Maria’s February Nature Challenge: Introduction & Week 1 Challenges

Welcome to Maria’s February Nature Challenge.  Maria is our resident Herbalist at Boundary Way and she’s been looking at how to get everyone more connected with Nature.  She’ll be setting one challenge per day, for the whole of February, with a linked alternative challenge for people unable to get out or are short on resources.  The idea behind these challenges is to get us outdoors and encourage us to get up close to the nature around us. 

During these challenging times, we are limited to where we can go to get a bit of outdoors time. If you, like us, you’re feeling a little fed up of going on the same walks from your house over and over again, fear not as these day-by-day challenges include a mix of science, nature, facts, creativity and herbalism to offer you the chance to see those walks with renewed interest, waking up your senses, firing your imaginations and connecting you deeper to the nature that you are a part of. 

We hope you enjoy these challenges, they are intended to give you permission to learn, explore and experiment. We ask that you tackle each challenge with mindfulness of the planet, situation and natural resources and remind you to gather where required carefully and with honour.  We always ask the plant spirits and fairies permission before we take anything. 

We’d also love it if you could share your findings, art, photos, poems and stories with us – use the hashtags #Mariasfebchallenge and #boundarywayproject, and tagging us @boundarywayproject on Instagram and @BoundaryWayArts on Facebook.

 

1st February Challenge: Grow It Part 1

Welcome to our first challenge.  To start us off we are going to look at growing plants.  Our challenge to you is – Can you grow it?   

Pick one of the following that fits with your circumstances:  

  1. Start a seed off – you will need: a packet of seeds, a pot and some compost or soil.  Follow the instructions on the packet.  Some good suggestions for this time of year are Sweet Peas (you can get climbing and dwarf varieties); tomatoes, which can be grown on a windowsill; or if you don’t have space how about cress. 
  1. Grow from vegetable scraps  there are some useful techniques here:  https://foodrevolution.org/blog/reduce-food-waste-regrow-from-scraps/ 
  1. Find a small seedling growing somewhere in nature. 

Monitor how your seeds/scraps/seedling are doing, has it germinated, can you see growth?  We will check in towards the end of the challenge to see how you’ve got on.  Share a photo of your plant pot/seedling with us. 

If unable to grow or have no access to / can’t find a seedling growing in nature.  For children how about growing themselves – take their height measurement first thing today and again in part 2 and compare the results. 

 Can you draw or paint a picture of a winter garden with seeds waiting to grow snuggled in the soil? 

 

2nd February Challenge: Tree Huggers and Magic Spots 

Today’s challenge is all about finding a special tree in your local neighbourhood. This will become your Magic Spot. 

Whilst we are in lockdown, we are limited to where we can go and travel.  We can only take our daily exercise in our local area. For some of us this isn’t a problem as we have wonderful countryside just a few minutes away, but for some of us this can be more difficult living in urban areas.  One thing in our favour though is Wolverhampton actually has a lot of trees in its urban environment.  So, today’s challenge, no matter where you are based, is this: 

  • Pick your favourite walk from your house. Do you always go the same way round (I like circular walks – what about you?). Try walking it the opposite way round. 
  • Take notice of all the trees on your walk. Is there a tree that really stands out to you?  A tree where you can sit quietly? A tree that has such a lovely shape you can’t help admiring it?  A tree that cheers you up as you pass by. 
  • Find that one tree and give it a hug! Tell it how lovely it is.  Promise to visit it often.  Make it a friend you look forward to visiting. Make it your Magic Spot. 
  • Set an intention that you will visit this tree regularly throughout the year to see it in all its different stages. 
  • Share something about your tree with us. 

If you’re unable to get out and about can you see any trees from your window? 

Can you imagine a tree in your community and draw or paint it. How about writing a poem about your favourite kind of tree instead – or maybe a story, what does a tree sitting in an urban community see every day?  What stories could it tell you? 

 

3rd February Challenge: Seasonal Changes Part 1

Now we move into more detailed observation part of our challenge.  Welcome to Seasonal Changes Part 1.  For today’s challenge we want you to really take notice of the nature around you on your daily walk.   Make sure this is a regular route you take, one that you will revisit on a regular basis. 

The things we’d like you to take notice of: 

  • How the trees look – are they bare, is there buds, are they evergreen, do they look awake or asleep. 
  • What is the weather like?  Wet or Dry? Warm or cold?  Is there any snow or ice? 
  • What are the hedgerows and verges like?  Are they sleeping? Is there any new growth?  Are there any flowers? 
  • What is the sky like? 
  • Time when the sun comes up and when it goes down. 
  • What are the birds and animals doing – are they easy to spot or find traces of activity?

Make a note of what you observe somehow, here are some suggestions: 

  • Draw or paint a picture 
  • Write a journal 
  • Create a poem 
  • Take a series of photos 
  • Make a chart to capture data 

Share your findings with us. If you’re not able to get out then try observing from your favourite window and record your observations with some of the suggestions in the main challenge. 

 

4th February Challenge: Nature Homes

Who has been living here?  Old nests are more visible in winter – can you spot any?  Can you see differences in them?  How are they made? Are they big or are they small? 

Today’s challenge: 

  • Spot different nests in trees and hedgerows  
  • See if you can identify who made them using our tips below. 
  • Make a nest from things you can find in nature?  Who do you think might like to live in your nest? 
  • Share your findings and photos with us. 

