Galapagos Dreams

The ArtStart Camp run by Carol Sirrine is in its 25th year. The theme this week was the Galapagos Islands. The students in our classes were between 6  and 11 years old. Their dedication to their work and attention to detail was beyond their years. It was very inspiring working with these children.  I have included material from three different classes taught by Jeanette Dickinson (mosiac), Sarah Honeywell and Louise Mader (visual arts).

Becca Richman Flying Fish

Becca Richman
Flying Fish

The flying fish is name the flying fish because it can “fly” above the water for more than two football fields. It lives in pelagic oceans and hunts smaller fish and zooplankton

Maya Vossen Nelson Orca Whale

Maya Vossen Nelson
Orca Whale


Orca or killer whale males get up to 30 feet long and have a 6 foot high dorsal fin. They live in family groups that are usually controlled by the oldest female. Orcas feed on large fish, dolphins, and whales, usually hunting in packs. They are known as the wolves of the sea.

Pria Stauning Dolphin

Pria Stauning

Dolphins can have up to 250 teeth in their mouth. They do not drink water, instead dolphins get all of the water they need from the fish they eat. Dolphins find their food by using echolocation, a type of sonar. They can’t see all the colors, but they can sea shades of grey as well as the blue-green spectrum of light.

Elena Metzger Octopus

Elena Metzger

Octopus have four pairs of arms and two eyes. They have rows of suckers on each arm.

Nolan Andresen Blue Ringed Octopus

Nolan Andresen
Blue Ringed Octopus


The blue ringed octopus is packed with enough venom to kill 26 people within minutes. It is the most venomous octopus in the world.


Alex Loes Breaching Humpback

Alex Loes
Breaching Humpback


Elizabeth Tuttle Tuna and Shark

Elizabeth Tuttle
Tuna and Shark

Tuna can grow to be over 1,000 pounds in weight. The tuna is one of the fastest fish in the world and if a schooling fish.Sharks are the tigers of the sea. The great white shark is the most feared man-eating shark.

Mikey Barshack Green Sea Turtle

Mikey Barshack
Green Sea Turtle

Calla Massari Batfish

Calla Massari

They have long dorsal and anal fins that five them a unique shape. The batfish is two to three inches in height. The pinnatus batfish’s scientific name is Palax pinnatus. They are found in the Galapagos Islands.

Alex Loes Squid

Alex Loes

Squid have excellent eye sight allowing them to locate food. They have 8 arms and each arm has sucker discs that they use for grabbing their prey. They eat small schooling fish and plankton. They tear the prey apart with their parrot like beak.

Abby Sikora Green Sea Turtle

Abby Sikora
Green Sea Turtle

Callum Schultz Marine Iguana

Callum Schultz
Marine Iguana

The Marine iguana is the only existing marine lizard on the Earth. They are endemic to the Galapagos Islands. They feed on algae in the near shore waters. To filter-out excess salt that he/she consumes, this iguana has specialized nasal glands that expel it from its nostrils.

Haven Purviance

Haven Purviance

Ingrid Johnson Octopus

Ingrid Johnson

They are 24-36 inches long. It has eight long limbs coming out form its head. It has two rows of sucker discs on each limb, and they use them to sense and taste the environment. The octopus has a useful ability to grow back a tentacle if it loses one.

Luna Scorzelli Green Sea Turtle

Luna Scorzelli
Green Sea Turtle

Sea turtles are one of the Earth’s most ancient creatures, living more than 110 million years, since the time of the dinosaurs. The shell or carapace is streamlined so it can swim quickly through the water. Unlike other turtles sea turtles can not use their legs on land, since they have developed into fins over time.

Pearl Gordon Moray Eel

Pearl Gordon
Moray Eel

Eels are 10 feet long. They have long needle-like teeth them grab and hold their prey. Eels will attack a human if they are wounded or disturbed in their dens.

Naomi Fink Macaroni Penguin

Naomi Fink
Macaroni Penguin

Beela Kelly Octopus

Beela Kelly


They spend most of their life under rocks, leaving at night to hunt for crabs and clams. They have a beak-like mouth that allows them pry open or break open shells. They can change color rapidly if a predator is near.







