Category Archives: Nature

Easy Family Project: a Jewish Backyard

through a Jewish lens published my article about converting your own backyard (or school or synagogue) into a certified wildlife habitat via a Jewish lens.  My other kid-nature posts thus far haven’t been “Jewish” specifically, although we all know that everything is Jewish if you look through a Jewy “lens.” I put “lens” in quotes because I hear it ad nauseum.  A useful term, although overused. I’m pasting the article below, but do go over to the link at so they know someone is reading it.  My point is to show that the project is easy, fun, good for the earth, good for your family, and of course, gut fir di yidn:* Continue reading

Turning a Schoolyard into Certified Wildlife Habitat: the Preschool edition

Summary:  an account of how a suburban preschool got certified as a National Wildlife Federation “Backyard Wildlife Habitat.” 
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our new birdfeeders in the perennial bed

Look at the summer camp themes at my son’s preschool: organic gardening, healthy living, and nature work. Beautiful, right? No danger of Nature Deficit Disorder here. The themes, I noticed, overlap with my own studies in the Tennesssee Naturalist Program. Why not combine the two for a short, volunteer experiment? I could merge our respective curricula for a day or two, giving Montessori teaching philosophy and my work with habitat renewal some good, common ground. Just days before summer camp began, I discovered an ideal way to implement this plan: the National Wildlife Federation’s Certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat program. Continue reading

Feed the birds: easy little-kid plan for home or school

feeding the birds

How and why I feed birds with little kids. Expect lasting effects built upon fleeting moments of fun. ————

It’s mid-May and Spring has already started to look like Summer.  There is no lack of natural foodstuff for birds on the ground, in the air, on leaves and trees.  But twice a week, I take a bag of black oil sunflower to my son’s preschool.  It might seem odd that I keep shelling out the big bucks for top-quality black-oil sunflower seed despite the seasonal plenty at hand (at beak).  But then again, Spring migration only just peaked, and Nashville has visitors who have come a long, long way, Continue reading

Nature’s classroom: blow bubbles with flowers

cross vine, spring bloomer

At breakfast, we looked out the window and discovered that the wild crossvine had bloomed (Bignonia capreolata). Every spring it crawls up through the evil winter creeper (a euonymous that would encase the house if I let it) and over the redneck wire fence that divides our property from the neighbors’.  We abandoned our gluten-free, Marmite-covered toast and ran outside to see it. Continue reading

Witnessing with Wildflowers: an Essay

Sometimes a dogwood is just a dogwood*

Sometimes a dogwood is just a dogwood*

At yesterday’s wildflower hike, none of the other registered participants showed up, so the leader was all mine. The walk is up, over and down a steep ridge, quilted in overlapping habitats. It begins with the nature sanctuary’s meadow and pond, stumbles along a creekbed and drystone slave wall, doglegs through a cedar barren, and then climbs from beech-maple to oak-hickory along a burped-up bit of the Highland Rim before it drains into the old orchard. Continue reading

The Best Bedtime Sh’ma Book

best bedtime Shema book, even though it isn't a Shema book...

best bedtime Shema book, even though it isn’t about the Shema at all…

Traditional Jews recite the Sh’ma three times in a regular day, including at bedtime. Lately, Jewish parents of all flavors have begun adding a bedtime Sh’ma to their routine. Reciting the Sh’ma right before bed is a sweet way to inject Jewishness into a kid’s life. It may seem a small step, but the timing makes it a big one. Bedtime is the vulnerable transition when kids are tired but receptive. They move from from waking to sleep, from together to alone, from light to Continue reading

Happy Birthday to the Trees, Goodbye to the Naps

Photo: 322 acres of old-growth forest in Nashville. Friends of Warner Parks are trying to raise money to buy it, and are about 1.6 million short.

Tu B’Shevat is tomorrow: the Fifteenth of the month of Shevat.1 It is one of the harder Jewish holidays to pronounce, even for grown-ups. The Toddler blurbles something like “Shot.” Thanks to the PJ Library —long may it prosper— he’s been reading a board book about Tu B’Shevat, so he already knows it is a day to plant trees.  He’s got a small acorn and a big acorn ready to go.   Continue reading