 

Nest Identification Tips: 

Black birds: Solid looking nests of grass, twigs and leaves and mud.  With a lining of leaves and chopped up bits of grass. 

Song Thrush: Similar looking nests to Blackbirds of grass, twigs, leaves and mud, but they give their nest a nice smooth mud lining. 

Chaffinch:  Nests that are around 9cm in diameter and make very deep cup nests lined with a mixture of feathers, fur, hair and roots.  They decorate the outside with moss and lichens.  

Greenfinch: Similar nests to the Chaffinch but a bit bigger at 12cm and they don’t decorate theirs with moss and lichens. 

 Wood Pigeon: Large messy nests up in the top of trees that look like a loose bundle of twigs.  They are in fact much stronger than they look and will often survive long after the pigeon family has moved away. 

Wrens and Long Tailed Tit:  Both these species make very similar nests that are hollow balls of leaves, moss or grass with a side entrance and lined with feathers.  If you look closely a tit’s nest will have spider’s webs and hair woven into it and the outside may be decorated with lichens. 

 Rooks:  A rookery is an easy spot high up in the trees you will see a collection of large nests made with sticks, they line their nests with grass and leaves. 

 Crows:  Stick nests high up in the trees too but they line their nests with hair and wool. 

 

Mammals Nests:  

Squirrels: scan the trees for squirrel nests (dreys) they are balls of twigs around 30cm across sometimes decorated with dried leaves. 

Harvest Mouse:  Usually well hidden, they make different nests in winter and summer.  At this time of year you may find their nests near the ground in long grass – a ball of grasses with a hole. 

 

If you aren’t able to get out in the woods or hedgerows, or aren’t near enough trees to have a look for nests try this instead: 

 Imagine you are a small bird or mammal. Have a think about what kind of nest you would like. What would you make it out of? What would you line it with? Can you create a nest in your house? Can you paint or draw a nest you would like to live in. 

 

5th February Challenge: Nature Artist

There are so many natural resources to be found in our gardens, parks, woodlands and walks.  We must remember if we are gathering to be mindful of not damaging, digging or removing plants but only take items that are already loose or there is plenty. 

 Todays challenge is to create some nature art – you can make it as simple or elaborate as you like.  Make it somewhere where other people will find it.   

Have a good look around, see what’s available and use your imagination.  Here are some suggestions to start you off: 

  • Make a nature mandala using a variety of sticks, leavespine cones and berries 
  • Use sticks to draw in sand or soil 
  • Use sticks to create a sculpture 
  • Balance stones on top of each other 
  • Use stones to make spirals and stars

Our friends at Land Art for Children have some lovely how to guides:  https://www.landartforkids.com/how-to-make-land-art.html  

Please share photos of your amazing art with us.

If you can’t get out and about have a look around your house or garden – do you have any nature items like shells or stones?  Maybe you could find things that are made out of natural materials like wood or stone – can you make art with any of them – share your experiments with us. 

 

6th February Challenge: Ice Hanger 

This is a creative challenge that utilises the elements to create our final piece. For this challenge you will need: 

  • A round shallow dish 
  • Pretty items found on a walk – aim for different leaves (Tip: evergreen leaves are perfect for this) and colourful items if you can find them – like red berries. 
  • A piece of string 
  • Very cold weather (don’t worry if it’s a bit towarm see tip below) 

Method: 

  • Go for a lovely walk and gather some pretty items 
  • Get home fill a small round shallow dish with water 
  • Make a loop out of the string and place the end in the water (you will use this to hang the final piece) 
  • Arrange your found items in the water 
  • Leave out over night to freeze (Tip: if the weather is a bit too warm you can always use the freezer!) 
  • Next morning gently run some water over the bowl to help release your ice hanger 
  • Hang you ice hanger outside – hopefully it’s a lovely sunny morning which will make your ice hanger sparkle 

Share photos of your creations. 

If you can’t find any pretty colours you could always add food colouring or water colour paints and create different layers to your ice hanger – freezing one layer and colour at a time. Let you imagination run wild!  You could also use bits of paper or card to create silhouettes to tell a story.

 

7th February Challenge: Mini Adventure Part 1

For this challenge you will need to find a mini friend to become your intrepid explorer.  We find that small cuddly toys or lego people are perfect for this: 

  • Give you mini explorer a name 
  • Take him out on a walk or out into a park or garden and go on an adventure. 
  • Get down to his level – what can you find? (if you have a magnifying glass take it with you) 
  • Can you spot patterns that you hadn’t noticed before? 
  • What does the world look like from your mini explorer’s perspective? 
  • Does he/she meet any giant creatures along the way? 
  • Have they climbed any trees or scaled any mountains? 
  • Share your adventure with us – in photos / tell us a story / create a poem. 

If you can’t find a mini friend or get out and about, how about making up a mini character who likes to get out in nature – you could draw a picture of them exploring or you could make up an adventure story about them leaving your house to go to somewhere familiar in your community – what do they encounter on they way?  Let you imagination go wild!

Don’t forget to share your creations. 

 

We will be back here next Sunday to share the challenges for the second week of February, or alternatively follow us on Facebook and Instagram to keep up to date with the challenge on there!

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