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Art in the Upper Mississippi Flood Plain

Eight teenagers face the wilds of the Mississippi River and try to be true to their art and creativity. Carol Sirrine of ArtStart offered  a residency to some gifted art students. This week their challenge was to create experimental art in partnership with nature.

Found River bank Art

Lilia Murphy

Lilia Murphy


Ella Barsanti

Ella Barsanti

Ellie Allen

Ellie Allen

Lucy Niemann Rest in Peace nature

Lucy Niemann
A prayer for nature and healing


Ellie Allen

Ellie Allen

Confluence between the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers

Chelsea Brusas

Chelsea Brusas

Anna Rude

Anna Rude

Lilia Murphy

Lilia Murphy

River Bank mud sculptures

Beckett Grice

Beckett Grice

Anna Rude

Anna Rude

Lilia Murphy

Lilia Murphy

Anna Rude

Anna Rude


Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron Tracks


Raccoon tracks

Raccoon tracks








                                              Pigment Pictures

Ella Barsanti, Raspberry plant smear

Ella Barsanti,  – Wild Raspberry Dream    –   natural coloring with black-capped raspberries



Lilia Murphy Tree of Hope - natural coloring with mulberry

Lilia Murphy
Tree of Hope – natural coloring with mulberry


Beckett Grice - Olympian Natural coloring with mulberry.

Beckett Grice – Olympian
Natural coloring with mulberry.

Becket Grice Natural coloring with Crow's foot flowers.

Becket Grice
Natural coloring with Crow’s foot flowers.

    Wetland Puppets

Ella Barsanti

Ella Barsanti  – Angel/Demon


Jeanette Dickinson

Jeanette Dickinson

Shadow Puppet, Felice Amato

shadow dancer, Felice Amato



Rain Dancers






Photo Gallery

Natural petroglyph, Jeanette Dickinson

Natural petroglyph, Jeanette Dickinson


Fleabane Flowers

Fleabane flowers






Posted in Connecting to Nature, Photography/Art, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Frogs, Frogs, Frogs

The parade of frogs to the breeding ponds begins soon after the ice is out (usually after April 15th), as they fulfill their yearly mating ritual. In the spring I try to spend as much time as possible in the local frog ponds. Although it may seem gross to be slogging around a mucky pond, it is actually very healing. It is a world unto itself:  the frogs calling; dragonflies darting around; and red wing blackbirds calling from the cattails.  All you need is a decent pair of waders or rubber boots and a walking stick to keep from falling in the water.

 American Toad – One of the dominant night sounds in May is the calling of the toads. I often have my window open, so I can be lulled to sleep by the trilling of the toads.





Chorus Frogs – The chorus frog is about 1/2 inch in size. The sound can be deafening when they are calling. However, they are very difficult to find if you are searching for them. Chorus frogs have also been called “cricket frogs” because their call resembles crickets.



Wood Frog – The wood frog is  2-3 inches, brown with a black eye line. They are a woodland frog that spend the winter in the leaf litter. They freeze solid over the winter, but their internal organs are protected by glycol, an antifreeze chemical. This frog is usually the first to visit the breeding ponds. They are very quick breeders, often only staying at the pond for two weeks. While breeding, the males aggressively move about their territories. The male’s call is a “clucking” type sound, similar to a chicken.



Gray Tree Frog – The gray tree frog can change colors from gray to green depending on its surroundings. They are two inches in size and have small suction cups on their feet which allows them to climb on windows and in to the treetops (over thirty feet).

Gray tree frogs overwinter under leaves on the ground. Their body completely freezes like an ice cube or “frog cube”. The frog survives by filling major body organs with an “anti-freeze” substance.

Tree frogs breed in mid-May in woodland ponds. After leaving the ponds, they feed on insects living in shrubs and trees.



Bullfrog – Bullfrogs can reach up to eight inches and are the largest frog found in Minnesota. Bullfrogs are a game species and are hunted for their tasty legs. They do not naturally occur in the Twin Cities, but have been introduced in many areas of the state.

Bullfrogs breed later than most frogs, in June and July. The call of a male bullfrog sounds like someone plucking a banjo string. Tadpoles take one to two years to metamorphose. Young frogs take 2-5 years to develop into adults.

