Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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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

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 Mississippi delta.

(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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