Classroom Projects -- Part Two
Nature Bulletin No. 610 September 24, 1960
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
Daniel Ryan, President
Roberts Mann, Conservation Editor
Don Kessel, Senior Naturalist
CLASSROOM PROJECTS -- PART TWO
This bulletin continues with outlines of experiments that can be
conducted by a class with materials collected on field trips. They are
examples of projects that appeal to youngsters and stimulate their
interest in natural science.
(5) SOIL LAYERS -- Place equal amounts of topsoil, pulverized clay,
sand, and gravel in a jar. Add water until covered Shake and stir
thoroughly, adding water as needed. Let stand until water is clear. How
long? Note materials deposited in layers according to fineness and
weight. Repeat with natural soils, such as from projects 3 and 4 in Part
One. Discuss erosion of cutbanks and bare slopes, muddy rivers, and
(6) HITCHHIKERS -- In autumn some plants, especially in woodlands,
have seeds that cling-to animals' hair and to woolly clothing as you
walk through them. Collect burdock burs, beggar lice, sticktights,
Spanish needles, etc., in cellophane bags. Examine each under a
magnifying glass and mount a specimen on cardboard, identifying it by
name, name of parent plant, and an enlargement of what enables it to
steal a ride. Count the seeds in burdock burs.
This and other autumn projects are described in our bulletin No. 465,
one of six dealing wholly or in part with seed dispersal. J. A. Partridge
devotes a chapter to "Seed Travelers". Similar projects may be
conducted to demonstrate how seeds are widely dispersed: (a) by winds;
(b) by water; (c) on the feet of waterfowl and wading birds; (d) eaten
but not digested by birds or mammals; (e) buried by squirrels.
(7) VEGETABLE DYES -- Children are fond of colors. It is fun and
instructive for them to extract, from plants, dyes to color skeins of white
wool and swatches of cotton cloth. Some surprising results, in soft
pastel shades, can be obtained from various parts of many wild and
cultivated plants For example: from roots -- beet (yellow and red),
dandelion (violet), plantain (green); from leaves -- spinach (green), red
cabbage (buff), tea (rose tan); from flowers -- goldenrod (yellows),
hollyhock (red), tulip (gray); from berries -- sumac (orange), wild grape
(blue); from onion skins -- yellows, orange, deep henna.
Our 27-page monograph, "Indian Dyes", describes the materials and
methods used by the Navajo and other tribes to obtain certain colors,
and those employed by white experimenters -- notably at Morton
Arboretum where you may observe the results and obtain literature in
the Thornhill Building.
(8) LIFE IN ROTTEN LOGS -- A winter project. A rotting log harbors
innumerable living things within and beneath it. You may find a
mouse's nest, snake, . salamander, toad, snails, slugs, earthworms, ants,
beetles, caterpillars and other larvae, cocoons, sowbugs, centipedes and
millipedes. There are molds and other fungi. You may collect
specimens but be sure to leave the log in place as you found it.
Elsewhere you can find rotting stumps, boards, or fallen branches from
which you may take sections to school and observe what emerges.
(9) POND LIFE -- Into a wide-mouth jar put a gob of mud from the
bottom of a pond, perhaps a couple of dead leaves, and fill it with the
pond water. Add a teaspoonful of sugar for food. Keep undisturbed and
fairly cool Examine frequently with a strong reading glass to see what
develops: algae, pondweeds, rotifers, water fleas, cyclops, insect larvae,
etc.. Examine tiny animals with a low-power microscope. Compare with
the micro-projectors at our nature centers.
We hope you will try some of these projects and let us know the results.
Our naturalists will help you in any way they can.
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Update: June 2012