Rabbit Scat and Cocoa Puffs

Nature sure puts on a show, sometimes it brings some comedy into our lives – take for example this image that has been circulating through various social media posts.

Your inquiring mind may be thinking, “Why does the cereal have a rabbit as the mascot and it appears very similar in shape and color to the rabbit scat?” Some Blandford School students that are part of the Wildlife Mentorship Track put their rabbit-cage-cleaning- scat knowledge to use.

Contributed By: Frances Soper and Matea Deters

The Rabbit Poop and Cocoa puffs, Just a coincidence?

“You’ve got to be kidding me, it’s just not possible.”, “Oh but it is true, I wouldn’t lie.” “Well if it is true I guess you should tell them what we’re talking about.” “See I was telling my friend here that baby bunnies eat there own poop.”

You don’t appreciate what you’ve got until it’s gone, especially if it’s                        toilet paper (unless you’re a bunny).

11 facts about Rabbit Poop

  • Bunnies eat their poop because it has the organic matter that they won’t produce until an adult.
  • Bunny’s (Bunnies)  produce two types of droppings, fecal and cecal pellets.
  • Fecal pellets are the standard small, circular, brown droppings.
  • Cecal Pellets are mushy pellets that are stuck together.
  • Baby rabbits eat mama rabbit’s poop.
  • Mama rabbits also eat their poop
  • Rabbit poop can be made into tea!
  • It is bad if your rabbit’s poop is small.
  • Bunny poop has the same shape as cocoa puffs
  • The mascot of nestle is a rabbit.
  • Bunny and deer poop look alike , but here is a way to tell them apart deer poop is more ovalur.
deer scat and rabbit scat

Photo Source: BioKids

This experience gave the students an opportunity to collaborate in another way with Blandford staff. This will make for a fun Facebook story. In the process the students gained experience through email communication, learning through edit suggestions and following through with a real-world project need. This is another example of how students are capable of doing authentic work that adds to ways that can make the world a better, richer place. You now know more than you probably wanted to know about rabbit scat and may never look at this cereal the same again.

Blandford Nature Center offers a host of opportunities to give our community’s students authentic work that adds to the abundance of ways that they can make the world a better, richer place starting right now.

If you know of any other neat facts about rabbits, add them to the comments below.  I am sure the students would appreciate adding more to their Top 11 Rabbit Scat list.



Growing up Wild and Project Learning Tree Workshop

Here’s a way to meet a vital part of the No Child Left Inside and Children in Nature Initiatives.

Growing up Wild(1)

  • Become a Project Learning Tree and Growing Up Wild certified educator
  • Be engaged in a hands-on workshop for both formal and non-formal educators
  • Investigate environmental topics with indoor and outdoor activities
  • Acquire hands on resources and tips to translate student learning experiences to the great outdoors
  • Receive teaching resources correlated to national and state academic standards

Save the Date for this Growing Up WILD  and Early Childhood PLT workshop!

Where:                        Blandford Nature Center, Grand Rapids , MI

When:                           Wednesday, June 28

Time:                            9 am – 3:00 pm

Registration Fee:      $75 fee for resources, $8.50 box lunch (optional)

Registration Link:      Growing Up Wild and Project Learning Tree

About the Materials and Resources

Growing Up WILD is an early childhood education program that builds on children’s sense of wonder about nature and invites them to explore wildlife and the world around them. Through a wide range of activities and experiences, Growing Up WILD provides an early foundation for developing positive impressions about nature and lifelong social and academic skills, correlated to NAEYC and Head Start domains.

Environmental Experiences for Early Childhood provides an introduction to environmental education, encouraging children ages 3 to 6 to explore, discover and communicate in expressive ways. With over 130 experiences that engage young children in outdoor exploration and play, it’s no wonder Learning® Magazine chose PLT’s Early Childhood guide as a Teachers’ Choice Award winner!

Two Beards Box Lunch Details: Make note of your preferences when you complete the registration. Choose from ham, turkey, roast beef, vegetarian, or vegan. Pick your cheese.  Choose from whole grain wheat bread, Italian sourdough, or marble rye. Each box comes with tomato and lettuce on sandwich, and fruit salad, pasta salad, condiments, cookies and chips.

Registration Deadline:       June 21, 2017


A Natural Classroom

In a time where kids are handed phones and stuck in front of screens at increasingly younger ages, a preschool in Grand Rapids is encouraging its preschoolers venture out to Blandford to learn outdoors.  It’s thrilling to announce that the NorthWest Co-op preschool will be spending more time outside, learning through their play-based, child-centered approach. Once a month Blandford Nature Center will become the students’ classroom.

