Nature Dad, by Dan Kreisberg

Winter at Bailey Arboretum

Winter is a great time to visit the Arboretum.  Take advantage of every snowstorm, big or small.  Snow gives you the chance to see things you’d never notice in other seasons.  Even without it the woods and ponds are beautiful in the pale winter light.

Tracks:
The snow reveals the stories of the animals that live at Bailey.  Every night they move around looking for food, shelter and water.   Follow some tracks and see if you can figure out where the animal spent the night before.  Where were they going? What might they have been looking for?

Other Signs:
Keep your eyes open for piles of nuts or pinecones.  Can you find any twigs that have been snipped off?  Do you see any animal droppings?  Listen for the birds and squirrels rustling in the trees. You can see nests now that their branches are bare.  The more you pay attention, the more you will see.

Winter Trees:
You can learn a lot about trees in the winter.  It is much easier to see the distinct shape of each kind of tree and focus on its bark.  Pick a common tree and see if you can identify others like it by their bark.  Test each other by closing your eyes and asking a partner to put your hands on a tree.  Can you figure out whether it is “your” kind of tree or something different?

Ice:
Look for patterns in the ice.  Step on ice in a puddle and watch how it cracks. Slide sticks across the pond and see whose stick goes the farthest.

Activities:
Photo Scavenger Hunt:  Take a picture with a digital camera while your children or other companions have their eyes closed.  With the picture in hand, have them look for the spot where you took the picture.

Winter Animal Survival:  Have your children pick an animal that lives in Bailey Arboretum.  Have each of them mark out a “habitat” for their animal.  Hide some “food” for the animal that your children can find.  They may want to make a shelter for their animal as well.

Just taking a walk in the winter woods will take you into a wonder-filled place.  Children will find a lot to do if you just let them.