Nature's Garden Packet
Students visiting the Idaho Botanical Garden will have several kinds of outdoor experiences. When they first arrive they will be greeted by a trained volunteer docent. The docent will guide students along Nature's Garden Trail, helping them discover how they fit into the ecology of the Boise Front. Topics studied in the field will be ecology, plants, geology, and animals.
It is important that the students be introduced to some of the enclosed material before visiting the Idaho Botanical Garden. We feel that it will be easy for you to adapt the activities to your grade level. Please read Nature's Garden, a story written about the Boise Front, to your students to help them identify, understand, and make connections with the meaning of ecology.
Review the key concepts about ecology, plants, geology, and animals. Study the key terms. Notice how they are used in the Nature's Garden story. Please also do the "Name Tag Activity: A Lesson In Predicting". Your docent will want to know your names! The other activities enclosed are suggested for use after your experience in Nature's Garden to help students come to conclusions and to reinforce what they have learned.
We thank the many dedicated educators who have volunteered their
time and expertise to produce this multidisciplinary project!
Ecology is the study of the interrelationships between living things and the environment. The Boise Front provides us with a wonderful opportunity to study ecology in a familiar setting. We will study plants, geology, climate, animals, and hew their interrelationships affect and are
affected by man.
Plants make life on earth possible. Their ability to convert the radiant energy from the sun into chemical energy is the only significant way in which the energy from the sun is made available for life on this planet. Plants also make the oxygen we breathe, cleanse the air of dust and
pollutants, hold surface soil in place, and provide us with food, fuel, medicines, clothing, and shelter. Plants create an aesthetic environment as they please us with their colors, shapes, and fragrances.
Nature's Garden, a small section of the Boise Front, provides us with the opportunity to study native and introduced plants, and compare them to cultivated plants in the irrigated part of the Idaho Botanical Garden. We will see how plants prevent erosion and provide food and shelter to animals. We will also see how some introduced plants have altered the ecology by creating fuels for the fires that threaten the front every summer.
by Dr. Monte Wilson
Nature's Garden has a very interesting geological history. This area has experienced lava flows, earthquakes, and being covered by a large lake. It also has the two valuable geological resources of building stone and geothermal waters.
Between about 10 and 14 million years ago, volcanic activity produced thick layers of rhyolite in this area. We cannot see this rhyolite rock in Nature's Garden because it is buried by hundreds of feet of other rock and sediment. However, Castle Rock, which is visible on the skyline to the northwest, is composed of this kind of rock.
Sometime around nine to ten million years ago, the type of volcanic activity changed and produced a basalt lava flow. This basalt flowed out on top of the older rhyolite.
Later, between six million and two million years ago, this area was flooded by a large lake which covered much of the Snake River Plain from Oregon to the Twin Falls area. The area that we now know as Nature's Garden was below the water near the northern shore of that lake. Streams running off the mountains carried mud, sand, and gravel that were deposited as sediment in the lake. These sediments accumulated to several hundred feet in thickness and were modified into sedimentary rocks. Some of these sedimentary rocks such as sandstone are quite hard, others form soft layers of clay or loose beds of gravel. Some animals were
living in the lake at the time the sediments were deposited. Because of this we find a few fossils, mostly snails and clams, in the sandstone and other sedimentary rocks. Sandstone has been quarried from Table Rock and from the ridge just above the Old Penitentiary for use in buildings. Most of the buildings and the wall at the penitentiary are made from this sandstone as are parts of the State Capitol and many other buildings in Boise.
The flat landscape to the south, known as the Snake River Plain, is separated from the mountainous area to the north by a large break in the rocks, known as the Boise Front Fault. Rocks to the south have been lowered along this fault in relation to the rocks to the north which have been raised. Movements along this fault must have produced many earthquakes during the long time that it was active. It appears that this fault has not moved to produce earthquakes for many thousands of years. Nature's Garden is just on the lower side of the Boise Front Fault and the hills rise up on the other side. This is why we can see rhyolite and
sandstone on the ridges above the penitentiary that are the same as rocks buried beneath Nature's Garden.
