Outdoor Learning

March 29, 2017


Hands On Outdoor Learning

I’m told that children learn through play.  From what I have experienced, I believe that everyone can learn through play. Our family has been playing in, on and around the Great Lakes most of our lives. We have learned a lot while we swam, boated, fished and beach combed.  The lakes engaged all our senses: the splash of cold water, the sound of the waves, the silence of fog, hot sand underfoot and the way it sings when you drag your toes across it, the ever changing colors and rhythms of waves, the times fish bite the best.   The outdoors have many lessons to teach if we pay attention.

Family vacations took us to all of the Great Lakes; the majesty of Niagara Falls; to the rocky shores of Lake Superior where we hunted for agates; to many embayments and open waters of the lakes to fish.  My husband  Norm, has caught nearly every kind of fish in the lakes: walleye from Lake Erie and the embayments of the upper Great Lakes, deep water fish such as lake trout and burbot, and the annual runs of white fish and perch  Pacific salmon that were planted to control alewives.

We have all learned so much from our outdoor adventures;  changing colors, their beaches of stone or sand, waterfalls, fishes and birds, wetlands , and dunes with their succession of plants.  In our play around the Great Lakes, we always learn something new.

With all of this hands-on experience I wrote a non-fiction book, The Dynamic Great Lakes, a non-fiction primer.  I had wanted a book like this to read, but I never found one so I decided to write a book with information that people could use to make sound decisions about the Great Lakes.

I am also the published author of three poetry books: The Wilderness Within and Sophia’s Lost and Found: Poems of Above and Below and Between Sweetwater and Sand. The last book will be released July 30, 2013( These poems are drawn directly from observations of nature.

At Grand Valley State University, I developed writing classes based upon environmental studies. This gave students important topics to work with. I did not want papers recycled from high school.  I assigned books such as The Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold and Blue Highways by William Least-Heat Moon and Thoreau.  We discussed the topics and writing techniques used by these authors.

I asked my students to go outdoors and use observation and to use the five senses. They kept journals based on what they saw and even how they felt about what they saw.   I brought things from nature such as feathers and plants indoors for students to hold in their hands and then describe in concrete detail. They played with the downy feathers, blowing on them and closely observing them.

I asked them to use metaphor and to use as many of the five senses as they could in their descriptions.  Student writing becomes grounded in reality when using these sorts of exercises.

Our lives become grounded when playing outdoors.???????????????

Click the link for reviews of The Dynamic Great Lakes

https://www.amazon.com/Dynamic-Great-Lakes-Barbara-Spring/dp/1588517314/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492203420&sr=1-1&keywords=the+dynamic+great+lakes


Since DDT and like pesticides were banned in 1972, the American Bald Eagles may be seen around the Great Lakes.

Read About how this happened in my book, The Dynamic Great Lakes. 

Find the book at bn.com, Amazon.com and many other brick and mortar bookstores such as the Bookman in Grand Haven, MI.


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Living Waters

The north woods ring—the waters gather dripping from the tops of pines, running, running, running over ancient rocks.  The veerys trill up and down the scales, the warblers chime their notes through still bare twigs and the water runs, it runs down to Lake Superior swirling downstream, plunging over waterfalls just freed from ice curtains.  Curious deer come to drink from the pool below lifting their heads, standing motionless to sense the air.  Is it bear?  Wolf? Lynx?

Sun dapples down through bare forest trees—sun streams, the ground steams, wet leaves tilt insisting on light, thrust new spikes.  Water flows through mobile root hairs, roots, stems, vaporizes into air.

Wild geese weave the wind, skid along black marsh water among tangles of cat tail.  Further downstream waves curl onto a rock shore polishing stones to oval and the small stones roll chinking and chunking.  They assume their flat round shapes over years of grinding, finding their ease in the wave rhythms, rolling rolling, rolling.  White caps bubble foam and the jade water is a dancing goddess in the middle distance between shore and horizon.

Children arrive to pick up fossils of ancient coral and to find stones to skip on a quiet day.  They chase sea gulls and try to become airborne by leaping and spreading their arms.  Cormorants and sooty terns rise and cleave the air.  The red cheeked kids leap in the early spring breezes, their knuckles chapped.  What do they care?

The bones of whales and sailors roll in the currents—some finding their way out to sea, some becoming, becoming, becoming a diatom’s shining, becoming the bones of an emerald shiner, becoming limestone shale in the loving exchange between the living and the living.  The islands of Lake Superior bear greenstones and jewel like snakes.  Sturgeon and trout spawn leaving pearls and coral in the crevices of rocks.  A moose stands chin deep in and island lake.  The islands of Lake Superior are quiet, remote and cold,  littered with bones.

Curled underground, water drawn up through squeaky pumps splashes into enamel buckets—water clear and cold and tasting of iron.  The iron flows through the veins of the moose and in the red cheeked children.

Loons quiver their greetings and as twilight falls, bullfrogs groan their love songs—they bellow all night long.  I lay awake listening to the water lapping the night and its creatures.

