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Happy New Year from Fontenelle Forest! I hope this fresh new month finds your family happy and healthy.

We're excited to see you all on January 16th between 10 am and 12 pm for one of our last Hands-on-Habitat events of this series, and we hope to see your friends and family sometime during our next 12-month series beginning in March! It's been great getting to know you, and we hope to see you around the Forest regularly. To sign up this month, just visit ParentSavvy's Hands-on-Habitat Registration page.

Our Hands-on-Habitat this month will focus on one of my favorite things about winter: tracks in the snow! I love finding animal tracks in snow, because I love stories. Every track tells a story, you know?

Imagine that you're walking down your driveway to your mailbox, and you see a couple footprints in the snow. A quick series of questions to yourself will open up a lot of information about whatever animal it was that stepped on your driveway. "Are the prints all the same size?" If yes, perhaps they are from the same animal. "Are they headed in a certain direction?" Yes? Maybe the animal was on his way somewhere. "Are the toes spread apart?" Yes? He must have been running!  

Looking at tracks is one of the most fun and easy ways to acquaint yourself with your wildlife neighbors, and it's almost addicting once you get started, because you learn parts of stories as you go. Believe it or not, there are lives and routines intersecting on your driveway and in your backyard and on your roof and in your parking lot daily – and the evidence is right there before your eyes! 

If you see a track with your kids, encourage them to use their imaginations and try to fit the tracks into the animal's story. Ask where it was headed. Ask if it was moving fast or slow. Ask why, ask how, ask when. By asking them these questions, you're teaching them how to be scientists and gather information through inquiry.

And by letting them answer the questions themselves, you're giving them a chance to use their brain and make conclusions. There's a chance they will tell you that the bunnies in your yard were hopping quickly to their tea party with the unicorn that lives under your deck, and if that happens, just go with it! Make questions and discovery fun for both you and your child, and dive into the stories around you. I promise it will be worth it.

Lindsay Cooley

from Fontenelle Forest

Lindsay is an environmental educator at Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue. She was born and raised in Omaha, and is happy to be back after spending the past four years interning and working at various nature centers around the country. Lindsay has a background in environmental science, and is passionate about cultivating a love of the natural world in children and adults alike. When she's not cutting out craft materials or taking kids on hikes, Lindsay loves birdi ...

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