Summary ꙳ Objectives
▹ As the leaves of trees are reaching their mature size, and the canopy gets fuller, it is now harder to spot birds in those trees. Many of these trees have flowered already and are busy producing sugars and the next generation of buds. The squirrels have moved to their summer residence (leaf-and-twigs nests). The peepers are peeping, the toads are trilling, the turtles are basking. There's no doubt anymore that summer is here!
Summer is a wonderful time to be outside as much as we can! Be out in the evening, be out on weekends, be out at night. We always have our outdoor day bag ready to go. What's in our bag? Local fauna and flora field guides, a magnifying glass, and our binoculars of course. Since we 'snap' for recording nature data, we also have our camera with us. And because there's always a minute or 2 to spare to quickly sketch a bug, a flower, a tree, a landscape, we also carry around our nature journal or a few sheets of paper, and pencils...
Type » Lesson
Level » Eco-Artsy + Naturalist
When? » Summer
Where? » Indoors & Outdoors
Time » 2hrs+
Themes & Skills
Celebration ⋆ Focus ⋆ Phenology⋆ Natural processes/cycles ⋆ Systems thinking ⋆ Nature benefits ⋆ Temperate Regions
Internet for accessing documentaries and wildlife webcams ⋆ Paper, pencils, crayons, or watercolors ⋆ Nature quest list(s) ⋆ Craft supplies that you anticipate needing for the Summer decoration activity...
"The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough" —Rabindranath Tagore
This Nature lesson is an 'ode' to Summer. Its purpose is to connect us to the natural beauty of this time in the year. It reminds us of the importance of the season, both ecologically and culturally.
This lesson's activities are a mix of discussions, nature quests, walks and arts & craft. Happy Summer to all! ツ
Discuss » Summer Ecology & Celebrations Throughout Human History
After Spring's Nature frenzy, life is quieting down a little. The bouts of Spring cold are now ancient history. Many animal and insect species are raising their young...
Discuss animals and plants activities in the summer. For instance:
- research how your local fauna from birds to mammals raise their progeny (and how important it is to not interfere). Notice that throughout the summer you hear less of the birds singing because they are now busy with their chicks, and keeping danger at bay (singing would attract attention on the clutch).
- follow through live webcams the bears of Katmai who gorge themselves with salmon, fattening rapidly to make it through the winter.
- note that towards the end of the Summer, the usual bird dawn chorus seems to disappear (this time due to a late summer molting of many bird species).
- explore the abundance of plant & insect activity and relationships. investigate the peony-ant, the ant-aphid, the squirrel-oaks relationships.
- it's also a great time to go 'ponding' (i.e., the activity of exploring ponds) and check our local watersheds. Go scoop on the edge and in the mud, and see what comes out, therefore exploring pond life.
- think about how the differences between deciduous trees and evergreens express themselves during the season.
Learn about the changes in your region phenology. Phenology is the seasonal timing of life cycle events in plants and animals such as flowering, hibernation, and migration. Change in phenology has been linked to shifts in the timing of allergy seasons, public visitation to National Parks, and cultural festivals. Change in phenology is also recognized as a bio-indicator of climate change impacts and has been linked to increased wildfire activity and pest outbreak, shifts in species distributions, the spread of invasive species, and changes in carbon cycling in forests. Phenological information can and is already being used to identify species vulnerable to climate change, to generate computer models of carbon sequestration, to manage invasive species, to forecast seasonal allergens, and to track disease vectors, such as mosquitoes and ticks, in human population centers. In the Northeast of the United States, we are already observing earlier blooming and bird migrations...
Seasons follow the cycle of astronomical events marked by solstices and equinoxes. In the Northern hemisphere, the June solstice is our Summer solstice (a.k.a. estival solstice). Solstice comes from the Latin words sol, meaning Sun and sistere, meaning to come to a stop or stand still. On the day of the June solstice, the Sun reaches its northernmost position, as seen from the Earth. At that moment, its zenith does not move north or south as during most other days of the year, but it stands still at the Tropic of Cancer. It then reverses its direction and starts moving south again. The opposite happens during the December solstice. Then, the Sun reaches its southernmost position in the sky - Tropic of Capricorn - stands still, and then reverses its direction towards the north.
Often in the North, we mark the beginning of summer with the celebration of the summer solstice. But actually, the solstice is more like the middle of it. Indeed, this solstice is also known as midsummer. This makes sense as from now on, daylight is going to shorten.
In many ancient cultures of the North, this solstice marks a time of abundance celebrated with feasts, bonfires, and festivals.
For instance, in ancient Gaul, which covered modern-day France and some parts of its neighboring countries, the Midsummer celebration was called the Feast of Epona. The celebration was named after a mare goddess who personified fertility and protected horses. In ancient Germanic, Slav and Celtic tribes, pagans celebrated Midsummer with bonfires. After Christianity spread in Europe and other parts of the world, many pagan customs were incorporated into the Christian religion. In parts of Scandinavia, the Midsummer celebration continued but was observed around the time of St John’s Day (June 24th) to honor St John the Baptist instead of the pagan gods. In old China, the solstice celebrated the Earth, femininity, and the “yin” forces. It was the complement to the Winter solstice that celebrated masculinity and the “yang” forces. In North America, native tribes held ritual dances to honor the Sun. The Sun Dance was known as Wiwanke Wachipi, and was the most important ceremony practiced by the Lakota (Sioux) and nearly all Plains Indians. It was a time of renewal for the tribes, their people and Earth.
Discuss with the group about what Summer represents, and how each celebrates it. Share your best memories...
Paint » Summer Colors
Find a quiet area and paint a wheel of the colors that you see or associate with the season. Paint the sky and the tree right next to you. Paint Sunflowers and the bees that visit them, Pipsissewa, or the first leaves that you see changing into early fall colors. Capture the reflection of the sun on a pond, through the canopy of a forest. What are the warmest and coolest hues of your palette?
Walk & Search » Nature Quest
Animals are busy preparing for the Fall, and are raising their young. They are busy feeding, storing, fattening, molting. Plants are still catching as much sunlight as possible and produce sugars to grow, strengthen and store for the rougher times to come. This is truly a wonderful time to get outside. Have a Nature walk and observe all that activity.
Make a list of 6 or more Summer items for your group or yourself to find out there in your city, parks or local forests.
The list is more fun when its items cover all the sensory realm (sound, taste, shape, color...). Print it, grab your journal and pencils, even your camera, and get outside. Forage for those items in pairs or alone.
Each time that you find one of the items, rather than collecting it (that should be avoided), take the time to sketch it. Take a snap if it's too hard and practice sketching from your pictures.
Show your sketches and pics to one another. Share which is your favorite and how you found the item (the bird, the flower...)
❊ ❊ ❊
Here are a few items that we like to include in our Summer list (in no specific order):
The internet is full of 'Summer nature quests or scavenger hunts' ideas. Explore what's out there and create your own list –The exploration activity alone is fun!
Create » Summer Craft
Circling back to the first activity and celebrate the season. Gather together (alone is fine too), and create a basket of Summer paper flowers, a nature mobile, or enjoy flower pressing or a nature mandala. Enjoy exploring what the season has to offer, and expand your creativity.
Think about gifting your craft to someone in your circle, or offer it as a present to someone outside this circle. There is never a better time 'to give' than "now"–when we are enjoying the moment.
The Bears of Katmai (Explore Live Webcam)
Why We Celebrate the Summer Solstice (Blog Scientific American)