Ephemeral Art in Nature

Ephemeral art exists only briefly in time. It is art that you enjoy in the moment before it is gone. Maybe you created a masterpiece using sidewalk chalk, carved a design into dirt, or built an impressive sand castle before the waves crashed on top of it. Eventually, the artwork disappears leaving just the memory behind.

When creating your own ephemeral art, consider what materials would work best. Natural materials that will not leave behind a trace or harm the environment are a good option. For our masterpieces, we chose items already in nature. Sticks, rocks, shells, leaves, petals, and soil were readily available on our trails.

So what type of designs can you make? You could focus on patterns by making a beautiful mandala, reach for the sky with a rock stacking sculpture, or make stick people or animals out of leaves and petals. Fairy houses were a big hit with our students! Sticks can be used to make frames around your art, make a maze to explore, or used to carve designs in the sand.

We created our own ephemeral art on the trails this week! Some had blown away by the end of the day, some were still standing at the end of the week. Visitors walking the trails admired them and wondered who had left them there. Go outside – make your own temporary masterpieces!


Wetland Explorations

While studying the different ecosystems at the Houston Arboretum, I like to ask students:

  • What habitat is this? How do you know?
  • What plants grow here?
  • What animals live here? What evidence did you find of animals we might not have seen?
  • How does the soil and water in this area affect what lives and grows here?
  • Is this a healthy habitat?
  • Does it provide everything an organism needs to survive? (Food, water, shelter, space)
  • How is this habitat important to humans?

This month, Home Schoolers rolled up their sleeves and got a little wet and muddy while trying to answer this questions. We tested soil from our wetlands and compared it to upland soils. We used underwater viewers to catch a glimpse of our small aquatic organisms. The students performed biological surveys identifying the local flora and fauna. We even performed water quality tests in the wetlands to make sure it was a healthy habitat. And of course, we went pond dipping to study our water creatures!

Extension Lesson!

Now that you have studied the wetland inside and out (literally!), it is time to showcase what you have learned. We want you to help spread the word about the importance of wetlands. Create a Save Our Wetlands poster to share with your community. On the poster, include different plants and animals you might find in the wetlands, list some of the benefits wetlands provide, and include ways people can help protect this crucial habitat.

Benefits of Wetlands:

  • Wildlife Nursery – These ecosystems provide shelter for a vast variety of wildlife, including up to 1/3 of the nation’s threatened or endangered species. Without wetlands, a large number of shellfish, mammals, and songbirds would not have a home to live in.
  • Flood Control – Wetlands act like a sponge soaking up excess water, helping to control flooding.
  • Storm Buffers – Intact wetlands are a natural buffer from hurricanes and superstorms helping to prevent further damage to the nearby cities. In areas along the Gulf Coast that have been battered by massive hurricanes, restoring and conserving wetlands is critical.
  • Natural Filter – Plants and soils in wetlands naturally filter out pollutants, leaving behind a healthier habitat.
  • Prevent Erosion – In addition to filtering our pollutants and toxins, the plants in coastal marshes help prevent the soil from eroding away.
  • Jobs! Yes, wetlands are economically important to humans. From tourism and biologists, to fishing and farming (cranberry bogs!), wetlands generate a significant amount of money for local businesses.
  • Recreation! Between fishing, kayaking, bird watching, and hiking, wetlands provide many great ways for people to enjoy nature.
Gulf coast ribbon snake – one of many snakes we found!
Green anole
Yellow Crowned Night Heron hunting for crawfish, tadpoles, and fish.
Dozens of dragonflies and damselflies buzzing all around.
Who do these tracks belong to? This is a popular place for hungry nocturnal animals.
Tools of the trade! We tested the temperature, dissolved oxygen levels, and pH levels to determine the health of the wetlands.
What better place to learn about the wetlands than at the Wetlands Field Station!
Using our underviewers
Taking samples of water to look for micro organisms.


Pond dipping for aquatic insects and other animals.
Identifying what we caught.
Looking for vertebrates and invertebrates in the wetlands.
Watching the organisms!


Wetlands Around Houston

March has been a wonderful month for our wetlands studies! The Spring season is full of new plant growth, baby turtle hatchlings, and snakes venturing out after a cold winter. Now that we have learned about the plants, animals, soil, and water found in our wetlands, it’s time to explore other nearby wetlands.