Adding Nature-based learning through the Curriculum

The preschool teacher, Mrs. Kathryn Wilson,  made the way to partner with Blandford, and is looking forward to adding more nature-based educational experiences to the preschool curriculum.  She has been teaching at the Northwest Co-op Preschool for more that 25 years and each year her students have benefited from their seasonal field trips to Blandford Nature Center.  The more time she has spent here, the more she witnessed the value and evidenced the results of their outdoor moments. Kathryn loves learning and reading about new tools and techniques that will benefit her students, so when she heard about the upcoming Nature-based Teacher workshop she signed up.


As a co-op, they enjoy the benefits of parent participation in the classroom the parents will have opportunity to join the students out here too.  Students participating in this program would be enrolled through NorthWest Co-op. Blandford Nature Center serves as a collaborative partner.

If this is something that you are interested in for your child you can contact the school.  If nature-based preschool education is something that you would be interested in exploring to add into your existing preschool program, contact Janet@BlandfordNatureCenter.org.


Real-life Learning Experiences

While following lessons from a prepared curriculum is valuable, there is no substitute for real-life experience.  It becomes a prefect combination when the two meet.  Starting this year, the sixth grade Blandford Environmental Education Program Students (BEEPS) have been involved in various mentorship tracks  Through their experiences they gain valuable, real-life experiences to create a foundation for their continued future studies and potential career goals.

Cate Garretson participates in the environmental education mentorship track. As you read on you’ll soon see that in just one day she’s gaining some valuable life skills – “What time are we scheduled to be there?”  –  as well as integrated content standards – “Let’s put our writing skills to good use!” –  woven into this memorable day in her life.  She offered to create this blog story to give our community a glimpse into a day in her life as a Blandford School Student.

A Day in the Life

Written by Cate Garretson #39

“Run! We’re late!” Georgia, Nick, Sam and I had an incredible opportunity to be a mentee at Blandford Nature Center. That meant we shadowed Blandford’s Environmental Educators and looked at how the nature center functioned from the inside.  We helped in anyway, shape or form. Here is a day in our shoes.

“Run! We’re late!” yelled Nick. “Sam, I thought you said it was on Thursday!” I said exasperated. “Uh…, I could have sworn it was…” expressed Sam nonchalantly. We ran, out of breath by how fast we were going and how hard we were laughing at our forgetfulness and our carelessness. Nick and I arrived there first in three minutes. Our new record because this isn’t the first time we’ve been late. We got in and ran to Ms. Kristen’s office.  “We’re so sorry we’re late.” I said embarrassed. Ms. Kristen replied “Oh, it’s fine. In fact, I moved the time to 9:30 not 9:00” (which we thought it was). Nick and I waited for Georgia and Sam and cracked up telling them, that first we didn’t have to run and second, we were not late. So, we went and looked at the animals until 9:30.

We went into education office when our mentorship started. One of the greatest things about this mentorship is that you really get to know the staff. Before mentorship I had never even heard the name “Frankie”, now I know that Frankie is a super fun educator who is funny and kind.

While Ms. Kristen had to go and get something, Ms. Janet told us about the blog she works with, and she asked us if we could write a story of our choosing for the blog. It is so fun working with adults that trust you enough that they would let you write a story for Blandford’s website. The trust they place in us gave me the boost to accept the proposition. Georgia, Sam, Nick, and I started talking about what story we were going to do when we heard Ms. Kristen yell from the kitchen.

“Hey BEEPS, we could use some extra hands in the kitchen” Kristen yelled.  So Sam, Nick, Georgia and I went into the kitchen where we were told to tear the tags and the plastic of the new silverware. We started an assembly line where Nick and Sam would take the tags off then they would hand them to Georgia and me and we would take the plastic off.  As we worked we used the time to collaborate and discuss the blog project. I would write a story on a day as us, Georgia would write about how it is more important for kids to learn “in” nature rather than “about” nature, Sam would write about how frogging can severely damage the frogs but how Blandford school does it that when students go frogging they don’t permanently damage the frogs. Nick is writing one of my favorites, it is how song should be used more in education.

We had just finished all the silverware when we thought “Where is Ms. Kristen?” We went and asked a volunteer and they said that they saw her last at the schoolhouse. When they said that I thought “Of course, we are shadowing today.” So, like always Nick, Georgia, Sam, and I ran to the school house and were fortunate enough to catch Ms. Kristen before she left. My favorite part of that day was when Ms. Kristen stopped at a pond and had all the kindergarteners look for frogs.  There were two sides of the pond and I was on the left side pointing out a frog to this little kindergarten girl when she grabbed my big hand in her tiny one and showed me to this log where three frogs were. It was so heartwarming having her grab my hand. That moment of holding her adorable hands made my day.   Then Frankie, another helper, told Sam and I that we should probably head back to school or else we would miss lunch at 11:15. Sam and I gathered Georgia and Nick and we all went back to school.

