Nature Notes from Common Ground

Week of December 21, 2020

happy solstice!

Big picture

Winter Solstice (The Return of the Light and the Great Conjunction)

Back in September, we shared a few videos about the science of the Autumnal Equinox. We’ve now made it (today!) to the Winter Solstice. For some straightforward science, here is a video about the solstice.

As the Winter Solstice marks the shortest day of the year for us in the Northern Hemisphere, from here on out, there will be more and more light each day. Inside the beehive, as the Winter Solstice passes, the queen begins to lay eggs again. In the depths of Winter, she is already building the new population of bees who will do the important work of Spring.

We've been warned that this could be a "dark winter," so recognizing and honoring the return of the light feels especially important this year. Where are the glimmers of light in your life? Are there ways that light can through this dark winter? With our queen bees, what actions can we take, even in the coldest moments of winter, to recognize and prepare for the hopeful days of Spring?

2020 has not been a normal year, so it should come as no surprise that even the Winter Solstice will be different. Tonight, just after sunset, something incredibly special will happen: Jupiter and Saturn will meet in a “great conjunction,” where these two giant planets appear so close to each other in the sky that they look like one big star! The last time this happened in a way that was easily visible was March 4th, 1226! In that year, Genghis Khan was still alive, and the first Scandanavian version of the legend of the “star-crossed” lovers Tristan and Isolde was written.

Here’s more information on this conjunction, including its connection to the “Christmas Star”.


Nature activity of the week

Winter Solstice Activities

Celebrations of the winter solstice often include light (candles, lanterns, fire) and wishes for the new year. At Common Ground, we like to put a basket of our wishes into the campfire, sending them off into the universe in a plume of smoke. This website has a collection of fun winter solstice activity ideas - from building projects to lanterns to snowflakes. Have fun with them while you welcome the return of the sun!


Hike of the Week

Lake Wintergreen

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

Click here to visit Lake Wintergreen in the snow!


Weekly Videos

Story: The Shortest Day: Celebrating The Winter Solstice
The Solstice Badger



Virtual Field Trips on Apple Seed’s Teaching Farm

These virtual field trips & supporting worksheets reinforce essential grade-level standards while introducing students to food grown on a farm and basic nutrition education. Apple Seeds introduces concepts in an engaging way that makes you feel like you got to visit the farm.


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.

Some of the funding we rely on to keep Nature Notes free comes from the Robert F. Schumann Foundation and The Claire C. Bennitt Watershed Fund, established by the South Central CT Regional Water Authority.