Lines and Triangles and BEARS! Oh, my!

Did you know that when you explore nature, you are surrounded by math? The June 2021 Teacher Workshop and Retreat at Castlewood Canyon State Park explored that concept. Let's see what SOLE teachers discovered!

"The most valuable part of the workshop was trying the activities as a student and to think of ways to implement." - Teacher Workshop and Retreat participant

SOLE teachers rock climbing.

The workshop and retreat started off with teachers reconnecting with nature by rock climbing or hiking. Hikers got the opportunity to explore the park on their own while rock climbers joined Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff at a rock wall known as "The Grocery Store." Teachers climbed routes including "Caramel Corner" and "Blood Pudding." They had a lot of fun getting a bird's eye view of the park with one teacher getting a butterfly view of the park when she was joined by a black and white butterfly while climbing.

After spending the morning reconnecting to nature, teachers began to explore how 4th grade math standards can be taught with the help of nature. Geometry is everywhere in nature! When we go outside, we are surrounded by lines, rays, parallel and perpendicular lines, angles, and other geometry concepts without even realizing it. Teachers discovered that when you look for geometry, you can find it hidden in horizons, groves of trees, and cracks in dried mud. Geometry is not the only thing that is everywhere in nature, patterns are too.

"Informative. Engaging. Relaxing." - Teacher Workshop and Retreat participant

SOLE teachers practiced pattern recognition by completing patterns and making their own for others to solve. What number comes after 66 in the following sequence? 34, 43, 50, 59, 66, __. Here is a hint, the answer is found using addition. The numbers increase by 9, 7, 9, 7. So, the answer is 66 + 9 = 75! Numbers are not the only things that can create patterns. Teachers played The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's game Bird Song Hero and examined spectrograms to uncover even more patterns in nature.

Math is something that is used by insects, mammals, and even amphibians. Teachers tested whether or not they were smarter than a crow by completing a challenge. Teachers were tasked with retrieving a sunflower seed from a graduated cylinder filled with water only through the use of tweezers and things found in nature. After retrieving the sunflower seeds using sticks and rocks, teachers then watched a video of a crow completing the same challenge. In the video, they watched a crow use the most dense objects to displace water in a cylinder to get its treat. Did you know that crows are that smart?

Teachers retrieving their sunflower seeds.

Next time you are on a walk or are enjoying the views, see if you can spot any geometry, patterns, or mathematically minded animals. Have fun!

"... It has revitalized me and I feel ready to go into the next year!" - Teacher Workshop and Retreat participant.

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