So this gives a glimpse into one of our typical mentorship days for us and it is so incredible that I wouldn’t give it up. So, even though we miss two hours of school and there is a lot to make up, nothing could replace the thrill I got from being a part of this mentorship opportunity.


We will be sharing more about this program as we close out the school year.  Blandford Nature Center offers a host of opportunities to give our community’s students authentic work that adds to the abundance of ways that they can make the world a better, richer place starting right now.

Related: Former BEEP Now Teacher


Signs of Spring

On a day like this, rather than peering out the window wishing we could be outside, we witnessed first-hand this amazing time of growth and change; the evidence was all around us.  This month’s excursion with West Side Christian School’s Nature-based Preschool lead us towards a  special destination. Along the way the preschoolers noted some signs of spring.  Here are a few highlights of what the young learners spotted (the adults wrote down their observations): more green, new leaves, MUD, robins fighting, wild onions, singing birds, migrating geese flying, edible leaves, PUDDLES, ducks quacking, and frogs peeping.


“A deer has been here too! I see its tracks!”

Opening tree buds lined our path, birds sang their spring-time tune, and the natural world put on a show.   Our excursion led us to the marsh. This place teems with a variety of animal and plant life. We used nets to dip into the water to uncover what creatures lived there.  A world of wonder appeared before each child as they made new discoveries.

These Blandford nature-based moments play a role in growing a strong educational foundation. The experiences extend into continued learning back at school and home.

Related: “In Their Own Words” What West Side Christian’s current Nature-based Preschool parents had to say about the partnership with Blandford.

If you’re interested in developing nature-based, place-based learning experiences like this for your preschool students please contact Janet Staal at janet@blandfordnaturecenter.org.

Here are some ways to turn these natural learning moments into some extended  learning experiences:

·         Create a life cycle book : have your child become the expert on one of Michigan’s animals’ life cycles – bees, butterflies, frogs, and even plants – Blandford’s Signs of Spring Pinterest page has the links saved there.

·         Come out to return to the marsh or find a nearby pond. What changes does your child notice? Count as many of the different kinds of animals you can see. Take a net and tray with you so that you can dip to find new creatures. Be sure to return all the creatures that you find so that their offspring will be a part of our world so their offspring can be a part of our children’s future.

·         Check out one of Blandford’s FREE adventure back packs to use as you take your own “Signs of Spring” hike. Make discoveries and ask your child what questions they have about animals in spring.

Upcoming events:

The Earth Day and Grand Opening Celebration is happening April 22 from 1pm – 3pm. 

Join the Blandford Crew as we unveil the new Mary Jane Dockeray Visitor Center to the Grand Rapids Community! Ribbon cutting ceremony, building tours, property tours, wildilfe encounters and much more await you on Earth Day.

May 13 10am – 11:30 am – Morning on the Marsh

The life at Blandford’s Cattail Marsh is coming alive with new life. Bring your family to get an up close look at the tiny babies in the underwater world. We will dip for some of the smaller creature living in the water and visit the Timpson Tower to get a bird’s eye view –we’ll use binoculars.


Blandford’s beautiful and complex ecosystems are here so children can learn, engage, explore, enjoy and value nature’s endless wonders.  Blandford offers a variety of field trip experiences, community programs, and seasonal camps.




Growing Gardens

Typically what happens with school garden spaces is that a group of adults coordinate and plan out the plants that will fill the garden classroom space. This year the hope grew that students could take an active role in the process. Thanks to Blandford’s collaboration with  area schools, we had two willing second grades that were eager to pilot a “Growing Garden” Blandford Nature Center Farm Program.

Teaming up with Blandford Farm’s educator, Liz Visser, we created an educational experience to engage students and teachers in the garden planning process. Now, basically any school that has garden space can incorporate interdisciplinary student learning outcomes, create a garden space plan and produce an order for wholesale garden plant starts all through an hour and a half learning activity.

The designed lesson addresses the following big questions that align to the Next Generation Science Standards, and Common Core Mathematics & ELA/ Literacy:

1. What do garden plants need to grow?
2. How can we design a garden space to help plants survive based on their unique structures and functions?
3. How can we use mathematics to find real-world solutions?

4. What’s your opinion on the work that farmers do to grow our food?

We arrived at the two area schools equipped with the resources needed to engage the students in designing a garden plan, through measuring,  mapping out garden beds and learning more about the unique structures (parts) and functions (jobs) of the plants that produce their food.

The students really enjoyed the opportunity to “dig into” the garden planning process as they became the farmers for their school. Farmers use this winter season to plan out their garden goals and plan for their needed plants. That’s exactly what the students did as we walked them through the garden planning process.

