Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Winter 2011 SKIP - Trees and Snowshoeing

Our SKIP organizers put in an order with Mother Nature for a little snow for last Sunday so that we could do our snowshoeing program - and did she ever deliver! (Please note that the organizers are now asking for spring-like weather that is more suitable for this Sunday's maple syrup program....)

This week was another busy session for our SKIP kids. Led by Jeff Ward of the Lanark Stewardship Council and Sarah O'Grady of Mississippi Valley Conservation (which generously loaned us snowshoes), we divided into two groups and switched activities partway through.

One group stayed with Jeff in the drive shed to get some pointers on identifying trees in winter. Naturally, we can often identify deciduous trees by their leaves, so how do we do it in winter? Jeff showed us some tricks pertaining to the shape of a tree's crown, whether branches and buds are alternating or not, the colour of the branches and bark, and the texture of the bark. He had samples of logs and demonstrated the different textures and features of each tree.

The next step was to put this into practice, so we headed down the Lally Trail where Jeff and volunteer Judy Buehler had set up a relay game. Kids had to race each other to retrieve twig samples of various species of trees based on what they had learned. We discovered a bunch of neat things about different species.

Next the kids were given paper and crayons and did bark rubbings that they could take home. Some of the patterns were pretty neat!

While all this was happening, the alternate group was up at the parking lot getting ready for a snowshoeing trek. Sarah explained how various animals, such as hares, are naturally equipped to be able to travel easily over snow - and how some, such as deer, are not. She also discussed the origins of snowshoeing and the different types of shoes that are out there.

Next we strapped on a set of snowshoes and, after laying the ground rules for safe travel, we set off through the field and down part of the other end of the Lally Trail to experience the ease of travelling over the recent thick pile of snow. Along the way Sarah and volunteer Linda McLaren pointed out various animal tracks and features of the trail - a great way to explore and hike in winter!

Next everyone returned to the drive shed for a great snack of veggies and popcorn balls provided by our Skipper, Judy Fletcher. Around that time we had a very special guest appearance by the resident porcupine. He trundled across the snow and climbed up the big white pine tree behind the homestead - quite a show! We learned that porcupines do not actually throw their needles. Oh, and we should also remember that the easy way to recognize a white pine tree is by its needle clusters - five needles representing the five letters in WHITE.

Big thanks go out to Jeff and Sarah (and MVC) for their awesome program, along with volunteers Judy F., Judy B., Steph Linda and Steph. Next week is the last program in the winter session - and it promises to be a sweet one at the Lally Homestead!

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