Here are some questions to think about on your adventures:

  • How do they compare to ours? Are they bigger, smaller or the same size as ours?
  • What type of wildlife can be found there? What animals did you find that you didn’t see at the Houston Arboretum? Remember to look up in the trees, out on the logs, and down in the water. Wildlife is everywhere!
  • Are the wetlands there dominated by trees, shrubs, or grasses?
  • Describe what the water looks like – muddy, murky, clear, smelly?
  • Talk to a Park Ranger or visit their Nature Centers for more information on their local habitats.

Wetlands to Check Out!

  • Galveston Island State Park – 59 miles away. This 2,000 acre park protects not only the beach, but the coastal prairie and wetlands on the bay side as well. The salt marshes there provide a crucial habitat for a variety of wildlife.
  • Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge – 57 miles away. From salt water tides to fresh water rivers, this 44,4214 acre refuge creates one of the most biologically rich environments in Texas. In addition to nature trails and bird watching, visitors can also go waterfowl hunting and fishing! Imagine the wildlife you could find here!
  • Sheldon Lake State Park – 16 miles away. Learn about wetland restoration at this nearby state park. They have 28 naturalized ponds teeming with wildlife – including alligators! Climb their 82 foot Observation Tower for a beautiful panoramic view of the wetlands, lake, and restored prairies.
  • Brazos Bend State Park – 45 miles away. Brazos Bend has over 37 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and even horseback riding. The 40 Acre Trail will take you through their wetland habitats.

Can’t go for a visit? Not a problem! Check out their websites for additional information.


Moon Facts and Observation Log

Image result for pictures of the moon
Credit: NASA.gov

Just 384,400 km away is our closest celestial neighbor – the Moon! Here are some fun facts about our Moon:

  • The Moon is the Earth’s only natural satellite.
  • It takes about 29.5 days for the Moon to circle the Earth.
  • The Moon has no atmosphere to protect it from asteroids, comets, solar winds, cosmic rays, or meteorites. Because of this, space objects crash into the Moon creating craters on it’s surface. The Moon has approximately 500,000 craters!

    Image result for pictures of the moon
    Credit: BBC.com
  • It’s quiet up there! Since there is no atmosphere, there is no sound.
  • NASA’s Apollo 11 was the first manned spacecraft to land on the Moon in 1969. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first men to set foot on the Moon.
  • So far 24 people have visited the Moon and 12 have walked on the Moon.

    Buzz Aldrin on the Moon. Credit: NASA
  • You are much lighter on the Moon! You would only weigh about 1/6th of your weight.
  • The Moon does not have it’s own light source, even though we see it shining at night. It is actually reflecting the sun’s light.
  • The temperature on the Moon varies from extremely hot during the day (107 degrees Celsius) to extremely cold during the night (-183 degrees Celsius).
  • We only see one side of the Moon from Earth! Once the Moon was pulled into the Earth’s orbit, it stabilized and stopped rotating.
  • Moonquakes exist? Why, yes they do! Scientists believe it has a molten core similar to Earth’s. The gravitational pull from the Earth causes moonquakes to occur resulting in ruptures and cracks on the Moon’s surface.
  • Our ocean tides are largely caused by the gravitational pull of the Moon.
  • As the Moon orbits Earth, viewers see the side of the Moon facing Earth become more illuminated as it goes through its phases. In order of appearance, viewers see:
  1. Waxing crescent
  2. First quarter
  3. Waxing gibbous
  4. Full moon
  5. Waning gibbous
  6. Third quarter
  7. Waning crescent
  8. Return to new moon
Credit: https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap180310.html

Now that you have learned all about the Moon, are you ready to go outside and study it? Here is a fun activity you can do at home – My Moon Log! Each night you will study the Moon and record your observations on the log.

Want to learn more about our celestial neighbor? Visit the moon page at NASA’s website!


Earthquakes and volcanoes are dramatic and fascinating natural disasters. From shaking earth to flowing lava, these events can cause massive amounts of damage.

Earthquakes and volcanoes are the result of moving tectonic plates. Tectonic plates are pieces of the Earth’s crust and uppermantle, referred to as the lithosphere. These plates are always moving and interacting, constantly changing the Earth’s outer layer. Plates will separate, collide, or slide past each other. Earthquakes and volcanoes both result from the movement of tectonic plates.

Volcanoes will form at the boundary of two plates where the crust is less dense. Magma, or molten rock, will rise through the weak part of the crust, forming a volcano. There are about 1,500 volcanoes in the world. On average there are 50-70 eruptions per year.

An earthquake is the sudden, rapid shaking of the earth caused by the breaking and shifting of underground rock. They can be quite destructive if they occur near highly populated areas. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, there are approximately 500,00 earthquakes per year! Only about 100,000 of them are strong enough to be felt.

