Monday, December 1, 2014

Mobiles from Nature

Everyone is a nature artist
Fall is a good time to create nature mobiles.  We first tried this activity on our favorite guinea pigs, the WOLF School.  This turned out to be a great 5th grade activity which combines nature and the study of mechanics.

We began by having the students comb the fields and yards, looking for colorful nature finds such as nuts, seeds, berries and leaves for elements to hang on their mobiles.  It can also include fishing lures (no hooks!), shotgun shells, rocks with fossils or holes, etc.  The nature hunt is half the fun.


The classroom session begins with a brief lesson in the mechanics of levers, including fulcrum, load and effort.  We use a broom with a sliding rope fulcrum to demonstrate the principles of balance.  The goal is for each one of them to create a balanced mobile and learn how to adjust it and add on more elements at home.

Finished! Click to enlarge
The beam of the mobile to the right is made from a box elder branch but almost any stick will do.  Some students used sticks covered with thick  lichen, an indicator of the clean air of the area they found it.  A thread tied to the middle of the beam with a slip knot allows adjustment of the 'fulcrum' - a word they are asked to repeat.  They make their own elements which can be tied with a thread or attached with a hot glue gun.  This student included elements like acorns and their caps, a sweet gum seed ball, pieces of turkey tail fungus, buck brush berries and a turkey feather.



As they build their mobiles, we ask them about food chain relationships such as  "What eats the acorns?"  Answer: deer, turkey, weevils, etc.  We had lots of honey locust seed pods with holes in them where the honeylocust bean weevil larvae had crawled out.  "What eats the larvae?"  Answer: spiders, beetles, birds etc.  " Is that good or bad?"  Answer: it depends on whether you are a tree, a bird or the larva.

The choice of elements is limited only by  imagination.  Hook-less fishing lures, empty shotgun shells, snail shells and fossil rocks, everything is fair game.  Next year we are going to add colorful card elements where they can write the answers above to include on their mobiles, or even a picture or photograph.

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