Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Preparing for Fall ~ The Mystery of the Falling Pine Cones

As the season moves from summer to autumn, the children at our little yellow school have been observing the changes in the natural world that surrounds us.  We are very fortunate that our little school is located on a half acre of land in the heart of Oak Ridges.  The majority of our land consists of natural space ~ grass, multiple gardens and many, many trees.  Each season provides us with something new to observe and learn in our "outdoor classrooms". 

We have a little red tree squirrel living in our towering pine trees.    
Our little red tree squirrel.

In the late summer and early fall, this little squirrel begins harvesting the pine cones found on the pine trees. 

Green pine cones on our pine trees.

Each day during our outdoor time we find many pine cones underneath the trees.  By the end of the day, the cones are usually gone.

Red squirrels are very territorial and our squirrel will often make clicking noises at us.  This means that our little red squirrel is not happy with us being in his space.

So why is the red squirrel collecting so many cones?  It is because the red squirrel loves to eat the seeds found within the cones.

After a little careful observation, we discovered where the cones are being stored.  At the edge of our property, under the towering pines, we found a huge pile of cones!  These pine cones will provide the red squirrel with nutrients and energy for the long winter ahead.

A pile of pine cones.

On the edge of the cache of pine cones.

We also found a pile of consumed cones and scales.  This is called a midden.

A pile of consumed cones called a midden.

Examining the cones and the pile of scales.

Finding the cache of cones and the midden was a little like solving a mystery.  We had so much fun!  It is these hands-on experiences in the natural world that instill in all of us a profound respect for living things.

"How often is the soul of man, especially the child, deprived because one does not put him in contact with nature?"

~ Maria Montessori