Sunday, February 28, 2010

SKIP - Week 6

Beaming sun and fabulously sticky snow capped off the last session for the Winter 2010 SKIP program, making a wonderful playground for a Discovery Hike.

Volunteer Heather Lunn, representing our Rideau Valley Field Naturalists partner, led a hike around the new loop trail at the Lally Homestead and helped us to gain a better understanding of how animals and plants cope with winter. Migration, adaptation and hibernation were the themes.

The first stop focussed on migration. Each participant was given a card with a bird name on it and list of the food it eats. Everyone had to decide whether that bird was likely to migrate or stay here based on whether its primary food source would be readily available in the winter. Of those that migrated, Heather then demonstrated how difficult the journey is by handing out cards indicating what sorts of calamaties could befall the feathered travellers. Fortunately some of our "birds" made it safely to their destinations.

Next our participants explored the "3 Fs" for winter survival: fur, food and fat. We talked about different animals and how they adapt to winter conditions - preparing for the cold and snowy conditions.

Next we explored hibernation and talked about some typical animals that hibernate, such as bears, chipmunks and groundhogs. Frogs hibernate deep in the mud beneath ponds, rivers and lakes, and Heather (with her frozen froggy friend) told us about the amazing wood frog, which is well known for its astounding ability to freeze solid and survive thanks to a special sugar in its cells.

Plants, too, take a rest in the winter, but that doesn't mean we can't explore them in winter. Our next activity was to learn how to identify tree species by looking at their bark and buds.

With such fantastic snow for making forts and snowmen, how could we resist some playtime in the snow before our last snack in the clubhouse. The kids were given some tokens to take home, including a workbook to remind them of all the materials covered in the last six weeks. There was also a survey enclosed for the kids and their parents or guardians to return to us so that we can evaluate the program and make plans for future sessions. Stay tuned!

A big thank you to this week's volunteers: Judy Fletcher, Jane Irwin, Judy Buehler (from the Rideau Valley Field Naturalists), Beth Peterkin and Pat Batchelor. A big thank you as well to all our partners and funders: the Ministry of Health Promotion, the Community Stewardship Council of Lanark County, ecoPerth, the Rideau Valley Field Naturalists, the Tay Valley Cross Country Ski Club and Murphys Point Provincial Park.

And, above all, thanks to our 20 participants and their parents for taking part in this exciting pilot project that we think has been a positive and fun experience!

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