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Green Schools, Kids and Nature Program
It’s Cold Outside! Learning in the Polar Vortex

For many, this winter has been a tough one. We’ve seen extreme temperature fluctuations with rain one day and below zero temperatures the next. Winter can sometimes be a frustrating time to get kids outdoors, but on those select days when the temperature is bearable, your Schoolyard Habitat can still be a great Outdoor Classroom! Many of our wildlife species are still out there, eating and surviving. (Don’t forget to fill your feeders!)

Winter is a great time to explore animal adaptations for cold climates. Check out this fun lesson from NWF called Life in the Cold (pdf) as a fun way for your students to learn about adaptation.

Keeping Track of Winter Wildlife

Although we may not see our schoolyard wildlife as much as we do during the warmer months, winter is one of the best times to look for tracks in your Schoolyard Habitat and figure out what wildlife is still around. Tracking is great for observation and analysis skills. You can incorporate math into the adventure by examining patterns, measuring track width/length and distance between tracks.

To help practice writing, have your students develop a written story associated with the tracks. What was this animal doing? Where was it coming from? Where was it going?

Hands On Nature book coverWildlife tracks are clues that definitely can tell a tale! A great resource for elementary and middle school is the Vermont Institute of Natural Science and their Hands-on Nature Guidebook: Information and Activities for Exploring the Environment with Children.

Snow Secrets book coverAs well, Vermont author Lynn Levine has written a wonderful young adult fiction book, Snow Secrets, which is about two Vermont sixth graders who learn the art of tracking animals in the winter.

Start Your Seedlings for Spring

Winter is a great time to be thinking about what new native plants you might want to grow in your Schoolyard Habitat this year, and start them out as seedlings. This is a great STEM-based lesson where students are posed with a question and can explore options to find solutions. This resource can be modified to explore this idea: “Our schoolyard wildlife is in need of food. We need you to grow plants as fast as possible. Work with your group to design the best way to plant, fertilize and water your seeds so wildlife can eat soon!”

Are You an Eco-School Already?

Eco-Schools USA logoIs your school part of NWF’s Eco-Schools USA Program yet? More than 2,700 schools across the country have registered with the program and are working on key sustainability issues such as energy, climate change, biodiversity, and—one you might be doing already—school grounds.

Visit the Eco-Schools USA website for the following:

  • To receive recognition for the work you’ve already done on your school grounds through the development of a Schoolyard Habitat
  • To exploring other sustainability issues

If your school is a NWF certified Schoolyard Habitat you may be eligible for a bronze award from Eco-Schools already!

Young Reporters for the Environment USA Competition Invites 2014 Entries

YRE Banner ImageNational Wildlife Federation’s Young Reporters for the Environment USA competition invites students between the ages of 13-21 to report on an environmental issue in their community in an article, photo or photo essay or short video. All entries should reflect firsthand investigation of topics related to the environment and sustainability in the students’ own communities, draw connections between local and global perspectives, and propose solutions.

Submissions to the national competition are due by March 15, 2014. First-place winners in the national competition proceed to the international Young Reporters for the Environment competition, joining the entries of students from more than 25 countries around the world.

Students: You may enter individually or as part of a group.

Educators: The competition makes a perfect culmination to a group or class journalism project.

Visit for full details and guidelines. Tune in to this archived webinar to get more tips for crafting a successful entry. Get the scoop, and then get reporting!

National Wildlife Week is March 17-23 - Sign up now for the Kickoff Webinar!

National Wildlife Week 2014 - water and wildlife National Wildlife Federation will be showing kids the importance of water to all living things during the 76th annual National Wildlife Week, March 17-23.

National Wildlife Week gives families, educators and community groups the chance to connect kids with wildlife and explore the world around them.

With a theme of “Wildlife and Water: From the Mountains to the Rivers to the Oceans,” NWF will help children and adults explore the important role that water plays in the lives of wildlife and people across the country.

Sign up for the National Wildlife Week Kickoff Webinar! The webinar, February 19th from 5-6:30 p.m. eastern time, is designed to help teachers and parents prepare for National Wildlife Week. Learn from experts about the featured wildlife. Find out about the many resources available to help you celebrate National Wildlife Week.

Thank you for taking your learning outside!

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