Bullfrogs are rarely found far from water. They will eat any of the native species of frogs and have caused the population of native frogs to be lower in areas where the bullfrog has become established. Bullfrogs will eat anything that they can fit into their mouths, including: worms, insects, small turtles, snakes, bats, mice, and ducklings. Predators on bullfrogs are raccoons, mink, pike, bass, and humans.



Spring Peeper- Spring peepers are the smallest frogs in our state. They are approximately one inch in size. They are brown in color and have a distinctive “X” on their back. Peepers are woodland frogs and are uncommon in the Twin Cities because they like a natural setting without humans. Housing developments and roads have caused spring peeper populations to be reduced because of loss of habitat.

In the spring, peepers come to the ponds and make a “peeping” call that sounds like a chick. A pond full of spring peepers calling can be overwhelmingly loud.



Leopard Frog – The leopard frog is the most well known of all Minnesota frogs. It is a large green frog, three to four inches in size, with many black spots. Leopard frogs are exceptional jumpers.

Leopard frogs spend the winter buried in the mud in lakes. When the ice thaws, leopard frogs migrate to their breeding ponds. Many are killed as they cross roads at this time of year.

They begin breeding in late April. The males make a low snoring call to attract females. Leopard frogs complete their breeding in only two to three weeks, but remain near the water or in wet meadows throughout the summer.

Leopard frogs feed on insects and worms. Herons, raccoons, snakes, and owls feed on leopard frogs. Humans use leopard frogs for fishing bait, and many are killed by mowers and cars.


Posted in Connecting to Nature, Spring | Leave a comment

Sights and Sounds of Spring 2016

Author’s note: The audio portion of this essay works on computers, but not on iPhones.

Spring weather has finally arrived. It is time to get outside and witness the unfolding of spring.
Below are four common spring calls. How many can you identify?







  1.                                            2.                                        3.                                      4.


Male CardinalRobin:Wormnuthatch

        Chickadee                                                   cardinal                                                       robin                                            white breasted nuthatch


Male wood duck

Male wood duck

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

Migrating Canada geese

Migrating Canada geese

 male red-wing blackbird calling in the marsh

male red-wing blackbird calling in the marsh

A soaring turkey vulture (photo by Mike Farrell)

A soaring turkey vulture
(photo by Mike Farrell)

Pussy Willows

Pussy Willows

A groundhog feeding in early Spring.

A groundhog feeding in early Spring.

Mourning Cloak Butterfly

Mourning Cloak




Painted turtle sunning itself.

Painted turtle sunning itself.

Hepatica is one of the first to bloom

Hepatica is blooming now!


Bloodroot blooms in mid-April

Bloodroot started blooming this week

Trillium blooms in late April and May

Trillium blooms in late April and May

A chorus frog calling in early spring

A chorus frog calling in early spring

American Toads beginning calling at the end of April

American Toads beginning calling at the end of April

Canada goose nesting on muskrat hut.

Canada goose nesting on muskrat hut.


May 1st look for orioles and grosbeaks.

May 1st is oriole day. Put your orange slices out.

Northern Oriole – Put your orange slices out.

Rose-breasted grosbeak

Rose-breasted grosbeak



Warbler Migration early to mid May

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow warbler

Yellow warbler

Blue-wing warbler

Blue-wing warbler

Posted in Birds, Connecting to Nature, Spring | 3 Comments

Art from the Heart of the Earth

Chinese ink and Brush paintings – James Gregory
I like painting nature because in order to paint I have to get out of my analytical mind and actually see the scene in order to paint it. This experience of turning off my expectations of how I think something should look allows me to access parts of my awareness which get blunted in daily thinking.



editor’s note – click on the horse to see it full size





Photo by David Nelson

Photo by David W. Nelson

I almost cried.
There was an affinity in the woods,
A stillness of calm,
And peace,
And pride.
The wind filtered through the brush
And touched
Ever so lightly,
The rustling leaves
And the flowing current.
Upon which the Egret
Displayed their grace with dignity.
There was an affinity
And I almost cried.




