Snow Science, Free Seeds, Below Zero, CoCoRaHS, Plant Sale, Birthday Bash, Art Project, Subnivean Zone
 
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["Sullivan County"]
 
March        Winter Warmth         Issue 42
 
 
Where are the warmest places in a forest?
 
Did you know that deer mice stay active all winter long? They still have to move through the forest to find food, hide from predators, and stay warm doing it. A mouse is a small creature in a big forest, so what paths might they take? Probably the warmest ones! Where is the warmest spot in the forest? Let's find out!
 
Which of these 5 places do you think is the warmest spot in the forest?
  • In the water
  • Near the water (shore)
  • In open forest
  • Near logs or stumps,
  • At the base of a live tree
 
Students from Charlestown and Claremont schools were asked this question in February.  Then, they were split into groups with thermometers and data sheets to measure temperatures in these micro-habitats and record them. 
 
Each group shared their data with the group as a whole and each habitat's temperature measurements were averaged in order to answer the question above. 
 
What were the results? 
In the water was by far the warmest place in winter. If you think about it, of the five choices, it makes sense. If the water is flowing, it is usually right around freezing - 32 degrees F. Everything else on the list is much colder. 
 
Not what you expected?
Most of the students predicted near a log would be the warmest spot on the list, but in many cases, it was the coolest!
 
Now, mice do not live in the water, so that's obviously not where they will be moving in the forest. The shore and near the base of a live tree were the next warmest places. 
 
Where else might mice move in the forest?
The students looked around and came up with some other places to test: stick piles, under leaves, holes in the soil, holes in trees, and under the snow. Each group picked one micro-habitat and measured the temperature of 3 different spots and averaged them. 
 
Most of these places were warmer than the first list of places. The middle of stick piles and holes in the soil were the warmest. So the students concluded that mice would most likely run under the snow when possible from tree to stick pile to a hole in the ground. Though the hole in the ground could be inhabitated, so they would need to take care!
 
Extensions
This simple investigation can lead to asking questions and learning about insulation - body fat, fur, down feathers, dens, snow, etc., weather, and snowpack studies. If the habitat itself is only so warm, how else does the animal stay warm? What adaptations or behaviors help it survive cold New England winters?
 
Students love to investigate the answers to these kind of questions and winter is a great time to move around in the forest collecting information and trying out insulation ideas.
 
Contact Dawn if you'd like a lesson plan for this activity or to schedule a time for your students to do some Snow Science at our forest classroom on County Lands or near your school!
 
Check out our programs!
 
Local Resources for Place-based Education
 
Winter Wildlife Tracking
 
Learn how to Identify the tracks and signs of the many critters that share your backyard and national parks. 
 
March 7, 2020
10am -1pm
Saint Gaudens National Historic Park
Cornish, NH
 
Meet at the Visitor's Center. For more information, call 802.457.3368 x222 or email Leah.
 
Learn More
 
 
Farm to School Mini-Grants
 
Vital Communities is thrilled to offer their 2020 mini-grants of up to $500 to support farm to school projects in the Upper Valley. These grants will help your school, afterschool program, or school-related wellness program launch (or continue) projects related to farms, our agricultural heritage, farm products, food production, or local food consumption at the school.
 
All schools in the Vital Communities Service Area are welcome to apply!
 
Applications received by March 6 will get first consideration, and thereafter applications will be considered on a rolling basis.
 
Reach out to Beth Roy with any questions or for assistance.
 
Apply Today!
 
 
UNH Master Gardener Free Seed Program
 
UNH Cooperative Extension is pleased to offer free seeds!
 
This program is made possible annually through generous donations of seeds and through the efforts of New Hampshire Master Gardener volunteers.
 
Vegetable, flower, and herb seed packets are available for schools, Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, 4-H clubs, community gardens and any education-based or youth groups.
 
Get Seeds!
 
Curriculum Spotlight
 
Below Zero
 
Instead of feeling the winter blahs, introduce your
K-12 students to the basics of winter ecology with the help of a variety of fun activities. A supplementary education program that focuses on understanding wildlife in frozen environments. That's certainly the Northeast for several months of the year!
 
Below Zero was created by the Canadian Wildlife Federation and designed to complement the Project WILD activity guide. Like Project WILD, Below Zero activities are both interactive and inter-disciplinary, and target both formal and non-formal, K-12 students. Workshops can also be scheduled at your site. There is a fee for the workshops.
 
Find an event near you or request a workshop for your school by contacting NH Fish and Game Educator, Lindsay Webb by e-mail or call (603) 271-3212.
 
Sample Activity
 
Citizen Science
 
CoCoRaHS: Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network
 
CoCoRaHS is a unique, non-profit, community-based network of volunteers of all ages who measure and report precipitation. 
 
Each time a rain, hail, or snow storm occurs, volunteers take measurements of precipitation from their registered locations (reports of ‘zero’ precipitation are encouraged too!). The reports are submitted to the website and are immediately available for viewing. 
 
