Thinking Thursday

April 2nd

Thinking Thursday: REDUCE, REUSE, recycle: divergent thinking part 1

Right now, with most of your family at home, you’re probably producing a lot of trash. Trash companies are having a hard time keeping up, and recycling has slowed ever further. You’ve probably heard the phrase “REDUCE, REUSE, recycle.” But has anyone ever told you that to treat the earth well and help it recover from damage, we should think about it in that order? In fact, recent reports have shared that the plastic industry has pushed recycling so that we would feel better about our continued use of plastics.

One way to REDUCE what you need to buy is to REUSE the things you would otherwise throw away. This takes some creative thinking, and it’s the kind of thinking we’ll invite you to do this week. This is also stretch your brain to do an important kind of thinking called divergent thinking. To diverge means to go in a different direction. Divergent thinking, then is allowing your brain to go a different direction so it can come up with a new idea. People who come up with inventions and new ways of doing things use divergent thinking.

In the photo below, I used divergent thinking—and some trash—to try to solve a problem. Can you figure out what problem I was trying to solve? It didn’t work right at first. I put on one layer of plastic at a time. The first two layers didn’t solve the problem. I kept watching, trying to figure out why it wasn’t working. Finally, I added the top layer and cut the plastic on the top tow layers so it would flap around. Since then….problem, solved. So sometimes you can REUSE things, like trash, in ways that solve a problem.

In the photos below, I have taken photos of some of the things that I might throw away, unless I find ways to REUSE them. You might think of some ways they might solve problems around your house, especially as we’re not able to go shopping as much. Think of this as a game. You’re allowed to change the things any way you want to, like I did by cutting the plastic above the bird feeder. In the comment section below, name one of the objects—and share an idea for ways you might REUSE it. Let your imagination go wild! Maybe you’ll come up with a whole new invention!

We also invite you to post photos of ways you might have found to REUSE some of the trash around your house. If you get good at this, you can buy and throw things away much less than I used to!

Parents and educators can follow this link to read our blog post about the importance of practicing divergent thinking…/fostering-divergent-t…/

Wildlife Wednesday

April 1st

Today is April 1st and that means its time for the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds to return.

Every Spring the Hummingbirds that you see at your feeders migrate here from southern Mexico and Central America. Many of the birds will make a non stop 900 mile trip flying over the Gulf of Mexico, and thats only about half of the distance they need to migrate before they make it to KY. When they get here they will need fresh nectar sources, so now is a great time to put out a feeder.

Hummingbird nectar is easy to make its 1 part sugar to 4 parts water, thats 1/4 cup of sugar for every cup of water in your feeder. Don't use any red dyes in the nectar but red colored feeders are a good idea. Be sure to take your feeders down and wash them thoroughly about once a week.


Try This! Tuesday

March 31st

For today's Try This! Tuesday, we made interpretive art using natural materials. The inspiration picture is of Owsley Fork Reservoir. Try it for yourself and share your art with us!


Mushroom Monday

March 30th

This week's mushroom is probably well known to some of you. Every spring around this time you can find morel mushrooms in forests across Kentucky. They are the inspiration for numerous festivals and are many people's first experience with wild mushroom hunting.

We have six species of Morels but most folks just lump them into two categories.
Yellow Morels that typically are the first to show up in the spring will usually be found near some type of dead or dying hardwood tree, Elm, Ash, and Poplar are common hosts.
Black Morels will start fruiting in the coming weeks they are a bit less picky about habitat. They can be found in deciduous and coniferous forests across the state.

Stellar Saturday

March 28th

Take a look at this article about stargazing from home. Whether it be virtual or if you can get a good view from your home, space is an amazing thing to learn about. It affects our daily lives in ways we don't even know! Take a look at the night sky tonight and tell us what you see!…/stargazing-quarantine-sess…/index.html

And from NASA:

Fern Friday

March 27th

Check out this awesome fern, Kentucky spleenwort (Asplenum x kentuckiense)! This is actually a hybrid species between a lobed spleenwort and an ebony spleenwort. They grow on sandstone cliffs and are quite rare and can easily be mistaken for other hybrid fern species.
Illustrations by Elijah Hicks, photo from

Thinking Thursday

March 26th

For this week’s Thinking Thursday, become a nature detective!

When you go out into the natural world and begin to really look, as last week’s Thinking Thursday suggested, all kinds of questions probably come to your mind. This week, we invite you to become a Nature Detective.

Last week, I went for a long walk in the woods. I took a number of photos, which I’ve posted here. I’ve asked some questions about each, which I’ll post in the comment section beneath each photo. To find the questions, click on the photo. Once someone has posted an answer….see if you can dig even deeper. If, for example, someone’s answer was “an insect,” ask another question. It might be, “what kind of insect?” “What does it eat?” Let’s keep the questions and answers going as long as we can for each photo and see how much we can learn.