Robin Sanislo – photography and poetry



The question of art for me
Is in my home and surrounding gardens.
My gardens are one way I connect to nature
And the promise of spring
Is my favorite time to witness nature.
And birds….
I love their visits to my yard
And I provide lots of suet and thistle for them year round.
Oh, and the bees, too.
I love them when they move about all the flowers.
I love to listen to them do their work.
And then, voila…
I reap lots of raspberries
and plums
and even peaches.

Christina Gregory – Chinese Ink and Brush Painting

Spring’s Rhythm

I feel the beat of Spring today in crescendo and legato
Of wind that stirs the chimes to rise
And practice their scales.
da da daaaa    da da daaaa.   Da da da da da.     Da da da da da

I feel the beat of Spring today in the heartbeat of Mother Earth
Held tenderly in the dark and moist home
Singing a lullaby to the new born flowers.

I feel the beat of Spring today in the sap that pulses upward to feed new leaves
To touch the buds with nectar sweet
And treat humankind to sweetness on their pancakes.

And I hear the grace notes of the rain
Quickly against the window pane in the early morn
Lightly lightly tapping out a rhythm the stars can dance to.

And on the lakes I hear the creak and sway of cracking ice
Thundering like the largest drum
Releasing with each beat the water for the boats to come.

         Christina Gregory


LoneWolfLone Wolf

The lone wolf comes in from cold
Shoulder to the wind
Never needing anything
Not asking for help
Independent and strong
Surviving but not living
The lone wolf comes in from the cold
I see you are child of light
You are safe here in my arms
And you will always be valued for who you are
The lone wolf comes in from the cold
You are always welcome at our table
I will give you my chamomile tea
I will listen to your stories
There is no need to be silent anymore
I will hug you if you are feeling sad
You will never be ignored again
The lone wolf, alone no more.

               Lawrence Wade


Falling into Spring

The wind is blowing warm across my skin.
Urgently it draws me into the night.
I sense you there
And I begin to play.
You whisper,
I dance.
The wind caresses my face.
I am alive under the stars.
I hear the flutter of night wings,
The flutter of my heart.
I am still.
The night moves around me.
The moon smiles down.
I reach out my arms
I’m filled with joy.
I am falling into spring.



Christina Gregory – Chinese Ink and Brush Painting



















Chinese ink and Brush paintings – James Gregory
The Chinese say, all Chinese ink and brush paintings begin with understanding how to paint a rock!
















Pelicano – Lawrence Wade


Posted in Nature Poetry, Photography/Art | Comments Off on Art from the Heart of the Earth

Walking in Two Worlds

Editor’s Note: The wildness of Antarctica, the Chilean Andes and the desert lands of the Atacama in Northern Chile had a deep impact on many of the travelers. Hopefully, you will feel the raw emotion in the poetry and the photos. One of the photographers, Jane Ball, has traveled around the world with her camera. To see more of her work go to:



A humpback dives right beside the Zodiac. Photo by Robin Sanislo

A humpback dives right beside the Zodiac.
Photo by Robin Sanislo



When in the Atacama desert, we walked across dry, heaved, hard dirt and made our way to a large, very old Carob Tree. The wind touched our faces and we discussed how being more authentic in ourselves and being more of who we are would allow more life to come to us. To touch us. We would be more available to the earth and to each other. Later that day, I sat with the question, Who am I?

Betsy Nelson-Callahan

Touching Life

Carob Tree Photo by Jane Ball

Carob Tree
Photo by Jane Ball

I am the Water, the stone,
And the woman who swims.
Life will come to me.

 I am the song, the dance,
And the woman who sings.
Life will come to me.

 I am the flower, the rain,
And the woman whose hands
Are covered in dirt.
Life will come to me.

 I am the wind, the tree,
And the woman who walks
The earth.
Life will come to me.

 I am the tear, the prayer,
And the woman who cares.
Life will come to me.

 And I will open my arms
And hold the truth.



Flamingos in Flight, Atacama Desert Photograph by Robin Sanislo.

Flamingos in Flight, Atacama Desert
Photograph by Robin Sanislo.