 

–Barbara Spring


 

Lisa:Who were your mentors?

Barbara: My first mentor was my father, E. P. Reineke, a research scientist at M.S.U. in the physiology dept. He did some important original research there. I learned to love and appreciate nature from him. My husband, Norm Spring has been a long time outdoorsman and conservationist. I have learned a great deal about nature and the democratic process from him.

Lisa:What are some books that have changed your life?

Barbara:Silent Spring by Rachel Carson opened my eyes to what we are doing to the environment. After reading the book and recommending it to my husband, we both became activists on behalf of the environment before the first Earth Day in 1970. I also loved A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold. I required my students to read it when I taught writing classes at Grand Valley State University.

Lisa:Who do you think would enjoy reading this book?

Barbara:I wrote The Dynamic Great Lakes for a general audience.

I spoke to school children this week. I opened my talk with a space photo of Planet Earth and explained that the water they saw was 98% salt water-only about 2% is freshwater. “Dang!” said a kid in surprise.

The audience for my book is really adults, but school age kids will find it interesting, too. It is an up to date reference to the five Great Lakes and their connecting waters: their fishes, dunes, wetlands, seasonal changes and changes caused by people. The Dynamic Great Lakes will be an eye-opener for anyone.

Lisa:Why is the Dynamic Great Lakes an important book?

Barbara:The Great Lakes are important but often misunderstood. They are about 20% of all the fresh surface water on this planet. People need to understand their dynamics in order to make sound decisions about them. Recently a grassroots movement in Michigan blocked oil companies from further oil exploration under Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. The risk of polluting the lakes with oil and noxious gases was intolerable. There will be more schemes that threaten the health of the Great Lakes. Armed with knowledge, people will demand the right thing of their government. They will also be careful of what they do in their personal decisions. The lakes’ water is low this year, but it will rise again. People who know this is a natural cycle will not build too close to the water.

Lisa:Why is this book a good choice for Earth Day?

Barbara:The book encourages people to think globally and act locally. Everything is connected to everything else. This means that what we burn, what we release in the water and land and what we eat are all connected. We often forget that we are part of the whole and flowing web of life. Our actions will affect us now and in the future.

Lisa:How is your book different from other books about the Great Lakes?

Barbara:I limited my topic to changes in the Great Lakes, both through natural forces and through changes caused by people. There have been a great many changes and I believe people will be interested in learning about the Pacific salmon planted in the lakes to feed on the pesky alewives that invaded them through the canals around Niagara Falls. They will be interested in other exotic species such as the zebra mussels and how they got into all five Great Lakes

Lisa: How did you research the book? Barbara:I began with observations. We live within view of Lake Michigan. I can observe the change of seasons and what kinds of fish are being caught. I have also observed all the other lakes and their connecting waters. I then set out to find out authoritative information about the lakes by interviewing experts. The book is interdisciplinary. I interviewed a geologist, fish biologists, and naturalists. I asked them for good sources in print. I went out on Grand Valley State University’s research vessel, Angus to see what research was being done. I enjoyed working on the Dynamic Great Lakes because there was always something new.

Lisa:What else have you written? Barbara:As a journalist, I have written articles for the Grand Rapids Press, a major newspaper in West Michigan. These articles were about travels, profiles of interesting people, and outdoor subjects. I also have had articles published in Michigan Out of Doors magazine, Michigan Natural Resources magazine, Muskegon Magazine, Field & Stream and many other publications.


Salmon Time in Lake Michigan

September 8, 2016


Brooks' big catch

Brooks’ big catch

Read about Great Lakes fishing in The Dynamic Great Lakes by Barbara Spring available on Amazon.com, bn.com and many other bookstores.dynamicgreatlakes-independent_fullcover-copy


Piping Plovers: Rare Bird Alert  click the link for photos and information about an endangered species.  Read more about these piping plovers in The Dynamic Great Lakes.

DynamicGreatLakes-Independent_FullCover copy


Pacific Salmon in Great Lakes  Here is an interesting link about changes in the Great Lakes fishes.

For more information, The Dynamic Great Lakes shows how many changes happen and continue to happen in the Great Lakes.  Available at Amazon.com, bn.com and many fine bookstores.

blueglDynamicGreatLakes-Independent_FullCover copy

Kites on the Beach

May 6, 2016


Lately we see many kite boards on the water.2 kite boardsDid anyone ever tell you to go fly a kite?  My painting of kite flyers on the beach along Lake Michigan.  kites


Here is a clipping from 1985, the year some summer cottages fell into Lake Michigan.  Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are high again this year.  It is normal for the Great Lakes’ water levels to rise and fall.  Don’t buy real estate too close to the water.  It is powerful.scan0003

a critically accalimed non-fiction bookRead more about the Great Lakes in my book, The Dynamic Great Lakes.  This

non-fiction book is available at bn.com, Amazon.com, the Bookman in Grand Haven and many other fine bookstores.