Author Archives: Sean K.

About Sean K.

Education Coordinator at Mass Audubon’s Museum of American Bird Art

Top Moments from Week 4: A butterfly safari, the caterpillar lab, digital cameras, and more

We’ve been having a fantastic week. Campers have been searching for butterflies and caterpillars, learning about the science and art of photography, exploring our brook and vernal pool (and catching a few frogs and salamanders), and taping into their creative side by creating lots of fantastic art. Here are some of the top moments from the week.

Visit from the caterpillar lab

The caterpillar lab visited on Tuesday and it was an amazing experience for all the campers. Here are a few photo galleries of the visit.

Ages 4-5

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Ages 6-7

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Ages 8-14

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Learning about vernal pools and holding frogs

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Metamorphosis: Pottery and ceramics

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Building a camera and fun with photography

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Having fun with and making new friends

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Splashing, creating, and discovering: Top Moments our Third Week at Wild at Art

This week, campers have been focusing on creating amazing art, sculpting with clay, and so much more! Here are a few of the top moments from the week.

Holding a dragonfly for the first time!

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Creating with Clay

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Exploring in the Brook

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Creating Stories with Paint, Clay, and More

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Having Fun and Making Friends

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Discovering Salamanders and Exploring through the Woods

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Painting

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Exploring, Creating, and Discovering: Top Moments from Week 2 of Summer Camp 2016

Our second week of the 2016 Wild at Art Summer Camp has been full of lots of fun, excitement, and bursts of creativity. This has been our largest week ever and campers have had a lot of fun moments.

Vernal Pool Safari to Catch Salamanders and More!

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Finding a Recently Emerged Cicada

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Cooling Off in the Sprinkler

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Weaving

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Creating with Clay: Fishy Fishy Mugs for the Water Safari

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Discovering our “tiny” natural world

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Blooming slippers, climbing fishers, swooping swallows, and more

Natural History Notes for May & June

Although we are tucked right into the heart of suburban Canton, amazing natural history moments, capable of inspiring awe and wonder, pop up everyday on our wildlife sanctuary. The sanctuary has been bursting with life and activity over the past two month and here are a few of the highlights.

First ever sighting of a fisher (Martes pennanti)

During our spring Ecology and Art homeschool class, our students were lucky enough to witness three fishers sauntering through the forest and then bounding up several trees. It was a spectacular sighting.

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A wave of migrating birds

This spring Owen Cunningham, our property manager, and Sean Kent started a series of Friday morning natural history hikes that coincided with a fantastic wave of migrants, including many warblers.

Magnolia Warbler

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Ovenbird

Ovenbird

Ovenbird

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

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Wilson’s Warbler

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Birds have been busy building nests and caring for their fledglings

We have several pairs of nesting orioles, including one pair that has nested in the trees behind our bird blind, and their babies have recently fledged. During the last week of June, the Mulberry tree by our offices has produced copious amounts of ripe fruits that have been fattening up many species of birds on the sanctuary.

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Nesting Tree Swallows

This spring we have been lucky to host several pairs of nesting tree swallows. It’s been marvelous to witness the tree swallows raise their young, defend their nests against house wren intrusion, and grace the meadow with their majestic flight.

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Pink Lady’s Slipper

Every spring, starting in the middle of May and extending to early June, pink lady’s slippers, a majestic orchid, that thrives in acidic soils of our pine forest, emerge and bloom throughout the sanctuary.

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Hunting Hawks

The populations of chipmunks, red squirrels, and lots of other little critters have exploded thanks to a super abundant crop of acorns this past fall.

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Red-tailed Hawk

Flowering plants in our meadow, bird garden,
and new native pollinator garden

Pollinators, including many native bees, have been taking advantage of all the species of flowering plants that have been blooming on our sanctuary. False indigo (Baptista australis) bloomed in early June and had many species of butterflies, bumblebees, leaf cutting bees, and mining bees collecting pollen and nectar from the flowers. Check out two videos of a bumblebee collecting pollen and nectar from a few flowers.

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False indigo from the bird garden at the Museum of American Bird Art

 

Skipper gathering nectar from a False Indigo flower

Skipper gathering nectar from a False Indigo flower

Animal Acrobatics and Shapeshifting Flyers: Top Moments from Week 1

Our first week of summer camp has been off to a fantastic start, with lots of art, nature, science, and fun built in. Check back in during the week as this post will be updated each day or two.

Here are some of the top moments from camp this week!

Moment #1

Going on a dragonfly hunt!

