Nature Notes from Common Ground

Week of October 26, 2020


Weekly Nature Note

What's happening in nature this week?

Witch Hazel

As the leaves change and begin to fall, and as the first frosts of the season tiptoe closer and closer, you may not expect new flowers to start blooming. Right now, however, something very exciting is happening in the forest. Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is flowering! As you walk through the forest, keep your eyes peeled for tiny bursts of yellow among the branches of the witch hazel tree.

The pale yellow flower has only four thin, delicate, ribbonlike petals. These petals are curled up tight inside the flower buds, and unfurl when they bloom. While theylook very delicate, these flowers will stay on the tree for quite some time, as it is harder to attract pollinators in the cooler fall temperatures. Even after the leaves fall from the witch hazel’s branches, the flowers remain behind.

Flowers are not the only amazing thing about witch hazel this time of year. If you look closely, you'll also see small fruits that look like tiny acorns or nuts. These fruits have been growing on the tree since the flowers were pollinated last year. Right as the tree is flowering, it is also time for these fruits to open. In the less humid fall weather, the “nuts” dry out and crack open, sending the tiny black seeds inside flying as far as 30 feet! Some say you can even hear their popping sound as you walk through the forest - a good reason to take some quiet time on your next hike.


Nature activity of the week

It’s apple season! Just yesterday, I enjoyed a cup of hot apple cider sitting while on my porch - one thing that I love about fall is that the weather was warm enough to sit outside, but cool enough to enjoy a warm drink in my hands. Apples offer great inspiration for activities.

Apple tasting - Did you know that there are thousands of varieties of apples? Grab a few different ones from the grocery store or farm stand, and do a taste test. Cut slices of each, and see which one you prefer!

Seed counting - When you cut open each apple, count the number of seeds. Does each apple have the same number? Graph them, sort them, use them in a collage!

Apple stamps - cut an apple in half, dip it in paint, and stamp! Some people say the shape looks like a pumpkin. What do you think it looks like?



Big picture


Hike of the Week

Derby Greenway

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

This week, take your bike or scooter on the Derby Greenway along the Housatonic and Naugatuck Rivers!


Weekly Videos

Life under Emily's log
Water Wizard Virtual World Oceans Day 2020



Common Ground High School Open House

Thinking about high school options for your child?

Come find out about Common Ground: a unique, college-preparatory high school with an environmental justice mission.

  • A Public Charter High School open to students from New Haven & all Connecticut towns

  • More than a school: An inclusive community of 225 students, dedicated to the environment and social justice

  • A challenging, interdisciplinary core curriculum that gets students ready for college and careers, leadership and life

  • Students find their paths through after-school programs, paid green jobs, dual enrollment, internships & unique courses

  • Located on 20-acre campus at the base of West Rock -- a farm, in a forest, in a city

Open House Dates:

Saturday, November 14, 2020 • 10 AM - 12 PM

Thursday, December 3, 2020 • 5 PM - 7 PM

Saturday, January 23, 2021 • 10 AM - 12 PM

Tuesday, February 9, 2021 • 5 PM - 7 PM

Saturday, February 20, 2021 • 10 AM - 12 PM

To schedule a visit (virtual or in-person) contact Sharyn Lopez:

To receive information on visiting virtually, please submit an application on our website:

Two grant opportunities from

Carton2Garden Contest

Repurpose milk and juice cartons into purposeful garden items and structures for a chance to win up to $5000!

Budding Botanist Grant

$1000 to help bring garden-based learning opportunities to students, plus $200 in tools and educational materials!

GVI Harvest Fest

GVI’s Harvest Fest is VIRTUAL this year from October 26th through the 30th. Our goal is to provide fun lessons, learnings, and entertainment with you, our community. Videos will drop and stream on Youtube and Facebook Live from 7-8 each night with a follow up Community Q&A on Zoom!

  • Monday October 26th - Wild Edible Plant Walk with Two Coyotes
  • Tuesday October 27th - Preserving Your Harvest at Home with Ellie
  • Wednesday October 28th - GVI Game Night!
  • Thursday October 29th - From Food Scraps to Soil: Composting w/ FoodCorps with Yadley, Vetiveah, Galilea
  • Friday October 30th - Climate Change and the 6th Extinction, a Folk Music Concert with David Lindsay & Kathleen Schomaker


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.

More Resources

From our friends at the Children and Nature Network, check out these interesting graphics/printable posters on the benefits of being in nature and green schoolyards on health, academics, and more! Which one would you hang on your wall?