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But Why: Adventures! Resources

But Why: Adventures!

Welcome to But Why: Adventures!, an educational video series from Vermont Public. But Why: Adventures! brings the empowering and fun approach of our award-winning podcast into the classroom.

Northeast Nature

This series explores the science behind some of the seasonal phenomena in the northeastern US. Each video is designed to be presented to students when they might be able to witness these regional occurrences, so kids can make quick use of what they’ve learned.

The videos are designed to be watched first. And the supplemental curriculum resources offer ways to deepen students’ understanding and explore connected topics. Many of the lesson plans incorporate social/emotional learning, artistic expression and chances to make connections within the school community.

Below, you’ll find each video, arranged by month, paired with the lesson plans. We hope they are helpful resources for your school or home learning setting. In order to make any subsequent seasons even better, we REALLY hope you’ll give us feedback. Write to with kudos, critiques and suggestions. (Or questions, of course.) And if you enjoy these lessons, you might also enjoy our podcast, which is used by teachers and caregivers around the world. Each audio episode also comes with a transcript and learning guide.

1: September: Why do leaves change color in the fall?

Why are some leaves red and others yellow? And why do deciduous trees need to drop their leaves each year? Host Jane Lindholm talks with forest ecologist Alexandra Kosiba about the science behind fall foliage. We learn about the importance of the changing colors for the health and life of the tree, which tree species don’t change color, and the possible impacts of climate change on trees. | View/Print Lesson Plan |

2: October: Why are mushrooms so important to a forest?

Follow host Jane Lindholm and mycologist Meg Madden through the woods to explore the hidden world of mushrooms and fungi. They discuss different mushroom species often found in the Northeast, including giant puffballs, yellow discos, and amanita muscaria. And they help break down (mushroom joke!) the ways mushrooms act as the forest composters and also the important ways they interact with other organisms around them. | View / Print Lesson Plan |

3: November: How do raptors fly without flapping their wings?

Turkey vultures zipping along on the breeze are a common site in the northeast as the weather turns cool. In this episode, host Jane Lindholm visits VINS, a nature center and bird rehab facility in Quechee, Vermont to learn about the science of soaring. Anna Morris, an environmental educator at VINS, and education ambassador Northfield, a Harris Hawk, help us get up close and personal with some of the birds that soar. The specific wind conditions and WING conditions needed for this kind of flight are explored and explained. | View / Print Lesson Plan |

4: December: What is the winter solstice?

The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year in terms of sunlight…but why? Spend the solstice with us at an earth clock in Burlington Vermont, learning about how people across time and culture have marked the changing of the seasons. Host Jane Lindholm also pays a visit to a planetarium and learns about the astronomical significance of the solstice with meteorologist Mark Breen. Though you might suspect the coldest darkest time of year is when the northern hemisphere is farthest from the sun, that’s not the case! We’ll discover why it’s so cold and dark when we’re closer to the sun. |View / Print Lesson Plan |

5: January: How do animals hibernate?

When animals hibernate, everything in their bodies slows down. Bats can even drop their heart rate to just a few beats per minute. And wooly bear caterpillars can survive out in the open in sub-zero temperatures thanks to an antifreeze substance that prevents ice crystals from forming in their bloodstream. But it can be dangerous to disturb hibernating animals out in the wild. So in this episode, Jane Lindholm visits Barry Genzlinger, aka the Bat Guy, at The Vermont Bat Center, where he can monitor and support hibernating bats all winter long. Get up close and personal with a few little brown bats to see what hibernation is all about. | View / Print Lesson Plan |

6: February: How do birds know when to migrate?

It may still feel like the dead of winter to us, but by February, many migratory songbirds are already on the move from warm southern winter locations back to the northeast, where they spend the rest of the year. Who might you see in your backyard or around your school first? Host Jane Lindholm talks about migration with educators Debbie Archer and Jacob Crawford at the Green Mountain Audubon Center in Huntington, Vermont. Winter is also a great time to get to know some of the birds that spend the whole year here, so you can be ready to notice who’s returning first as the spring migration heats up. | View / Print Lesson Plan |

7: March: Why do trees make sap?

Take a tour of a Vermont sugarhouse during its busiest time of year! Maple sugarmaker Brandon Mansfield walks us through the process of turning sap into syrup. Along the way, we take our knowledge of photosynthesis from September’s episode and learn about capillary action, cohesion, and adhesion moving water, minerals, and sugars all throughout a tree. | View / Print Lesson Plan |

8: April: Why did the salamander cross the road?

Each spring, amphibians journey from wintering locations on upland slopes down to the puddles and ponds to mate and lay their eggs. Rainy nights in April are a great time to spot some otherwise rarely-seen creatures! Host Jane Lindholm is joined by herpetologist Kate Kelly to help salamanders and frogs avoid getting hit by cars as they make their way to vernal pools. Then we visit a vernal pool during daylight hours to learn more about the life cycle of elusive mole salamanders. | View / Print Lesson Plan |

9: May: What’s that flower? 

Spring ephemeral flowers are aptly named: some of them are only around for a few short weeks and if you don’t know where to look you might never find them. But wildflowers grow all over the northeast and a little flower know-how can help kids get excited for the arrival of warmer weather while learning about how to protect vulnerable species. Host Jane Lindholm goes on a wildflower walk with naturalist Jack Markoski in search of bloodroot, trillium and wild ginger. And they learn about the delicate ecosystem needed for these short-lived flowers to bloom. | View / Print Lesson Plan |

10: June: Why do we need pollinators?

The bees are out! And if you want to eat fresh fruits and vegetables all summer long, you might want to think of bees as more than just picnic pests! Host (and beekeeper) Jane Lindholm talks with apiarist James Key about the important role honey bees and other pollinators play in our environment. They discuss which critters are pollinators, what pollination is, and why we need them. | View / Print Lesson Plan |