Nature Notes from Common Ground

Week of October 5, 2020


Weekly Nature Note

What's happening in nature this week?

Imagine if, as a baby, you got to live in a tiny home made of your favorite food. Inside this home you were protected from the outside world, and could eat all you wanted as you grew. Imagine you did not need to leave this home until you were an adult, and to leave, you needed to eat your way out.

This is sort of what life is like for many larvae inside galls. Galls are abnormal growths that appear on plants in response to chewing or chemicals produced by insects, though they can also be caused by fungi.

Right now, while walking in the forest, you may find strange greenish orbs on the ground that almost look like spotted grapes. These are oak apple galls, caused when a special type of wasp lays an egg in the leaf bud of an oak tree. Secretions from the wasp larva cause the developing leaf to form into a mostly hollow, globe-shaped structure that protects the larva.

Inside the gall,the larval wasp is protected and has all the food it needs until it pupates, becomes an adult, and emerges. You can also find old brown oak galls on the ground, and sometimes find the tiny hole from which the wasp emerged.


Nature activity of the week

Hard Core Crunch Challenge

This week is CT Grown for CT Kids Week. One way to celebrate is by participating in the 5th annual HardCORE Apple and Pear Challenge!

To take part, all you need is a #CTGrown apple or pear and to eat it down to its core!

By participating, you are promoting some of the most readily available local products in the fall in a fun and simple way that can easily engage the entire school community. All of October is National Farm to School Month, in case you want to celebrate all month long!

Make some apple spice muffins!

Follow up your Crunch with some cooking! Baking with this historical recipe can connect to history, local foods, math, and science, and would be a fun activity for younger children to do with their parents or for older children to tackle on their own, building independence and confidence.

Apple Activity Sheets

The folks over at Connecticut Apples have put together some activity sheets, posters, and more for you!


More resources

CT Grown for CT Kids Week

If you're interested in getting further involved in CT Grown for CT Kids Week, here's the schedule of activities! And there will be updates on Facebook all week. Make this week all about apples and local food!

Outdoor learning spaces and COVID-19 reopening

Whether your students have returned to in-person school this fall or whether you are still hoping they will, many schools and teachers have been exploring outdoor learning. Here, Green Schoolyards America discusses using school grounds and parks as strategic, cost-effective tools for improving academic, mental, and physical well-being as schools reopen.


Natural Dye Workshop

Common Ground is hosting a Natural Dye Workshop for children ages 5-12 and their grownups. To ensure safe social distancing, space is limited for this in-person event, so register today!

Hike of the Week

Chatfield Hollow State Park

Each week we will share a kid-friendly hike or other outdoor adventure.

This week, visit Chatfield Hollow State Park to hunt for beavers on the boardwalk, explore the caves, climb on some rocks, and discover a covered bridge!


Weekly Video

HardCORE Apple and Pear Crunch Challenge
This week's video comes courtesy of CT Grown for CT Kids - check out folks around the state crunching!


About this series

Our programs for children at Common Ground are place based, hands on, and focus on community, friendship, and nature-based learning and play.

In this time of virtual learning and social distancing, we seek to support teachers and families in getting outside in safe and healthy ways. We hope this series provides content and activities to help your students or your family engage in nature-based learning, whether you are learning in person or virtually.