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Nature Nuggets

Week One "Nature Nugget" Outdoor Activities:

Meet A Tree  |  Sunset Project
Math In Nature – Sorting  |  How To Make A Barometer


Meet A Tree with Christy Belardo |  Nature Nugget  | March 24th

The Sunset Project from Cathy Shiga-Gattullo  | Nature Nugget  |  March 25th


"I remember doing this as an assignment in 5th grade – it blew my mind!"

In this activity, you’ll track the sun’s position as it moves across the sky during the seasons. You are creating an analemma that’s fun to say!), or diagram showing the position of the sun from a fixed location on Earth at the same time every day.

Location: Indoor or Backyard
Great For: Grades 4+, Ages 10-100+, Teachers and Families

  1. Figure out which way is south. Helpful hint:  if you don’t have a compass or compass app: the Shawangunk Ridge, the NYS Thruway, and the Hudson River all run roughly north-south. (They’re all “migratory highways”)
  2. Draw the southern landscape you see – you can do this from a window or outdoors. Make sure you include landmarks, like a neighbor’s garage, a big tree, or telephone poles. You can take a photograph, too, just make sure that it has enough of a horizon line. You’ll either have to print it to draw your sun location on it, or you can mark it digitally if you have a tablet and are tech savvy! Helpful Hint: Remember to leave room in the sky or you’ll have to add more paper, like I did.
  3.  At the same time every evening, right before sunset which is at a little after 7pm right now, mark the position of the sun on your landscape drawing and note the date. I’d pick about 6pm to keep everyone occupied right before dinner!
  4.  Bonus:
    1. After a few weeks of noting the location of the sun, you can start to estimate sunset.
    2. You can mark the entire path of the sun throughout the day. You might try this weekly. Mark a position at an early morning time, a noon position, and an evening time. Then you can use those 3 points to draw an arc indicating the sun’s path across the sky and how it gets higher, giving us more daylight into summer. (Yay!)

Fun fact – On the summer and winter solstices, the sun will appear to stop its journey across the sky before changing direction. Solstice comes from the Latin for “sun stands still.” In ancient times, the winter solstice was a great celebration because the sun’s path stopped moving closer and closer to the horizon and people could stop worrying that it would disappear below the horizon altogether.

A few helpful resources:

The Reasons for Seasons; Gail Gibbons; Scholastic, 1995.
The Reasons for Seasons: The Great Cosmic Megagalactic Trip Without Moving from Your Chair; Linda Allison; Little, Brown & Company, 1975

Math In Nature – Sorting with Lauren Borer  | Nature Nugget  |  March 26th

How to Make a Barometer with Kim Tischler  | Nature Nugget  |  March 27th

Banner Photo by Christy Belardo