wizard’s favorite).

Our first class was Care of Magical Creatures. Families met some of our education animals, like our resident rats, a bearded dragon, and a snake. The group discussed the distinctions between the two different classes of animals, as well as some differences between pets and wild animals. Finally, we brought out our majestic Red-Tail Hawk. Though not a phoenix, our hawk rose from the ashes in her own way. She survived after being found with a broken wing and damaged eye. While she is considered a non-releasable animal, the staff at NBS works hard to make sure she stays as wild as possible.

Next we ventured into the Forbidden Forest for a night hike. The class preformed nighttime experiments that including exploring the chemistry of tribo-luminescence, testing our night vision, even making each other heads magically disappear (another mystifying effect of human night vision).We returned to our classroom for a quick Potions class. At the end, each witch and wizard (and their parents) warmed up with some butterbeer and pumpkin cookies.

You can experience potions class at home with this recipe for slime:
Materials: water, white glue (like Elmer's™), borax, food coloring (unless you want uncolored white slime)
1. Mix 1 teaspoon borax in 1 cup of water. Stir until the borax is dissolved.
2. In a separate container, mix 1/2 cup white glue with 1/2 cup water. Add food coloring, if desired.
3. After you have dissolved the borax and diluted the glue stir one slime solution into the other. Your slime will begin to polymerize immediately.
4. The slime will become hard to stir after you mix the borax and glue solutions. Try to mix it up as much as you can, then remove it from the bowl and finish mixing it by hand. It's okay if there is some colored water remaining in the bowl.
5. The slime will start out highly flexible. You can stretch it and watch it flow. As you work it more, the slime will become stiffer and more like putty. Then you can shape it and mold it, though it will lose its shape over time. Don't eat your slime and don't leave it on surfaces that could be stained by the food coloring.
6. Store your slime in a sealed Ziploc bag, preferably in the refrigerator

Back-to-School Afterschools

With the new school year, comes NBS Afterschool programs. Afterschool programs take place on-site at local schools and organizations, such as Boys and Girls Clubs. These line-ups offer educational, safe, and most importantly, fun options for schools and busy parents. Our educators love bringing a little NBS into the community and have started this school year with lots of new and exciting programs.

In “Animals, Authors, and Art,” children get to meet one of our education animals, hear a story that features the same or similar animal, and make a related craft to take home. Last week, one group heard The Story of Jumping Mouse, an inspirational Native American tale about a mouse and the power of hope. Afterwards, the kids met Norma and Mabel, our resident dumbo rats, and got a short lesson on mammals. They finished up by making rat bookmarks out of recycled materials, reinforcing our earth-friendly theme. Though using the same materials, each craft was as unique as the child who made it. Parents and guardians loved the adorable and useful bookmarks, and enjoyed meeting Norma and Mabel as much as the kids!

All of our Afterschools offer earth-friendly fun. Book yours today!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Naturally Crafty Vacation Camp!

Our first Fall 2008 Vacation Camp went beautifully! True to the theme of “Naturally Crafty,” our 30 campers played, hiked, and crafted their hearts out!

The youngest students started the day by hiking our Woodcock Trail to learn about tree identification and leaf decomposition. They also collected leaves on the way back to use in our first craft of the day – stained glass leaf collages! The older kids started their morning with a scavenger-hunt hike and then crafted fabulous nature journals out of recycled and natural materials.

The highlight of the day was when both groups got together and made beads out of recycled magazine clippings. We followed the example of Native Americans and used certain colors to represent things or experiences with special meaning to us– such as yellow for a goldfinch spotted in the field or blue to represent the gorgeous view of the ocean from Hanging Rock.

Even though it began to pour towards the end of the day, our “Naturally Crafty” campers returned home in high spirits with beautiful crafts to show their families!

Here’s how you can make a Stained Glass Leaf Collage at Home!!

Iron (and parental supervision!)
2 same-sized sheets of wax paper
Various colored crayons
Crayon sharpener (dull butter knives work well, too)
Beautiful fall leaves collected from the ground (and other flat objects such as pine needles or flower petals)
Old dish towel (it may get melted crayon on it!)


- Arrange leaves on one sheet of wax paper
- Sprinkle crayon shavings over and around leaves, the more the better!
- Place second piece of wax paper over your arrangement
- Place a thin towel on top of your creation and have an adult use an iron on medium heat to melt the crayons and press the two sheets together!
- Let cool for 1 minute
- Voila! You have a beautiful stained glass leaf collage!!

- Caitlin Luderer, Educator

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Welcome to our new blog!

Hello, from the Norman Bird Sanctuary in beautiful Middletown, Rhode Island! We are still putting the finishing touches on this blog and our new website, but we couldn't wait to begin with this first post.

It is an exciting time to be at the Sanctuary right now! Our summer camp recently ended in August, with over 800 campers in grades Pre-K - 8! While we miss the energy of our campers and staff, we're already looking ahead to our first Vacation Camp program, now only a few short days away (Naturally Crafty Camp, on Tuesday, September 9). Our education staff has also been hard at work, preparing for a new season of school and public programs for children, families, and adults.

So, thanks for joining us! While we may be new to the blogosphere, we already have so much to share with you - exciting environmental education programs, local conservation issues, bird sightings, and tips for protecting our amazing natural resources! Stay tuned!