New England birders know to wait until the bears are asleep before they put out their winter bird feeders. But this year, the VT Fish and Wildlife Service has reported that many of the Northeast's male black bears have yet to go into hibernation. Our typically well-timed December 1st start date for feeding winter birds was way off. As we watched our vulnerable feeders sway under the weight of especially well fed birds, we been wondered what else this unseasonable December has thrown off schedule.
Of course, the science educators at VINS are NEVER stuck when it comes to bringing together the outdoors and science education. While winter might be dragging its feet this December, the rest of us are not and we've got plenty of suggestions for using this strange weather for different kinds of lessons.
1. Weatherization- 55 degrees just days before the solstice?! You might forget about your heating costs all together this year, if it wasn't for the specter of January looming just over the horizon. When it does hit, everyone will be thankful for a lesson in energy and weatherization. Think about it! The opportunities are limitless! When it comes to insulating we're talking about moisture, climate, the atmosphere, systems, heat transfer, energy efficiency, material properties, and so much more.
Check out these resources for lesson ideas and materials.
Or hook up with Cover Home Repair in White River Junction and challenge your students to develop a weatherization goal for your school! VINS staff spent the day working with their weatherization team locally. We learned a lot!
2. Climate Change- human made climate change is a thread running through the Next Generation Science Standards and can be tied in at almost any grade level. Dig into the new climate agreement with your students or pair up with a social studies, government, or civics class to really dig in. The science of climate involves chemistry, physics, natural systems, ecology and human impacts. Look back through geological time to start to map the differences in rates of change from past climate changes to today. Visit the VINS Ice age mammals on the meadow to explore how prehistoric climate change impact species.
Here are more of those resources:
What you need to know about the new agreement.
NASA's Vital Signs for the Planet
3. Meteorology, Weather- What is the difference between weather and climate? You've got it. Weather happens every day. It is the narrow time-scale of the current conditions of our atmosphere. Climate happens over many years; it is trends in weather patterns. As wrong as people are when they say that last year's snow fall is evidence that climate change isn't real, they're just as wrong when they say that this December is evidence that it is real. So take this chance to teach about the difference and explore the weather we're experiencing right now. Challenge your class to make a weather chart for the entire winter and compare it to data from last winter or many winters. Is there something that usually happens right before a big snow storm? Something that happens right after? Weather is all about data collection and analysis- and since we literally live right in the middle of it, it is exactly the kind of data that kids get interested in.
These are great resources about teaching weather.
Teacher Vision- including printables and lesson plans.
National Weather Service and NOAA
And here are some links to data sets from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Collaborate with your math teachers to pair your science and math curriculum using real data.
One of my all time favorites: The NOAA Environmental Visualization Lab