The poem below was inspired by Gentoo and Chinstrap Penguins. They are a tough bunch of creatures. Living each day on the edge. In one of our discussions about the penguins someone asked, “What is their strength?” A fellow traveler answered:

They are what they are

Lawrence Wade

Gentoo Penguin colony

Gentoo Penguin colony

I am the gentoo,
Life and death are constant companions
The skua waits for my chick – to move out of reach
An orca may eat me for a snack
It is of no concern to me
Interwoven into the fabric of life
I am what I am.

Gentoos climbing ice flow Photo by Rodrigo Antarctica XXI

Gentoos climbing ice floe
Photo by Rodrigo Moraga Zuñiga- Antarctica XXI

I live between two worlds
Land and sea.
Everyday is an impossible journey
On the ice floe.
Step by Step.

Gentoo Penguin Tracks

Gentoo Penguin Tracks

Falling down – getting up.
A trek towards freedom,
The ocean.
Then slowly climb back up
Step by step.
My chick is up there,
And must be fed.
I am what I am.

P1110342I am the human.
Raw wildness of Antarctica,
Exposes false truths.
Opportunity to see with fresh eyes
Unexpressed pain
Old patterns and beliefs die slowly
An unknown path to travel
I am what I am

Two steps forward – one step back
Murky water
Embrace abandoned self
Reach out for help
More oxygen
More hope
An impossible journey back to myself
I am what I am

Chinstrap Penguin

Chinstrap Penguin





The Atacama Desert, in Northern Chile, is a desolate land filled with many wonders. Looking at the photo below, is a crack between the spires. Some of us were able to find our way up into the crack to a secret landing.  It was here that the sounds reverberated off the walls.

Lawrence Wade

Sacred Spires

Photo by Ken Brown

Photo by Ken Brown

Ancient spires of red volcanic ash
Reach high into the sky
Seekers ask the enchanted land for entry
A steep scramble and a large boulder blocks the way
But determination wins out
At the foot of the cathedral walls is the sacred ground.
Shoes must be removed,…. but weren’t.
A falcon nest on a small bluff above.
Bones and feathers litter the ground.
A woman’s primeval chant pulses into the mountain
And mixes with the mountain’s song.
The song drifts out across the land
Witnesses hear two voices
One the mountain and the other a woman.
A blessing for Earth.

Natural Salt Sculptures, Atacama Desert, Chile photo by Lawrence Wade

Natural salt sculptures, valle de la luna, Atacama Desert, Chile
photo by Lawrence Wade





Atacama Desert photo by Lawrence Wade

Atacama Desert
photo by Lawrence Wade




Be With the Earth Photo by Lawrence Wade

Be With the Earth
Photo by Lawrence Wade

Posted in Nature Guardians, Nature Poetry, Photography/Art | 7 Comments

The Eye of the Whale

Fin Whale

Fin Whale – Stellwagon Bank, Massachusetts 2014.

It was 43 years ago that I was a whale researcher in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Quebec, Canada. After 6 months of living and breathing whales for 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, I crossed over into dreaming about them. I had the following dream three times that summer.
I was standing at the estuary’s edge,
A fin whale swam right up to me
And lifted part of its head out of the water.
All I could see was its eye.

 This did not feel like an ordinary dream, but more like a vision. It was not so much about the eye, but more about the intensity that pierced the veil into another world. I had the feeling the whale was calling to me.

Blue Whale Eastern Tropical Pacific 1976.

Blue Whale Eastern Tropical Pacific 1976.



I continued working at sea for another 4 years, then we started a family.  In 1985, I finished my book, Getting to Know the Whales. I interviewed renowned whale biologist, Dr. Roger Payne, and one thing he said, I really connected with:

“….down deeper, whales are moving
with slow drifting currents – whales that are
great, gentle, cloudlike beings”.

The whales were still with me, even though I was landlocked.

In 2013, I started saving to go to Antarctica. About a month before I left, I had the following dream:
The setting was before the whalers ever came to Antarctica.  I was a whale and the interconnection between all the whales was unlike anything I have ever known as a human. I was not only connected to other whales, but to all living things in the ocean. There was a real beauty in the flow between all the sea life. The movement of the currents and whale sounds were part of my daily life. I could feel the currents moving inside of me as well as in the ocean itself.

Antarctica is calling.....

Antarctica is calling…..

Whale try pots where whale oil was rendered.

Whale try pots where whale oil was rendered.

