Archive for ‘Weekend Nature Challenge’

June 7, 2013

Weekend Nature Challenge: Looking Up

by Melissa Harding

cloudsI bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,
From the seas and the streams;
I bear light shade for the leaves when laid
In their noonday dreams.
From my wings are shaken the dews that waken
The sweet buds every one,
When rocked to rest on their mother’s breast,
As she dances about the sun.
I wield the flail of the lashing hail,
And whiten the green plains under,
And then again I dissolve it in rain,
And laugh as I pass in thunder…

I am the daughter of Earth and Water,
And the nursling of the Sky;
I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
I change, but I cannot die.
For after the rain when with never a stain
The pavilion of Heaven is bare,
And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams
Build up the blue dome of air,
I silently laugh at my own cenotaph,
And out of the caverns of rain,
Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,
I arise and unbuild it again.

– Excerpted from The Cloud by Percy Bysshe Shelley


How often do you notice the clouds? It depends how often you look up. We all spend so much time looking down – watching where we walk, looking for dropped keys, tying our shoes, gazing into our cell phones – that we forget to look up. There doesn’t seem like there should be that much to see up there except sky, but that is misleading; just as there is a whole world under the soil, there is a whole world in the sky. Not just clouds, but birds, butterflies, bats, fluttering leaves and petals, sunshine and the wonderful feeling that life just goes on forever up there. This weekend, we challenge you and your family to look up. Lie on your backs in the grass to watch the clouds pass and the birds fly. Guess aloud what shape each cloud is forming; children love clouding watching! Lie under a tree and look up for bird nests and other animals homes (or the animals themselves!). You’ll be surprised what you have been missing when you’ve been looking down.

Take the next few days to explore the world above your head and cloud watch with your child. What strange shapes did you discover? Did you see anything else of note? Tell us in the comments below.

The above picture is courtesy of NASA.

May 17, 2013

Weekend Nature Challenge: Rock Hunting

by Melissa Harding

DSCN2415A rock makes an excellent puppy.
They’re practically almost the same.
Except that a puppy’s rambunctious;
a rock is a little more tame.

It’s true that a rock’s not as hyper.
It may not chase after a ball.
And, often as not, when you call it,
it won’t even hear you at all.

And maybe it doesn’t roll over,
and isn’t excited to play, but
rocks always sit when you tell them,
and rocks really know how to stay.

So go ask your folks for a puppy,
and possibly that’s what you’ll get.
But, still, if you can’t have a puppy,
a rock is a pretty good pet.

It doesn’t annoy you with barking;
it quietly sits on a shelf.
A rock makes an excellent puppy.
That’s what I keep telling myself.
excerpted from a poem by Ken Nesbitt
If there is one thing in nature that is often overlooked, it is the humble rock. The job of a rock isn’t glamorous; it erodes over time, slowly adding minerals to the soil to help plants grow. It provides a home for slithering and crawling critters, acts as a sunbathing station for lizards, and provides a launching pad for moss and lichen. However, even though rocks aren’t glamorous, they are very important; without them, we would have no soil, no plants, no life. That’s why you can find rocks just about anywhere! This weekend, we challenge you and your family to scour your neighborhood for rocks. Not just any old rocks, but special ones that speak to you. Children love finding treasure and will jump at the challenge of looking for shiny rocks, sparkly rocks, small rocks, big rocks, red rocks or black rocks. Take a walk around your neighborhood together and collect your top two rocks to take home; they make good garden sentinels, animal habitats and maybe even good pets.

Take the next few days to explore your neighborhood and go rock hunting with your child. What colors, shapes or patterns did you discover? Did you see anything else of note? Tell us in the comments below.

The above picture was taken by Melissa Harding.

April 19, 2013

Weekend Nature Challenge: What’s Blooming in Your Neighborhood?

by Melissa Harding

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The springtime’s pallid landscape
Will glow like bright bouquet,
Though drifted deep in parian
The village lies today.

The lilacs, bending many a year,
With purple load will hang;
The bees will not forget the tune
Their old forefathers sang.

The rose will redden in the bog,
The aster on the hill
Her everlasting fashion set,
The covenant gentians frill,

Till summer folds her miracle
As women do their gown,
Or priests adjust the symbols
When sacrament in done.

Emily Dickinson

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If March went out like a lion, then April came in like a lamb.  Pittsburgh has been floating through this month on balmy breezes! All of this warmth and sunshine means that spring flowers have been waking up quickly; crocuses, daffodils, hyacinths are popping open all over the place. A sea of yellow and purple has drifted over our city’s front yards and flower barrels. This weekend, we would like challenge you and your family to investigate the flowers that are blooming in your own neighborhood. Are there any dogwood trees or redbuds in bloom? How about dandilions popping up through the grass? Take a walk through your community together and look closely for signs of forming buds and blooming flowers.

Take the next few days to explore your neighborhood and see what’s in bloom. What flowers did you discover with your child? Did you see anything else of note? Tell us in the comments below.

The above picture was taken by Melissa Harding in her front yard.

March 22, 2013

Weekend Nature Challenge: Haikus for Spring

by Melissa Harding


Green grass in April
Birds begin to sing in trees
Children playing outside

Birds and bees flying
Soft blades of grass on my feet
New flowers blooming

I hear birds singing.
Birds are chirping everywhere.
Their wings touch the sky.

(Three spring haikus from the third graders at Pocantico Hills School)
Spring has finally found its way to Pittsburgh. After all of the snow and cold that we have had around here this winter, it is about time! In celebration of spring being sprung, we would like to challenge you to write a nature haiku with your child this weekend. A haiku is a poem written in three simple lines. The only catch is that each line has a certain number of syllables, 5-7-5, to be exact. So short that it can be said in one breath, it is meant to capture a moment in time. See the above examples for inspiration.

Take the next few days to explore your neighborhood and then send us your captured moments in haiku form.
What new things did you discover with your child? Tell us in the comments below.

The above photo of a sprouting crocus is copyrighted by Molly Steinwald.

February 8, 2013

Weekend Nature Challenge: Explore Your Neighborhood

by Melissa Harding

copyright www.mollysteinwald.comblank

Where the Sidewalk Ends
Shel Silverstein

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, the mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.



This weekend is going to be a warm one in Pittsburgh. In fact, it is going to be pretty pleasant weather in many parts of the world. Wherever you are, we would like to challenge you to take the next few days to explore your neighborhood with your child. Look for plants, bugs, birds, and people; bend down and appreciate your child’s view of the world. There is more nature in one city block than you might think, so take a second and look for it. You might be surprised at what has been there all along.

What is the most exciting piece of nature that you have seen in your neighborhood? What new things did you discover with your child? Tell us in the comments below.


The above photo was taken and is copyrighted by Molly Steinwald.


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