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All the campers from the Animal Acrobatics and Art groups were thrilled to learn about and hunt for dragonflies in our meadow. One highlight for everybody was getting to hold onto a dragonfly and feel it’s Velcro like feet (tarsi).

Top Moment #2
Learning about and building nests

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Top Moment #3
Pin the stinger on the bee

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Top Moment #4
Exploring movement with charcoal

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Top Moment #5
Having fun with our amazing staff

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Top Moment #6
Printmaking with linoleum tiles

On Thursday, we were very excited to learn how to sketch out a print onto linoleum tile and learn how to safely use linocutting tools. The prints came out exquisite and everybody loved what they made. The detail and care taken into each art project was remarkable and inspiring.

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Home and Away

We are thrilled to have a guest post by the amazingly talented artist Sherrie York. She will be visiting the Museum of American Bird Art at Mass Audubon between July 28 to July 30 to display her art, lead several programs, and give an illustrated talk about her printmaking. She will be doing a workshop with our summer camp on July 28th, giving an illustrated talk and reception for her artwork on July 29th, and giving an all day printmaking workshop on July 30th.

Home and Away by Sherrie York

Travel and art-making have often gone hand-in-hand. (Or perhaps that’s brush-in-hand.) John Singer Sargent’s watercolors of Morocco revealed an intriguing faraway culture. John James Audubon’s journeys recorded North America’s flora and fauna and Albert Bierstadt’s romantic western landscapes helped inspire the first national parks.

I enjoy travel, too, and will be traveling from my Colorado stomping grounds to MABA this summer. In July I will exhibit some of my linoleum block prints in the estate house and present both a printmaking workshop and presentation about my work. Of course it doesn’t always take a passport, a suitcase, or a new frontier to find subject matter. Familiar places close to home are inspiring, too.

landscape

This is Sands Lake. It’s a scruffy little body of water next to the Arkansas River in the town of Salida, where I live. They call it a lake, but it’s really a settling pond for the fish hatchery upstream. Water flows from hatchery to lake via underground culverts, then spills out the far bank in to the river.

During the day the trail around the lake is filled with fishing enthusiasts, dog-walkers, joggers, bicyclists, and birders. More than one elicit teenager party has taken place there after dark. Pristine, exotic wilderness it’s not.

But for me this humble corner provides a wealth of inspiration and stories year-round, and no small number of linocuts, too.

PasdeDucks-©SherrieYork

Pas de Ducks: All year

At the upriver end of the lake, next to the inflow culvert, is a concrete fishing pier. The remains of cliff swallow nests were still attached when it was installed, a good indicator of its provenance as repurposed bridge. Hopeful mallards congregate below the pier looking for handouts, and from my elevated vantage point I enjoy watching the tracery they create in the reflection of the railing.

 Cruisin-©SherrieYork

Cruisin’: Spring

Forget the robin as a harbinger of spring! Local birders know that spring migrants begin to appear weeks before the pelicans turn up at the lake, but their sheer size and brilliant whiteness assure that even the most bird-ambivalent will notice this sign of winter’s demise.

EPSON scanner image

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Usurper: Summer

Three species of bluebird are present in the area around the lake, but the mountain bluebird’s cobalt shimmer and soft call is the most common. Bluebird enthusiasts abound, too, as evidenced by nest boxes peppering the edges of yards, pastures, and the municipal golf course. Of course tree swallows don’t know they aren’t the intended occupants…

CootduJour-©SherrieYork

Coot du Jour: Autumn through Spring

Like mushrooms after rain, American coots sprout on the surface of the lake in early autumn. The antics of 70 or 80 over-wintering birds amuse me until spring, but before the trees have finished leafing out they are gone. I never see them arrive, and I never see them leave.

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No Time Like the Present: Winter

Winter is the time for waterfowl on Sands Lake. Because so much water moves through from the hatchery the lake remains open even in the coldest days of winter. Common and Barrow’s goldeneye, buffleheads, scaup, wigeon, and more fill the lake with noise and motion and offer consolation for the absence of warblers and swallows.

 

 

Spring Has Sprung: Notes from the Field

Over the past few weeks, the sanctuary has been bursting with life as spring is “just around the corner”, even though we woke up to snow on April 5th. Join us at 8am on our weekly Friday bird and natural history hikes to see all the amazing creatures, plants, and views on the Morse Wildlife Sanctuary. Even better is the terrific company and being out in nature. 

Snoozing Raccoon

While I was investigating life in a vernal pool, some peaceful fur way way up in the crook of a tree caught my attention. A raccoon was snoozing the day away. Check out the ears on one side and the foot on the other.

