Everyday Nature

Block 3, spring 2021 (29 March – 4 June)
Tues/Thurs9:00-10:20 a.m.

instructor: Emmett Wald (they/them pronouns)

Welcome to the class headquarters. All course information will be found (or found linked from) here. This is a living document, so bookmark it and check back regularly for updates!

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Course Description

Sick of being stuck inside because of winter and covid? This class will give you a chance to explore the great outdoors, whether you live in a city or on a mountain! This class will illuminate all the incredible things nature is doing right outside your window, from the life cycles of plants and animals to the formation of clouds. Learn how to keep a field notebook, identify wildlife, participate in citizen science, track the passing seasons, and more.

This class will involve several optional field trips. Possible field trips include: Ashley Reservoir (Holyoke), Mt Tom State Reservation (Holyoke), Mass Audubon Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary (Easthampton), Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory (South Deerfield), Smith College Botanic Garden (Northampton), Smith College MacLeish Field Station (Whately).

Homework mostly involves going outside and writing/drawing/measuring what you find.

Class Format

This course is mostly remote. Class will be taught at the scheduled times via Zoom. Log in to Alma to get the Zoom info! We’ll be showing each other specimens, drawings, and other things, so you’ll need your camera turned on to fully participate.

While our classes will be conducted mostly indoors, you will be expected to go outside and do observations several times a week.

Tardiness & Absence Policy

  • More than 5min late = marked tardy
  • More than 15min late = marked absent
  • Less than 24hrs’ notice = unexcused absence (unless you’re sick, see below)

I understand that you might not always be able to make it to class. If you know that you are going to be late or miss class, please email me as soon as you know so that I can help you catch up on what you missed.

  • If you’re sick, I need you or a parent/guardian to email me no later than the end of that day to let me know, otherwise it will be marked as an unexcused absence.
  • If you’re going to miss several classes, please let me know now so that we can make a big-picture plan to make sure you don’t fall behind.
  • If you’re late for or missing class, I still expect you to complete your homework.
  • If you miss class, you will probably need to do some makeup work. Please be proactive about emailing me to find out how to make up missed class time.

Field trip dates: TBD. If you’re going to miss a field trip, let me know right away so that I can figure out an alternative arrangement!

TL;DR ~ If you’re going to miss any class, please email me ASAP, and please stay caught up on classwork.

Participation Policy

I want to know if you’re confused or bored so that I can change things. I also want to get to know you well enough to write you a meaningful eval at the end of the block. I will be marking you absent or partially absent if you don’t participate in class. Ways to participate:

  • Ask or answer questions out loud
  • Ask or answer questions in the chat
  • Share relevant images in the chat
  • Turn your camera on to show that you’re listening or doing tasks
  • Do class exercises and share what you did
  • Turn your camera on and share things that you’re looking at or things that you’ve written/drawn


The best part of observing nature right around your house is that it’s easier to get there and get around than going to a nature preserve.

Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to make this course more accessible for you, or if you need my help figuring out how to make it more accessible! If you have concerns about getting to the field trips or getting around, let’s talk about it so I can make sure everyone will be able to join us.

Course Materials

You will receive a field kit at the start of the block containing a field journal, writing utensils, specimen jars & bags, measuring tools, a hand lens, and some handouts. These items are yours to keep! We will talk about how to use the contents of your kit. There will be a $5-10 fee to help cover the cost of the field kit; please contact Epi if that fee poses a problem for you.

You’ll need a computer (or tablet) with high-speed internet connection; a microphone, speakers, and webcam; and an up-to-date browser to participate in remote classes.

For field trips, you’ll need to wear sturdy, comfortable shoes for walking around (there may be mud!) and long pants. Bring your field kit, sunglasses, water, and sunscreen. And don’t forget to wear a mask!

Field Journal

Your field journal is the most important part of this class. You can use it to take notes during class, but more importantly, you’ll use it to record your observations of nature during the block. You’ll be expected to make entries in your field journal multiple times a week. At the end of the block, I’ll collect your field journals to peruse while writing your evaluations (don’t worry, I’ll return them!).

Course Schedule

(subject to change)

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Tuesday Thursday Homework
Week 1 30 Mar.

Introductions and class overview

1 Apr.

Observation words and practice

Due Thurs: Pick up your field kit from LightHouse!

Over the weekend: Check out the identification sites, see how they work, and practice identifying something if you want. =)

Week 2 6 Apr.

Observation & Identification Skills: Birds

8 Apr.

What’s in your field kit?

Intro to field journals

Describing the weather

Over the weekend: Start writing (or drawing, or entering data) in your field journal.
Week 3 13 Apr.

Planting Seeds and Plant Observation Skills

15 Apr.



Field trip permission slip due by Wednesday, April 14!
April break! Water your plants and keep up your field journal.
Week 4 27 Apr.

Intro to iNaturalist
Class iNaturalist project

29 Apr.

Mid-block check-in, more iNaturalist

Week 5 4 May

The water cycle, weather, and clouds

Participation policy update

6 May

Field Trip! ~ Ashley Reservoir
Measuring skills ~ tree height applet

Week 6 11 May

Plant Characteristics and Families

13 May

More plants: tree ID

Due Thurs: Identify the family of at least one plant, OR find a plant that isn’t in one of the families we talked about. Bring a picture or post it to iNaturalist before class.
Week 7 18 May

20 May

Ashley Reservoir Field Trip

Week 8 25 May 27 May
Week 9 1 Jun. 3 Jun.

Last day!
Ashley Reservoir Field Trip

Help & Resources

The Nature Resources page has lots and lots of info for identifying plants & critters, watching wildlife cams, doing citizen science, and more!

I don’t have scheduled office hours, but please email me if you need anything and we can set up a time to talk/Zoom/Skype/Facetime/whatever!