The data are used by the National Weather Service and a whole host of others. 
 
Start Measuring!
 
Upcoming Events
SCCD 2020 Spring Plant Sale
 
The order deadline is coming up fast, so feel free to call in your order or take a pic or scan it and send it in by email. The check can come in the mail later if need be.
 
 
Collective Science and Stewardship in the Upper Valley
 
Explore ways to engage students in authentic investigations, reflection, problem-solving, and sharing their work publicly to strengthen students’ sense of efficacy and their abilities to create healthier lives and communities. 
Water
March 20, 2020
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park
 
For more information and to register, visit the event page. Qualified candidates will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, up to 15 participants per workshop.
 
Sign-up Today!
 
 
Farwell School 130th Birthday Bash,
Apple Pruning Demonstration, and
Orchard Workday!
 
Celebrate the Farwell School's 130th Birthday by taking care of the North Charlestown Orchard!
 
Saturday, April 4, 2020
 
Pruning Demo: 8-9:30am
Orchard Workday: 9:30 - 11:30am
Barbeque & School Tours: 11:30am - 12:30pm
 
North Charlestown Community School
509 River Rd. Charlestown, NH 03603
 
Join us for just 1 or all of these activities! Everything is FREE including lunch. Donations will be accepted for continued care and restoration of the orchard. This is a family friendly event, so bring everyone you know!
 
Contact Dawn with questions. 603.504.1004
 
Join Us!
 
 
Seed Packet Art Project
 
Help us put the culture back in agri-culture as we promote saving local seeds by submitting a design for the front of our Native Pollinator Seed Packets that will be given to area schools and sold at the SCCD 2020 Spring Plant Sale.
 
This project is for Sullivan County Middle and High School Students

Theme: Seed Mandalas & Mosaics

These can be made with real seeds, the seeds can be painted, or the seeds can be drawn.

Submission Deadline: April 10, 2020
 
Learn More
 
Where will the Sullivan County Educators be this Month?
 
Bluff Elementary School- Dawn will be leading outdoor programs for Kindergarten, 1st, and 3rd graders in the school yard. 4th graders will be visiting the Eco Ag Center for a field trip.
 
Charlestown Primary School - Dawn will be teaching 4th graders about owl adaptations.
 
Raising Monarchs - Dawn will be leading this talk for UVLT Lunch and Learn.
 
Break Out of the Classroom! Winter Wonders - Dawn will be co-leading this 2 day teacher workshop. 
 
Seed Saving Party - Dawn will be leading volunteers in cleaning, weighing and packaging pollinator seeds for the plant sale. 
 
GLOBE Professional Development: Water - Dawn will be attending this workshop.
 
4H County Activities Day - Dawn will be a judge at this event.
 
Please contact Dawn if you would like to set-up a school visit, workshop, field trip or want to volunteer.
 
Naturalist Notes
 
The Subnivean Zone
 
As I was looking for tracks and signs of animals in the snowy landscape with Bluff Elementary 5th graders back in January, I noticed a place were small footprints disappeared down a hole into the snow, then reappeared a few feet later, then disappeared a final time into a hole near some bushes.
 
I assumed it was some kind of microtine rodent - a mouse, shrew, vole or such and started to wonder what the story was here. When did it make those tracks? Was it at night or early in the morning or in the middle of the day? Why would it dig a tunnel into the snow in some places and come out in others? Did it have a nest in the bushes there or was it just moving through? Did any other animals use that tunnel too? My imagination was sparked. 
 
Later on, I looked up some information about who might be using that area between the surface of the ground and the bottom of the snowpack, otherwise known as the Subnivean Zone. And why they might use that space. 
 
I found out that the Subnivean Zone is created when heat from the earth melts some of the snow near the surface, creating a roof of ice on the bottom of the snow pack. There is enough space for mice, shrews and voles to move around freely, searching for food (seeds, nuts, and growing plants) while protected from cold winds and most predators. Some predators, such as owls and foxes, have such good hearing they can find these microtine rodents under the snow! 
 
Once the snow blanket is at least 1 ft deep, it acts as an insulator keeping the tunnels just above freezing for the whole winter. The plants and grasses covered by the snow provide more insulation and provide air shafts for oxygen and other gases to continue to be exchanged under the snow. Light can still pass through the snow, but the level of light is more like twilight even on the brightest days. 
 
As the snow melts in the spring, you will start to see evidence of this active winter world under the snow. Tunnel mazes are uncovered and plants may be stripped of their bark up to the snowpack height. 
 
As long as the snow lasts, go exploring for evidence of the subnivean world and take someone with you to share it with!
 
Beneath the Snow
 
 
Dawn Dextraze
Education and Outreach Specialist
Sullivan County Natural Resources and Conservation District
95 County Farm Rd.
Unity, NH 03743
603.504.1004
ddextraze@sullivancountynh.gov
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