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Mystery Tree Damage

Near one of our smaller vernal pools, the damage to this tree puzzled me. Based on it’s teeth marks, it is clearly a rodent, but the damage is one inch deep at some points and is about 8 ft long. I’m are not sure what caused this damage, but could it be a porcupine? Let us know what you think.

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Deer Traffic Jam

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Birding Highlights

Here are a few of the birds that have been seen over the past few weeks.

  • Red-tailed hawk hunting pine voles

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  • Brown creepers
  • Eastern phoebes
  • Wood ducks
  • Hermit thrush
  • Hairy and downy woodpeckers
  • Flocks of dark-eyed juncos, chickadees, tufted titmouse, and American robins
  • Pair of nesting red-shouldered hawks
  • Red-bellied woodpeckers
  • Calling red-winged blackbirds in the red maple swamp (birding hotspot)
  • American woodcock
  • Our digital photography homeschool class observed a cooper’s hawk preying on a mallard.
  • Check out our bird blind by the gallery, our feeders are always stocked and there are usually lots of birds to photograph

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Flora Highlights

Stunk cabbage is one of the first plants to emerge in the spring. It is found near soggy or submerged soil and is usually pollinated by flies. This was taken near the Pequit Brook.

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Rattlesnake Plantain

Check out this amazing little orchid hiding under the pine needles. These pictures are from early March.

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One of the tiniest and earliest spring flowers

We have had over 10,000 of these flowers blooming in bare patches of soil and on our lawns. They are so easy to miss until you start looking for them.

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Vernal Pools in the Wildlife Sanctuary

In early March, when the weather cracked 60 degrees, the spring peepers and wood frogs started calling. Wood frogs sound more like ducks than frogs. Check out these two videos to hear them.

Wood frogs are abundant at our wildlife sanctuary and are always one of the first frogs to emerge from hibernation. This year, wood frogs were first observed on March 10 congregrating in large numbers at our main vernal pool and where I counted well over 60 wood frogs on March 11. Listen to their chorus from March 11, 2016.

Spotted salamanders have also been laying eggs and fairy shrimp are abundant.

Fairy Shrimp. Photo Credit: B. L. Dicks and D. J. Patterson

On April 3rd, Owen Cunningham and a volunteer spent the afternoon searching for life in our pools and were able to identify wood frog and spotted salamander eggs. This data will be submitted to the state and we expect that our vernal pools will be certified by the Mass Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program.

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Inquiry, Intentional Curiosity, Discovery, and Art!

Homeschool classes at MABA

In an environment rich with nature, science, and art, our homeschool classes are full of excitement, laughter, focused awareness, and curiosity. This blog post highlights some of the activities and programs we have done over the past few months at MABA. To learn or sign up for our spring courses, click here.

Animal Behavior Homeschool Class: Monarch Butterfly Natural History and Flight
The Biomechanics of Gliding

In one of our Animal Behavior sessions, we focused on the Monarch Butterfly migration to learn about animal migration and the biomechanics of flight.

Monarch butterflies via ASU.edu

Students created model monarch butterflies and conducted a test flight experiment in our museum.IMG_5032

To learn more about the incredible monarch butterfly migration, check out this fantastic BBC documentary

Monarch Butterfly amazing migration – BBC Life HD

Want to do more at home? Journey North is a great resource and citizen science project that tracks the migration of Monarch Butterflies and lets you contribute data that improves our understanding and conservation of these fantastic butterflies. We have tracked Monarch egg laying on the wildlife sanctuary and submitted data to journey north. Here is a publication that has used citizen science data from journey north to help us better understand migration and monarch population dynamics.

Learning about bird behavior and biology by making clay birds

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Learning about animal behavior and ethology by studying betta fish behavior & responding with art

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Field Biology, Pollinator Ecology, and Art Homeschool Class:
Exploring watercolor techniques and color theory

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To reinforce what we have learned about the biology and ecology of native bees and butterflies, each student cut out bee and butterfly silhouettes. They used these silhouettes to learned color theory and watercolor techniques, including wet on wet and wet on dry, by creating bold, fun, and colorful pollinators that they took home.

We have also learned about nesting habitats of native bees and created mason bee houses.

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Studied the phenology of spring flowering plants through focused awareness and intentional curiosity

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Creating pollinators out of paper marbled with dye using the art of suminigashi

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Digital Photography Homeschool Class
Looking closely and creating nature’s treasure maps

In our digital photography class, students built a digital camera, learned about the technology in the camera, and the art of photography. We focused on composition, such as the rule of thirds, looking for geometry in nature, and taught students to be keen observers of the natural world by looking closely. We explored our expansive wildlife sanctuary and created nature treasure maps, thanks to the incredible naturalist and artist Jack (John Muir) Laws for this idea, both with sketchbooks and through photography.