This past January, I actually went to Antarctica with a group of close friends. During the trip, we visited two shore-based whaling stations established in the 1920’s or 1930’s. At Deception Island there were eight rusted ovens where the whale blubber was rendered into oil. When I realized what I was looking at, the horror I felt was beyond words. It was like walking through a World War II German death camp.


Whale bones

Whale bones, Whaler’s Cove Antarctic Peninsula

At Whaler’s Cove, we found a pile of large whale bones (probably blue, humpback or fin whales). One of the goals of our group was to “listen” to the land. For most of us it wasn’t hard to hear what the land was saying. From my perspective, there was agony on that beach. The agony of so many whale’s lives cut short. On the day of a whale kill, the beach and water around that cove must have been red with whale blood.


Whale bones litter the beach
Reminders of the genocide
So long ago.
Still, the air smells of agony
Humans breath in the pain
Breath out hope and caring
Tears fall to the sand
Removing the stain on the land
For whales and humans

 Since the 1970’s I have been aware of the Antarctic whalers who decimated the blue whale population in the early 20th century (over 200,00 blues were killed). Sometimes, it is hard to be a human. So much ripping apart of the whale tribes to support the greed of a few people. I have carried this burden with me for 40 years, and I am finally free of it. Also, I feel that I had completed a cycle that began many years ago with the dream of the “Eye of the Whale”.

Humpback "blows" at Sunset

Humpback “blows” at Sunset, Antarctic Peninsula, 2016.

Lastly, that very evening, there were over 50 humpbacks within a half-mile of the ship. Many were right in front of the ship: bubble cloud feeding, tail lobbing, and fluking-up. It was a great celebration of life for whales and humans.

Humpback "fluke-up" Antarctic Peninsula, 2016.

Humpback “fluke-up” Antarctic Peninsula, 2016.


Posted in Nature Guardians, Whales & Oceanography | 11 Comments

Naturalist in the Schools


1st grade Decomposer Lab


1st Grade Pebbles, Sand and Silt






2nd grade Grasshopper Lab

Second grade Schoolyard Nature Hike

Second grade Schoolyard Nature Hike




Schoolyard Fieldtrip to Gro-Tonka Park

2nd grade Seed Lab

2nd grade Seed Lab


2nd Grade Spring Bird Lab

2nd Grade Spring Bird Lab



3rd  or 4th Grade Mammal Lab



3rd Grade Pond Lab


4th or 5th grade Oceanography Unit


4th Grade Glacial Rocks Lab

4th Grade Glacial Rocks Lab


3rd or 4th grade Microscope Lab


Microscope Lab  – leaf (30x)


3rd or 4th grade Nature’s Challenge


5th grade squid Dissection


Squid Beak  (30x)

Posted in Connecting to Nature, Resources, Services | Leave a comment

Holiday Books for Nature Loving Kids

During the holidays, you can buy my books at a 50% discount off of the retail price. All books are priced at $12 + $3 shipping. I will sign all books. Books can be returned for 100% refund.  How to purchase:  Send me a Check for $15. Will ship within 24 hours.
Also, please send me your email address and I’ll get the tracking numbers to you. The last day for the sale is Dec. 21st (visiting my mom).

Larry Wade
15524 Day Place
Minnetonka, MN 55345

or order by email:
or call me to order:  (952) 288-5025

You can also pay by credit card through PayPal go to: /  and scroll down  ( Nature Seeker only) ($19.46 includes shipping)

OceanographyOceanography includes challenging activities on physical oceanography, biological oceanography, interviews with oceanographers and a teacher’s key. For students 4th-7th grade. This book is in its 6th revision (2015). 144 pgs. topics:
Plate Tectonics          Marine Communities
Geology of seafloor   Marine Plankton
Mapping the Seafloor   Marine Food Webs
Ocean currents               Food pyramids

To learn more about this book and Getting to Know the Whales go to: or go to the pull down menu at this site and go to Publications. Click on Whales/oceanography.

