Invitations to Nature-Based Play: Gobble Gobble Gourds

By-Laura Grunze Franz


This week we brought home a few gourds from the market, and my son and I were joking about how they looked like birds. Thus was born the idea of turning our gourds into turkeys.

To set up this nature-based invitation, we collected maple leaves, oak leaves, gingko leaves, and maple tree “helicopter” seeds. I added small pinecones and whole cloves to the mix.

First we painted the helicopter seeds red to be used as waddles. gourd7

Next, I thought we could push the cloves into the gourds to make the eyes. I was so very wrong. Nothing can penetrate those gourds, although I did not try a drill. So the boys decided they would like to use googly eyes instead. This was a good, cute choice but the sticky backs wouldn’t adhere to the gourds.


Finally, we decided that the boys would loosely tape their materials (eyes, waddles and feathers) to their gourd turkeys and then I would use the hot glue gun to secure it all when they were finished.

It can be a good learning opportunity to be part of a project that hits roadblocks; it allows for creative problem solving. This bumpy, but creative, process ended in some very cute birds and two very happy boys.

Happy Nature Crafting!

Simple Wooden Birdfeeder Plans: An Engaging Project for the Whole Family!

-Essay By Janimarie Lester DeRose, Birdfeeder Designs and Plans by: Dean Lester

Finished birdfeederI have brought my daughters to swing in their grandparents’ backyard. It is spring and their apple and cherry trees bathe the new fresh green yard in soft light and a sweet nostalgic scent. We all three sit on a large wooden porch swing, dangling our legs, listening. My girls’ usual chatter is silenced by the cacophony of bird song. Everywhere you look are bird feeders, mostly built by my Dad years ago, brimming with seed.

My parents, Dean and De Ann Lester have created an oasis in their urban yard for song birds, humming birds, at times owls and even hawks. Many children comment on the “forest” as they pass by. They have maintained hundred year old trees and replaced them as the yard changed with time, planting thick ground covers and open spaces of bark chips (instead of lawn), creating a lush, protective habitat for birds. While many traditional gardeners trim heavily, they intentionally leave many plants’ seed pods through winter, to help sustain the birds diet. Some beds are planned for the humming birds and butterflies hosting brilliant native penstimon, while other area’s are for scent and edible herbs for the birds’ human counterparts to enjoy!

feeding station bird bath

Throughout their yard, they have placed different types of bird feeders. Some styles feed the birds with a smaller Niger seed, while most host the larger Black Oil Sunflower seed (a favorite) or a more generic mixed seed. They also at times have dishes of jam for Tanagers, Humming bird feeders, and an occasional suet feeder. They also host a bird bath, heated in the winter, to create a small bit of open water in Northern Utah’s frigid or dry months.

No matter the time of year I visit, I find their yard brimming with avian life, inspiring wonder in my children. This article is on how to build your own bird feeder, to help foster a little bit of nature in your own urban landscape.

roofMy father Dean Lester wrote up the blue prints and step by step building instructions, and my five year old daughter and husband Justin were the lucky Nature Nuts to get to help build it!  This is a great project to do with your Family Nature Club!!!


Steps in Building Bird Feeder


  • Step 1-Purchase Wood

saftey protection

  • Step 2-Done safety gear- then Cut Wood to length

Pop Pop and Saw

  • Assemble the seed box
    • Hint: Water proof glue and screws will lengthen life rather than nails

Wood glue

  • Assemble the top frame with roof support upright
  • Connect the Seed Box to the top frame using the 2×2 uprights

staple gun with Justin

  • Put the tongue and groove roof panels together

top view

  • Nail or screw the roof tie bars to the assembled tongue and groove roof panels

Silvia Screwdriver

  • Attach the completed roof panels to the roof support upright and upper frame side bars using nails or screws

Nail gun with Pop Pop

  • Screw the roof cap to the roof support upright with 3” screws
  • Attach eye screws to the roof cap for hanging

feeder  fly through feeder

Congrats-you have now built an awesome feeder as a family!  Now find a tree in your yard to hang it and enjoy observing wildlife in your yard all winter long!!!  Let us know how this project turns out for you-please send us pictures of your feeder hanging in your yard and we will share it on our website.  Send pictures to

Note: This lesson is recommended for children 8 years and up (with a grandparent preferably!)

Fall Lesson Idea: “The Leaf Man”

“The Leaf Man” Fall Lesson

Themes: This lesson explores fall leaves and encourages free exploration in the fall woods and gathering of leaves of different shapes and sizes.

Ages:It is a perfect multi-age lesson and can be enjoyed by children from age 1-10 or perhaps even older.

Location: Meet outside in the fall in a piece of woods that will have diversity of fall leaves and plants

Time: 45 min to 1.5 hours depending on how much free exploration time is provided


1.  Start by sitting in a circle and accessing prior knowledge by talking about what the kids already know about trees and leaves.

2.  Sing a fall leaf song

3.  Read the book Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert

Charlie Leafman

Reading the “Leafman”.

 4.  Each child then gets a large paper split into 6 squares with the part of the leafman they need to collect on a collection tray:

leafman setup

The Leafman design templates

5.  Then the children are free to explore the woods picking out what they want to represent each body part.

6.  They are then given glue and a new large paper and they assemble their Leafman.

charlie leafman building

Assembling the Leafman

7.  Everyone shares their creative designs together at the end.

Lucy and her leafman

An example of the final product

If time go for a hike and free play enjoying the Fall woods!

This fun lesson was designed by Corie Scribner and written by Olivia Griset