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Taking opportunities when they arise: A coopers hawk had a mallard for lunch

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Exploring the technology behind the camera lens

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Exploring the end of winter and start of spring behind the camera lens

DigitalPhotography

Whooooos coming!!! Owls that’s who!

Fun for the whole family! On Saturday March 19, from 1-4pm, explore the wonders of owls as the Museum of American Bird Art (MABA) host our popular Owls Live! festival. Be amazed when you see owls up close, explore the sanctuary, and create art. Drop in any time between 1 and 4pm on Saturday for Owls Live! The cost of admission is $5 per person and all ages are welcome. The museum is located on Washington Street in Canton directly across from Canton High School. Follow us on Facebook to keep up with our events and news.

Long-eared Owl. Photo Credit: Shawn Carey

Long-eared Owl. Photo Credit: Shawn Carey

 See Owls Up Close!

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Activities include owl cookie decorating, face painting, and making owl masks.

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Our Owl Quest will encourage visitors to follow a set of clues in the exhibition gallery and around the 121 acre wildlife sanctuary to learn more about owls and the wonders of spring. Raffle baskets will include a week of the Wild at Art summer camp, Mass Audubon family membership and fun pack, and a framed print by MABA benefactor Mildred Morse Allen with the framing donated by the Village Gallery in Canton. Tickets to the event include admission to the current exhibition, Life on the Leaf Edge, Photographs of Native Caterpillars by Sam Jaffe

Proceeds from the Owls Live! Festival support MABA’s Wild at Art summer camp. Families will have an opportunity to meet MABA’s camp director, Sean Kent, and senior staff. You can learn about the upcoming camp season, which is designed to engage campers in the discovery and stewardship of nature and encourage artistic expression. Sean is an experienced and skilled educator who has worked with elementary through college age students in both formal and outdoor settings.

Check out last year’s camp!

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Learn, Create, and Express Yourself at our Digital Photography Homeschool Program

Build your own digital camera!

IMG_2601On February 3rd, we will kick off our winter STEAM Ahead Photography homeschool course, only a few spots remain so sign up today. This program focuses on fostering curiosity, creativity, innovative thinking, and problem solving and is designed and taught by Sean Kent, a dedicated science educator, field biologist, and accomplished amateur photographer. Students will build a digital camera and learn about the science behind the camera lens, while exploring the art of photography. As an art museum and a 121 acre wildlife sanctuary, students will have the unique opportunity to learn about the science, art, and technology of photography, while also being immersed in project based learning focused on our environment. To learn more about homeschool courses offered at Mass Audubon’s Museum of American Bird Art, check out a blog post about our Fall 2015 courses.

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Photography students exploring the brook and completing a photography scavenger hunt. Photo credit: Sean Kent

During the photography course, students will

  • Learn about the science, engineering and technology behind the camera lens, including power generation, how an image is created by a lens, and how the microcontroller in a digital camera works
  • Learn about the anatomy and physiology of the human eye
  • Explore the artistic tools used to compose a photograph, including the rule of thirds and leading lines

“The homeschool classes at the Museum of American Bird Art are the most thoughtfully designed programs my children have ever attended.” – PARENT

For members, the course fee is 160$ with a 100$ materials fee for the cost of the digital camera that a students build.

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Learn more about the course instructor

Sean Kent, the education coordinator for the Museum of American Bird Art at Mass Audubon, designed and will teach the digital photography course. Sean is a skilled educator with broad experience working with elementary through college-age students in art studio, classroom, and outdoor settings. He has a master’s degree in biology, and his research on native plants and pollinators has taken him from the Boston Harbor Islands to Belize. He is an art enthusiast, birder, and accomplished amateur photographer.

 

Check out our other Winter Homeschool Classes

Monday:

  1. Animal Ecology, Behavior, and Art (Two classes: Ages 7 to 9, and Ages 10 to 15)
  2. Where in the World: Wildlife, Geography, and Art! (One class: Ages 7 to 9)
  3. Pollinator Ecology, Inquiry, and Art (One class: Age 10 to 15)

Tuesday

  1. Painting Immersion – Famous Nature Artists and You (Two Classes: Ages 7 to 9, and Ages 10 to 15)

Wednesday

  1. STEAM Ahead Photography Homeschool Program