Try this activity at home:

Make your own volcano in a cup! We did this as a demonstration in class and it was a big hit! Try it at home with your students.

Here are more Natural Disaster activities we did:


Testing our earthquake-proof structures!
Earthquake!!! Checking to see if our structures survived the shaking!
Some of our groups added plant-life around the base of their volcanoes. Did you know volcanic soil is very fertile and great for growing plants!
Watching the “lava” flow from our sand volcanoes.
This group built channels to help direct the lava flow!




One of my favorite natural phenomenons to see is a beautiful rainbow arching across the sky. A rainbow is a multicolored arc that is formed by sunlight and water droplets. When the white light goes through the water droplets, it is “bent” and turned into a spectrum of colors. The water acts as a prism that reflects, refracts, and disperses the light into the colors that we see in the sky.

The colors of the rainbow appear in order:

Red  Orange  Yellow  Green  Blue  Indigo  Violet

You try it!

You can make your own rainbow at home! The two main things you need are water and sunlight. Fill a clear glass halfway with water. Go outside and find a nice sunny spot. Tilt your glass so the sunlight shines through the bottom corner onto the ground. Move it around slowly until you see a rainbow arc reflecting down.

Make A Rainbow To Eat!

This is a yummy way to practice making a rainbow. Use fruits of different colors to make your own rainbow skewer. Make sure you put your colors in the correct order!

You will need:

  • wooden skewer
  • fruits for each color of the rainbow
  • knife (ask your parents for help with cutting)
  • plate
  • OPTIONAL: cool whip or marshmallows for clouds


Wash and dry the fruit. With your parent’s help, cut your fruit into 1 inch cubes. Then, put the fruit on the skewer in order of the rainbow colors. Add marshmallows or whipped cream for clouds. Then eat your rainbow! How many different fruits can you find with the same color?

 Here is an example! Photo courtesy of Finger Prickin’ Good.


Here are some of the things we did in class this week:

All eyes on the sky as we learn to identify clouds.
Our Cloud Guide!
Working with prisms
We made beautiful suncatchers to take home!


Spring 2019 Registration

Registration for Spring Home School Classes will begin this THURSDAY, DECEMBER 6th for  members.

Non-member registration will begin Thursday, December 13th.

Registration and class information can be found on the Home School section of our website. Please make sure your membership  and login information is up to date.

Renew or purchase a membership here.

Download a copy of our Spring schedule!

 Home School Flyer Spring 2019

Kuntassoo and Buffalo Skin Pictographs


Plains Indians did not have a written language like we do today. Instead, they would communicate through speaking, sign language, smoke signals, and pictographs. A pictograph is basically a symbol that would represent something in their lives. Some examples include a lightning bolt for a storm, a triangle for a tepee, or a spear to represent hunting or war.

Pictographs were often drawn on cave walls, rocks, and scraps of buffalo hide. The pictographs told stories about their battles, their heroes, and their everyday lives. What would today’s pictographs look like? Maybe a Domino’s Pizza sign or FaceBook logo would make a good pictograph to describe our daily lives! Come up with your own pictographs to tell a story about something you did today.

Create your own Buffalo Skin Pictographs!


Kuntassoo is a game that was developed by the women of the Sioux Indian tribe. They would make dice out of fruit pits, and draw the game on a scrap of buffalo hide. You can download the instructions here. Kuntassoo Game.

What did we learn this month?

Some of our activities from this month included building tepees, making pottery, grinding corn, weaving, and learning about pictographs! Check out the pictures below!



Made small tabletop tepees before heading out to make larger ones!
Ms. Patti’s 6/7 yo class made an awesome tepee!
Decorating our tepees with pictographs.
Grinding corn!



Registration Closing Soon!

Our first class of the Home School semester is just days away! We have a few spots still available for the 5 and 10/12 classes, so if you are interested please register as soon as possible. The 6/7 class and 8/9 classes are completely booked through the end of the semester.


No late registrations or walk-ins will be accepted.

We look forward to seeing everyone on Monday, September 10th!

Fall 2018 Registration is OPEN!

It’s that time of year again – REGISTRATION TIME! Summer is winding down, and fall will be here before we know it! Join us as we learn about Native Americans who lived in this area, discover what fish swim in our ponds, search the skies, and examine animals with no backbones! 

Registration for the Fall Home School Program officially opened today for Houston Arboretum members!

Non-member registration will open August 14th. 

If you need to renew your membership, please visit our website’s membership page or call us at 713-681-8433. 

Download a copy of this fall’s schedule here: Home School Flyer Fall 2018.