We also invite you to also post your own photos in the comment space below this post and share your questions about them. Let’s see if, together, our learning community can come up with answers.

If you can’t get outside, you can also try this: Look at the photos posted lately on the Forestry Outreach Center’s FB page. Some provide information for you, but I’ll bet you can still come up with plenty of questions about them. See if you can find answers—by observing outdoors or researching online or talking with people—and post your question and answers below any photo. This is a great way for us to form a community where we can all learn together.

PARENTS, learn more about inquiry-based learning and learning communities by reading the newest blog post on the Forestry Outreach Center website by clicking this link:…/why-inquiry-based-lea…/

Wildlife Wednesday

March 25th

Our Naturalist, John Abrams, made a short video about a garter snake he found! Check it out here!

Wildlife Wednesday

#wildlifewednesdaySigns of spring are all around, for those of us who like snakes, an Eastern Garter Snake is a welcomed sight. For those of you who may not big fans of snakes, you may be comforted to know that this particular snake wasn't found at the Pinnacles.

Posted by Berea College Forestry Outreach Center on Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Try This! Tuesday

March 24th

Try making this beautiful origami flower! All you need is a square sheet of paper. Here is a video with instructions!

Mushroom Monday

March 23rd

All of this rain is sure to bring out some interesting fungi in our forest. The Gray Urn and the Scarlet Elf Cup can both be found growing from the ground near fallen hardwood trees and branches.

The Gray Urn (Urnula craterium) is darkly colored and hard to spot. It prefers to grow on fallen oaks but it can be parasitic to live oak trees as well. This mushroom produces a bioactive compound that inhibits the growth of other fungi.

The Scarlet Cup (Sarcoscypha species) are a common find along the trails due to their bright red coloration. Scarlet Cups grow in the same habitats as the Gray Urn except it prefers to grow from willow and maple. Native Americans would dry and grind the mushrooms into a styptic powder that would commonly be used to treat the navels of newborns.

What mushrooms have you found lately?

Fern Friday

March 20th

This is a walking fern (Asplenum rhizophyllum), illustrated by our labor student, Elijah Hicks! These ferns are found growing on boulders, stumps, and rarely, on the ground. They grow in areas with limestone and other basic rocks and dislike acidic rocks like sandstone. Its distribution varies from the central U.S. to the east coast--in some places it is very abundant while in others it is endangered. Image by John Abrams, info from iNaturalist.

Thinking Thursday

March 19th

Welcome to Thinking Thursday with the Berea College Forestry Outreach Center! Every Thursday, we’ll share a post designed to spark your curiosity and invite you to post what you notice, questions that it brings up for you, and what you learn as you research or experiment.

This week, we invite you to explore the wonders of your own backyard or a nearby park. If that doesn’t seem so wonderful, maybe it’s time to look again with new eyes. Here’s this week’s challenge:

Spend 10-15 minutes or so watching what happens in your yard. Try this for a whole week. If it’s raining, you can just look out the window. Observe what’s moving—and what’s not. Do you see any animals? Insects? Keep watching. Allow questions to arise. I wonder what kind of tree that is? How can I tell if there are no leaves on it yet? What’s that squirrel eating? How many birds can I count in 10 minutes? What kinds of flowers are blooming in the lawn? What’s the green stuff on the trees? Why do some of the trees still have dead leaves on them? Which direction is the wind blowing? How can I tell? How can I tell how much rain has fallen?

Choose a question you’re really curious about and think of some ways you might find an answer. But don’t stop with one answer. Try another source of information and see if that answer is the same. Then let that answer lead you to more questions….and keep going. It might be a good idea to start a notebook to keep track of what you learn on Thinking Thursdays!

We invite you post a photo of something you noticed or a drawing or a piece of artwork you created that let’s us “see” it, too. Then write or post a short video to share what you learned about it. Let’s see if we can keep this thread going all week. We can’t wait to see what we can learn from all of you!

Parents: For more information about Inquiry-based learning, follow this link to a blog post on the Forestry Outreach Center website for more information.…/…/18/lets-get-curious/…


Wildlife Wednesday

March 18th

This strange-looking arachnid is a Pseudoscorpion or false scorpion. They are common in the forest but they are incredibly small, typically less than 5mm. Unlike real scorpions they do not possess a tail with a stinger, instead, they have glands in their claws that inject venom into prey.

Pseudoscorpions are found in the leaf litter, under bark, and some species even live in old books where they feed on even smaller insects like dust mites and booklice. If you look closely in the photo you can see a tiny ant larva in the pseudoscorpions mouth.