From the beginning to end students became actively involved in the entire garden planning process. The students measured out the perimeter of their garden bed or garden model.

Once the model took shape, the students worked in plant family teams to create their plan and answer the question, “Based on our plant’s structures and size, how many plants can we fit into this area?” ( In common core language, “The students used the mathematical model as well as their mathematical understanding of their plant’s size to then reason abstractly and quantitatively as they planned out their school’s garden space.”)
 Some plants needed twelve inches of space others needed three feet. Using their bodies and counters (as model seeds) the students came up with the total amounts of tomatoes, beans, peppers, cucumbers, summer squash, zucchini, Swiss chard, carrots and kale that will be needed for the upcoming growing season.
I wish these photos could talk, you would have heard students using words like, perimeter, area, repeated addition and multiplication. The students’ mental math skills were put to good use. One second grader shared, “I did not know that a farmer had to plan how they were going to set up their field.” Another chimed in, “We sure did use our math brains today. Farmers really use math to help them plan how they will grow the food.”
Godfrey lee garden

Even though it will be months before their garden grows. Their plants – the exact number of plants they calculated – are off to a great start, growing in Blandford’s Greenhouse.

A special thanks goes out to Godfrey Lee Early Childhood Center 2nd grade teacher, Heather Vernon, and West Side Christian School 2nd grade teachers, Ellen Koster and Lori Pott, for their willingness to offer their insights and collaborate with us on this project.

“The gardener does not create the garden. The garden creates the gardener.” Master Gardener Alan Chadwick

Has the idea of a school garden been tossed around in your school halls and in conversations. Have you started asking yourself a few questions? Why am I interested in gardening with my students? Why does my school have a garden? Or, why is my school considering having a garden? How can I use a garden as an outdoor classroom?  Don’t let these questions intimidate you, It’s easy to dig in, I shared more detailed advice in a previous growing a garden classroom blog post.

Does your school already have a garden space? Do you have an interest in engaging your students in the garden planning process? This “Growing Garden” lesson was designed with you in mind. Blandford staff would briefly consult with you prior to our visit to determine goals and garden dimensions. Then we would arrive with the resources needed to have your students take an active leadership role, planning and mapping out the plants for the upcoming growing season.

If your school has a grassy wasteland, you could be sitting on a gold mine of potential for making real-life connections to students’ content learning.  Yet, for one person the work needed to launch a project of this magnitude could seem overwhelming. Collaboration is the key.  Contact Janet Staal (janet@blandfordnaturecenter.org), Blandford Nature Center Environmental Consultant, to see how  Blandford Nature Center unlocks the powerful learning experiences that exist just beyond the classroom door.

Growing a Nature-based Preschool

New for the 2017-2018 School Year – NorthPointe Christian School Nature-Based Preschool for 4 Year Olds

Nature-based preschools are a growing trend in education, and Blandford Nature Center has begun to support nature-based education through collaborating with area preschools. It’s exciting to announce that starting next fall NorthPointe Christian School will partner with Blandford Nature Center to take student learning outdoors.

This model of nature-based learning has the foundation of a Christ-centered, high-quality education, with the academic, emotional, social, physical, and spiritual development goals.

In their nature-based preschool school, these goals are accomplished through experiences in and with the natural world.  Four year-old preschool students will be in the outdoor classroom for half of their morning on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Outdoor play and nature-based discovery form the backbone of the curriculum and drive indoor classroom activities. Preschoolers will start their morning at their site’s outdoor classroom and then transition indoors for snack and activity centers that further enhance their outdoor learning.

Once a month the students’ classroom will be Blandford’s beautiful and complex ecosystems. The students and teachers will engage in seasonal experiences out at Blandford as well as their own school site so that together they will learn, engage, explore, enjoy and value nature’s endless wonders.


Benefits of Nature-Based Education

Nature is powerful in shaping a child’s development. Research reveals that the outdoor classroom encourages creativity and problem solving, improves academic performances, and ignites curiosity and wonder.


Students participating in this program would be enrolled through NorthPointe Christian School. Blandford Nature Center serves as a collaborative partner visiting their site once a month as well as engaging in collaborative monthly meetings.  If this is something that you are interested in for your child you can contact the school.  If nature-based preschool education is something that you would be interested in exploring to add into your existing preschool program, contact Janet@BlandfordNatureCenter.org.

Taking student learning outside is a growing trend in education, and Blandford Nature Center is growing opportunities to support nature-based education.  This spring Blandford will be hosting a Nature- based Educator Workshop presented by Rachel Larimore, former Director of Education at Chippewa Nature Center  and founding director of the Chippewa Nature Center’s Nature Preschool as well as the author of the book, Establishing a Nature-based Preschool.

To register click: Nature-based Education Workshop.