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“Sketch What You Notice”

March 25, 2021

By Joe Walewski

Peter and I co-taught a Wolf Ridge Virtual Field Trip today. The focus? Forest Ecology. Actually, it was more about making observations and analyzing the data collection. And the St John the Baptist 5th graders were amazing scientists. You can see their data collection below.

After some conversation and Q&A (we had taught a Birds class to the same students yesterday) I started the class by asking them to gather information from what they could see as we all looked over Sawmill Valley. “Sketch what you notice here.” With a little debriefing of their work, we recognized Paper Birch, Quaking Aspen, Balsam Fir, and White Spruce trees in our forest.

Student sketches of nature

But there was more! Peter then asked that they make a list of “what a forest contains.” Next, “what does a forest need?” Our sophisticated scientists created very extensive lists.

Student sketches of nature

Looking at the forest as a grand unit gave us all a chance to start by zooming out. Next, it was time to shift our focus by zooming in on a single tree. Even closer, a small patch of the trunk on one tree. Lichens, moss, and other wonders covered the bark.

Our 45 minutes was far too little for proper exploration. Still, we were able to explore and share our forest observations with students many hours drive from Wolf Ridge. We have many more Virtual Field Trips over the coming weeks.

Student sketches of nature

As we anticipate next school year, Wolf Ridge is certain to continue offering Virtual Field Trips. It’s far from replacing a real field trip into the forest, but it’s certainly having an impact. For groups unable to travel so far–for whatever reason–it’s proving to be a powerful experience. You can see some examples of their wonderful work below. Ms. Peterson sent these to us as thanks for a great experience.

Peter and I agreed that their work showed great care and effort. Even more, the dozens of questions they sent to us as a follow-up to the Birds class of yesterday demonstrated great curiosity. What a wonderful experience for us all. Thank you St. John the Baptist 5th graders.