Nature Notes from Common Ground

Week of May 11 - 15, 2020

Weekly Nature Note

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What is happening in nature this week?

All about snapping turtles!


When you see a Snapping Turtle on land, its head is often only a few inches out of its shell, but don’t be fooled! The length of its neck can be up to two-thirds the length of its shell and if threatened it can quickly extend its neck all the way out. Keeping yourself out of reach is wise.


Their long neck allows Snapping Turtles to capture prey like fish, frogs and crayfish from a distance. When in shallow water, they can lie on the muddy bottom of the pond with only their heads occasionally exposed in order to take a breath. If you look closely at a Snapping Turtle’s head, you will see that their nostrils are positioned on the very tip of their snout, effectively functioning as snorkels.

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Nature activity of the week

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Activity 1: Shadow Drawing

Use the sun to learn a new way to make art!


Step 1: Gather Materials

Find a flat surface outdoors in the morning or late afternoon. You’ll also need a blank piece of paper, a pencil, and a couple pieces of tape. Finally, you’ll need something to cast a shadow on your blank page. The example above shows an elephant and a giraffe action figure. You could also use a small potted plant, a medium-sized toy car or truck, or a lego structure. Be creative with what you would like to draw!


Step 2: Get Set-up

Locate the direction that the sun light is coming from. You’ll want to place your toy or object between the sun and the page, and sit behind the page as shown in the picture above, so that you’re not blocking your source of sunlight. You can use your pieces of tape to tape down the page where you’d like to draw. This way, your page doesn’t move around once you begin drawing. Make sure the shadow of your object or toy fits on the blank page before you begin tracing by moving the object or toy into position.


Step 3: Trace, Draw, Decorate!

When you think you have it centered on the page where you’d like to draw it, leave the object or toy in place and begin to trace its shadow!


When you have the shape of the shadow traced, you can decorate, color, pattern, or texture your drawing how you see fit.


Pro tip: If it’s not a very sunny morning or afternoon, you can recreate this effect indoors using a reading lamp to replace the sunlight!

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Activity 2: Nature Art from CGHS Senior Brandi Ocasio

Hi everyone! My name is Brandi Ocasio and I am currently a senior at Common Ground High School. I am 18 and have grown up surrounded by nature. I am attending Bennington University next year to pursue an environmental essayist education. I have seen first hand the benefits of being surrounded by nature and explore what it has to offer.


Nature is large and limitless! For this activity, we are encouraging you to go out into nature and find something that interests you. Maybe it’s a rock, or pretty leaves, or a flower growing in your backyard. Now, what do you do with what you found? Anything you want! Be creative and make whatever you like.


As you’re looking for your materials, feel free to take off your shoes and feel the grass under your toes. Push your hands into the dirt and see how it makes you feel. Be connected to nature! Above are some pictures from when me and my sister, Emalee, 17, did the activity ourselves.


Extra article:


Clicking here will send you to an article by Angela Hanscom, a nature therapist, in 2014 about the benefits of connecting with nature and some more activities you can do during these times.

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Hike of the Week

West Haven Beach at low tide

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


Click HERE for a short, easy walk to a rocky island!


West Haven Beaches have restricted parking as of June 1 - go now!

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Weekly Videos

This video is unavailable.
Weed of the Week: Garlic Mustard 5/13/20
Chicken Check-in: Taste Test 5/11/20

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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 program closure and social distancing, we are seeking to support families and children in getting outside in safe and healthy ways. We hope this series provides content and activities to help your family engage in nature based learning in your own backyard.


This series is adapted from content created by the Common Ground NatureYear Teachers, who are sharing distance learning with their students this spring.