Wednesday, January 3, 2018

It's Been a Long, Long Time...

To all my former students:

It has been a while since I've posted here--mostly because I kept a separate blog at my former school, the Brooklyn School of Inquiry, and also communicated with students through Google Classroom.

I started at a new school in September 2017. It is called Brooklyn Arbor and it is in Williamsburg. I now teach fifth grade science AND social studies. Imagine that! I also use Google Classroom at Brooklyn Arbor and therefore have not been on the blog much. But it is really exciting when former students check into the blog and reach out to me. It is always GREAT to hear from you all. I think of you often and wonder how you're doing.

I still love nature! I still love gardening! I still love teaching! My sons have grown up. My eldest is a sophomore at Carnegie Mellon University. My youngest is in his senior year at Beacon High School. We will soon be hearing from colleges for him.

Can you believe how much time has gone by?  Please don't hesitate to reach out to me. I always love to hear from you all. (This is a recent photo of me during an environmental trip with my fifth graders. This is a team building activity that we did!)

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Welcome BSI!

I'd like to welcome all my incredible BSI students to my blog. I haven't written on it in a couple of years, but since I will be moving on to another school--the Arbor School (PS 414) in Williamsburg, this is a great time to reboot my blog and keep in touch with each and every one of you!

As usual, I will share my love of science and nature with you all. In turn, I'd love to hear about your adventures and noticings. Don't be shy...share!

All of Ms. Seitz's classroom pets have found homes: Salt is with Ivan Bondar, Turtle 1 is with Nicholas Marchese, Turtle #2 is with Nicholas and Lucas Jung, and Turtle #3 is with Ami Epstein. The crayfish will be moving in with Alessandro Mazzoleni.

As you know, the one and only Guadalupe is also moving on. She is the best Teacher's Assistant a teacher could ever dream of having. She made my year more manageable, organized and brought a level of peace of our science room. I owe a lot to Guadalupe and wish her much success and happiness in the coming years. Let's give it up for Guadalupe!!!!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Nature in the Poconos

It has been a while since I've posted. I guess the too-long-winter kept me away. But now it's spring and I'm back out in the garden and investigating nature wherever I may be.

This Memorial Day weekend, I traveled with my family to the Poconos and came across some pretty amazing things during a nature walk--the Tumbling Waters trail, which we picked up at the Pocono Environmental Education Center. My first find was a familiar friend, the millipede who I found after turning over a decomposing of my very favorite things to do. If you've read any of my earlier posts, you know that I've had previous experiences with millipedes, learning the hard way that they release a noxious liquid that stains your hands if you hold them for too long, say, during a hike. So this time, I left the little guy alone and simply took photographs.

Photo by Sharon Seitz
Photo by Sharon Seitz

They curl up to protect themselves. They are really quite sturdy and quite beautifully striped--burgundy and dark brown with feathery maroon legs. Millipedes have two pairs of legs on most body segments. Despite "milli" in their name, millipedes do not have 1,000 legs, but common species have anywhere from 36 to 400 legs. The variety I saw is called Narceus americanus commonly called the American Giant Millipede, because it can grow to four inches long.

On this same trail, and to my amazement, I came across not one, but two solitary pink lady's slippers, which is a member of the orchid family. It is really, really rare to see one of these showy flowers in the wild. First of all, it takes many, many years for a seed to become an adult plant. Also, plant collectors like to dig them up and take them home because they are so unusual-looking. And lady's slippers can't grow without the help of a certain fungus and bumble bees.
Photo by Sharon Seitz

The lady's slipper seed does not have a food supply inside it, like most seeds do. It needs the threads of a fungus in the Rhizoctonia genus to break open the seed and attach themselves to it. The fungus will pass on food and nutrients to the lady's slipper seed. The plant will return the favor to the fungus when it is older. The fungus can soak up nutrients from the lady's slipper that it could not get by itself.
Photo by Sharon Seitz

Because the lady's slipper is a closed flower, it takes a strong insect to get inside. The flower smells sweet, so the bumble bee is tricked into thinking it holds nectar. When the bee gets inside it not only finds no nectar, but it realizes it is trapped. It cannot get back out the way it got in. The bumble bee explores and find a new way to squeeze out of the flower. To do so, it must push past the pollen-covered stamen. If the bee gets tricked by another lady's slipper, it will deliver pollen from the first flower, and get covered with pollen again by the new flower. The bee may do this several times before it figures out to avoid lady's slippers. The bee gets nothing out of the relationship but the plant could not make new seeds without the bee.

Another animal I saw was Glyptemys insculpta or the Wood Turtle. I just found this reptile during a walk on the grounds of the Fairway Villas in Bushkill, where we were staying. The guys had just finished playing basket and were blobbing, but I was aching to go for a walk. So I took my camera and started photographing wildflowers. I was walking on a path when I came across the turtle basking in the sun. At first, I thought it was a tortoise because it wasn't in the water and it looked kind of dry. It wasn't until I got home and did a few minutes of research that I discovered the turtle was a Wood Turtle, a species of special concern in Pennsylvania and New York. Needless to say, when I texted a photo of this cool turtle to the guys, they immediately left the villa and met me with their cameras and couldn't stop photographing this handsome turtle.

Photo by Sharon Seitz

Photo by Sharon Seitz

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Red-Tailed Hawk Sighting!

I could hardly believe my eyes. Perched on a neighbor's shed, adjacent to the back of my yard, stood a gorgeous red-tailed hawk clutching a male house sparrow with its talons. This kind of stuff doesn't bother me...after all I do teach the food chain to fourth-grade students and I know that this kind of behavior isn't mean or bad, it just keeps nature in balance.

So I ran to the dining room, unzipped my camera bag and pulled out my trusty Canon Rebel. It was freezing outside but I went out barefooted and in my pajamas because I didn't want to miss an opportunity for a close look and a great photo! I walked slowly toward the hawk, noticing the teardrop design of its breast and the stern expression of its yellow eyes, and the hawk just stood there unfazed by me. When I got close enough, I stopped and just watched. The hawk pulled at the bird's innards, devouring bits and pieces, and I just kept snapping.

When my feet started getting numb, I went inside to warm up, happy to have these pretty cool photos of a red-tailed hawk in my backyard. Wishing you many adventures in nature -- Ms. Seitz

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Cornell Lab of Ornithology Bird Cams

One of my anonymous viewers has asked for the link to the bird cams. This is the camera in Ithaca and this is the link to the overall site which has several cams you can check out!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Life at the Feeders

During winter, it can be difficult for birds to find the food they need to survive. That's why I've put up a bird feeding station in my yard! It has four feeders. One of them is a suet feeder, which woodpeckers like, but I haven't yet seen a woodpecker.

Female Cardinal
 I was inspired to build my own station by the bird feeder cams on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's website. The cameras are focused on a bunch of bird feeders in Ithaca, NY and Ontario, Canada. Right now, my fifth-graders at the Brooklyn School of Inquiry are tuning into the Ithaca feeders and recording their observations. These observations will inspire questions that they can investigate on their own. For example, "What types of seeds do goldfinches prefer?" or "What time of day is busiest at the bird feeders?"

Male House Sparrow
These photographs feature some of the birds that have visited my backyard feeders so far. I plan on diversifying my food options to see if I can attract some other species, so stay tuned! Right now, I'm featuring black sunflower seeds and suet. No one has noshed on the suet yet.

White-Throated Sparrow
Female House Sparrow

Blue Jay
White-Throated Sparrow