GettingtoKnowWhalesThis book had to be written because of the author and illustrator’s passion for whales. Whale biologists have readily contributed data to make whales come to life for children. For students 4th-7th grade. This book is in its 5th revision (2015). 146 pages

Whale Biology Topics
Draw a whale         Prehistoric whales
Whale and dolphin key      Whale dissection
How Whales feed       Lunge-feeding flip book           How Whales Breathe
How long doe a Whale dive?       A Day with a Blue          Whales  How Fast is a Whale
Whale Migration              Year in the life of a Humpback Whale

Nature Seeker Workbook

Wade Cover 020913_flt@300 copy 2Nature Seeker Workbook is the product of 20 years of work as a school naturalist. It is a unique personal field guide to the natural world.
Over 50 field-tested activitiesHundreds of detailed and original drawings
Highlights natural history through all seasons
Entire units to forest and wetland ecology
Includes Nature songs, poetry, weaving and more
For students  2nd – 6th grade 157 pages  (2013)

To try out some of the activities go to:


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Life and Death in the Okavango Delta

Editor’s Note: Jane Ball is a world traveler, and has some incredible photos at her website:     This is the second of a two part series, written by Jane, about her latest trip to Botswana.

Our final camp had tented cabins built on pillars and connected by a boardwalk about eight feet in the air. At this camp, there were palm trees whose ripening nuts the elephants loved. One night, an elephant broke through the boardwalk to get to some of these palm trees.  Early the next morning, I realized the elephant was near my tent eating the nuts. I looked through the screen window, and the elephant’s head was right in front of me, only a few feet away. I watched it put the length of its trunk against the palm tree, tusks on either side of the tree, and using its whole body, shake the palm tree until the nuts fell down crashing on the boardwalk. Fabulous! Elephants are big and strong, and for the most part, they get what they want.

DSC_0465 (1)Elephants are really tough on trees. In addition to rubbing and scratching on a tree to the point of uprooting it, they will eat everything right down to the nub. After they have eaten every leaf and most of the branches, they will use their tusks and their feet to dig up and eat the roots. Elephants have six sets of molars during their lifetime. As one wears down, due to continual grinding, another one moves in to take its place. When elephants are younger, they’ll eat the biggest and toughest pieces of wood. As they get older they will eat smaller, finer branches because they don’t want to wear down the last set of molars they have. Once those molars are gone, they starve to death.

Hippos also pretty much get what they want. We think of hippos as dancing in tutus. They don’t. They spend most of their time in the water but come on shore at night to eat grass. There are a lot of hippos in the Okavango Delta, and I heard them grunting and rumbling day and night. Usually all you see are ears, eyes and a nose, unless they are irritated. Then you see a great gaping maw, which is not a yawn, but a threat.DSC_1119

If you are in a boat and get too close to a hippo, it will be unhappy with you. It will open that giant mouth and with those giant teeth, clamp down on the boat and possibly bite it in half. If the boat is too big, it will attempt to climb up into the boat until the boat capsizes. Then, if the hippo doesn’t bite your head off, the crocodiles will get you before you reach shore.

DSC_0004We went by boat from our third to our fourth camp. It was late in the season, and the waterways were drying up, which meant fairly narrow, shallow channels for the boats to travel. Our group was transferring in two boats, and I was in the second boat. The first boat was whipping down the channel and almost ran over a submerged hippo. The surprised, and irritated, hippo stood up in the water, saw our boat heading toward it, and charged us. I spent a few long seconds considering how I could possibly live through this. Fortunately our driver had backed up our boat enough that a side channel was exposed between us and the hippo, and the hippo chose to take a hard left instead of killing me. (I found it difficult not to take the situation personally.)

I have so many stories from this trip. More than any other, this trip impressed me with nature’s life-death continuum–the lion killing the cub; the zebra stallion trying to kill another stallion’s foal; the elephants eating the trees to death; the eagle catching the fish and pinning it to a branch with its talon; the bird catching the frog and beating it to death on the branch before eating it; the gecko on the tent wall catching and eating the moth. It’s all happening, all the time. The first time I went to Africa, I went as an entitled American, fairly certain that nothing would hurt me. This time, I came home grateful for the doors on my house, the food in the grocery store, and the animal that lives with me that lets me hug him and would never think of eating me. But make no mistake–I love Africa, and I can’t wait to go back.
Article and photos by Jane Ball




Posted in Connecting to Nature, Mammals | 1 Comment