The Bird's Nest

…sharing stories of our learning

October 1, 2013
by Ms Clayton

Snail’s Pace: Taking Time To Observe The Natural World

Wondering about snails and their habitat

In reflection, I wish I had ensured that a portion of my summer had moved at a snail’s pace. As the school year closed, I completed moving the contents of my classroom into my house. I was not impressed seeing the clutter fill up a room that should have been organized as my den. That unsightly clutter was transferred into a new classroom at a new school prior to the end of July. With my daughter arriving in August from Japan, and my son busy at university until late August, I realized that July would need to filled with classroom organization, preparation for a new school year, and an honest attempt to landscape both a front and a back yard.

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Despite the onward progression of summer, I permitted myself time to enjoy the snails that live in the small garden at the front of our house. They move through the garden between a clump of hostas to a boxwood, but most often can be easily spotted gliding along the trunk of a Japanese maple tree. From a family of gardeners, I cannot remember investing much time or interest in snails in the past, yet I have indulged these colourful snails with a safe habitat in my garden for several years.

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When Sophie came from Japan for the last three weeks of August it seemed like little road trips filled our days as she tried to see as many family members as possible, visit her brother even though he was in the thick of studies for his summer term, as well as fit in her training for the Run the Rockmarathonon Texada Island. While she was away on short trips, I took further interest in these snails and decided then that I would take them in for a little stay in the new classroom early in the school year. It was far too hot in the classroom at the beginning of the year, so the snails were taken back home after just three days. We will try again next week.

We have observed some snails in the forest next to the school and we see that they quite enjoy moving along the surface of and eating skunk cabbage. We think that skunk cabbage is kind of like the big leaves of a hosta plant. We will put some skunk cabbage in our snail’s home.

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We had our school gardener, Leslie Cox, visit our classroom on Monday and she said that snails are important decomposers in our garden. They will happily eat anything and don’t distinguish between material that we want composted like carrot tops or the lettuce that we are growing to eat. If you remove one animal from your ecosystem, be prepared to take on the job it has been doing successfully all along.

I hope you enjoy this short slide show, which asks that you endure some blurry video footage of the snails in my garden. As a class we will talk about how such a small animal travels these distances between plants.

August 16, 2012
by Ms Clayton

Kelp Dolls On A Summer Day

Spending time playing on the beach.

Summer is a great time of year for having fun with family. Here are some pictures of my summer playing along the beach with my nieces after we helped my mom pick red currants up in the yard.

A walk on the beach to find kelp in the tide line

Our plan was to go out on the beach where my nieces would find kelp at the tide line to make some kelp dolls. We had table and kitchen knives for carving. A jackknife or pocket knife is what I used when I made kelp dolls years ago.

Choosing the bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana) for the kelp dolls

There were many bull kelps along the shore and we chose a couple to drag up to a log near my mom’s house to start our carving of kelp dolls. Did you know that kelps are an algae and that they grow in an ecosystem called a kelp forest? The long tail (stipe) of the kelp attaches to a rock with its holdfast. Sometimes the rock is still attached at the bottom of the stipe.

A wide log is the perfect cutting board

With Journey and Callie watching, my nieces begin to carve their kelp dolls. A nice big log becomes their table.

Laying the kelp down for a haircut

One niece decides that a hair cut is in order prior to beginning the carving of eyes and mouth. She drapes the bulb and blades of the kelp over the back of a log for the “cut.”

The second of about four “hair” cuts

Here the hair is being cut a second time. Note the long rectangular cut which was to be two eyebrows, but had to be considered a unibrow after the cut went too far.

Hey, Aunt Jill, this kelp looks like a fish!

Lifted from the salon chair (log), my niece notices that her kelp doll looks a lot like a fish. She continues to carve it and adorn it as though it were a kelp doll. More hair cuts to come until it has two bumps where the blades had draped from the bulb.

Carving the kelp doll’s face

My older niece takes her time carving the eyes, mouth and nose prior to considering the hair style she would like for her kelp doll.

The completed kelp doll

The lower parts of the stipe (stem or “tail”) of the kelp are used for arms and legs. Here, she has used a couple of sticks for the legs. My nieces have had enough doll making and move on to preparing food for their restaurant.

Using the remaining kelp to make sushi and celery sticks

We find a board on the beach and it becomes the restaurant’s cutting board to prepare the sushi and celery sticks from the stipe and salads from the blades (hair) of the kelp.

Absolutely clever idea of concentric cuttings nested into bulb. Play is learning!

Two of the globes of the kelp are filled with concentric cuttings of the stipe. Since the globe on the left did not display the rings as well as my niece would have liked, she made each a little longer to demonstrate the concentric circles a little more clearly.

I made ringlet hair extensions for my nieces. Yes, they wore them!

I needed to occupy my time too so I made a cut on the kelp similar to paring an apple to see how far along the stipe I could carve. It became a hair extension for my nieces.

For more information on bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana), here are two sites:

Race Rocks Ecological Reserve or

Capital Regional District: What is kelp?

Kitchen knives were used with supervision. This post was not written with the intent of recommending that outside play time requires pocket or kitchen knives. These activities were prominent in my childhood as we built forts and carved wood and kelp with this beach as our playground. My nieces have experience using table knives in the kitchen cutting vegetables and they are five (+) years older than the students I teach.


April 16, 2012
by Ms Clayton

Spring Break On Vancouver Island

One week visiting family and friends at the northern end of Vancouver Island and then back down island for a week of gardening at home

When I model writing a personal recount, I very often refer to the place where I grew up. I often use my family’s front yard and the beach as examples when I am drawing a detailed picture that tells a story. The stories I tell often include my sisters, friends and pets I used to have. They usually also include the beach and forts we have built along the beach or in the woods. Or they might include stories about my children spending time kayaking and building rafts along the beach.
I wonder what kinds of stories I could tell after this year’s Spring Break holiday with my family. Take a look at this slide show where I highlight a few things I did with my family this Spring Break. What stories do you see?

For my students:

© Jill Clayton 2012

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