The Boise Front Fault has broken the rocks to depths of a few thousand feet beneath the earth's surface. Water seeping into the fault system tends to go down through the broken rocks and it becomes warm. Hot water is pumped out of wells located along the fault system. Two of these wells are in the pump house just northwest of the penitentiary. These. wells were drilled in 1890 to depths of about 400 feet. The water has a temperature of about 171F and has been used for a century to heat buildings in Boise. There are several other hot water (or geothermal) wells in the city and in other parts of Idaho.
Animals including people are a large part of the Boise Front ecosystem. We may not always see animals, but we know they are there by the traces they leave. Some animal traces in Nature's Garden are nests, burrows, tracks, and scat. People also leave traces. Like the first wagons on the Oregon Trail, mans'vehicles continue to scar the fragile desert soils. When off-road vehicles such as motorcycles and four wheel drive vehicles leave designated roads or trails they can cause erosion on the steep slopes of the Front. Erosion causes serious soil loss, killing plants and altering habitats. Can you think of other ways people change the Boise Front?
Reading Nature's Gilrden, a story about the Boise Front to your students will help them identify, understand, and make connections with the, ecology key terms.
by Sheila Robertson
Yoshee quietly picked his way through the willows along the banks of the river white men called the Boise. The brush was thick and it was hard to see in the dark. The Indian boy had left his family's encampment before dawn and was on his way to his favorite spring in the foothills across the river. He made his way carefully, because although the eastern sky was turning pink, he was afraid he might miss the one place where he could swim across the river. This spring the flooded river was muddy and full of sediments, and he could not see where the water was shallow. As he looked hard for the crossing spot, Yoshee heard dry leaves
churning and twigs snapping in the willows ahead of him. He froze and crouched down. The shaggy form of a huge coyote streaked toward his hiding place. Yoshee covered his face. A terrible scream filled the darkness as the coyote pounced on a rabbit it was chasing. The coyote did not see the boy as it clamped the rabbit firmly between its jaws and trotted through the cottonwoods.
Yoshee jumped up, his heart pounding with fear and excitement. He followed the coyote to where the deep ruts of the Oregon Trail ran through the sage and bitterbrush. The coyote trotted down the trail and disappeared into the desert. Losing sight of the coyote, Yoshee stopped to take a closer look at the trail. It had been there for as long as he could remember. However, his father told of the time before the trail brought white men into the Boise Valley. The steel rims of the wagon wheels had easily scarred the thin layer of humus in the desert ecosystem and left this trail for others to follow. He turned back towards the river and
wondered how many wagons would follow the ruts this year.
At last Yoshee found the spot he was looking for and waded into the fast, cold river. He swam as hard as he could, but the swift water washed him downstream as he struggled to reach the other side. Finally he caught the willows overhanging the muddy bank and pulled himself out of the water. Shivering he crashed through the brush and trotted across an open area of bunchgrass toward the foothills. Occasionally he paused to look at animal tracks and scat. Once he stopped to look at a new grass he had not seen often before. It was a grass that had come with the white man and was beginning to invade the foothills. They called it cheatgrass. As the sun rose over the towering sandstone table rock to the east, the foothills glowed and swayed with bright yellow patches of arrow leaf balsam. Yoshee had climbed to the top of the table rock before. Sometimes he played there with friends. They looked for hawks' nests and rattlesnakes and enjoyed watching the valley below. They had also found mysteries in the rocks, things they didn't understand.
Yoshee knew what clams were. He and his family often gathered and ate the freshwater clams from the river. But one day he and a friend had found stone clams in the sandstone on the table rock. Later he had also found snails frozen in the stone the same strange way. No one knew how they got there or where they came from. Yoshee and his family did not know about fossils.
There was another mystery in these rocks. Farther to the east there was a place where hot water came out of them. His family and the other Indians used the water; especially in the winter. Yoshee wasn't going to the hot spring today. He was headed for another spring where he could watch redwing blackbirds in the cattails. He came to this spot often to watch deer and quail drink at dawn and dusk. There was a burrow near the spring and he wanted to see if an animal was living in it this year. It was"a special place; a place to find frogs, see baby birds in their nests and to smell wild flowers. To Yoshee it was nature's garden. Yoshee hiked up a draw along a small stream that flowed over big boulders. The boulders had been there so long they were covered with red, green and yellow lichens.
The stream was cold and clear. There was no pollution in it so Yoshee stopped to drink, then hurried on up the draw. Magpies cackled at him from low nests in the trees. As he got near the spring he crept slowly hoping to see animals coming to drink. He knew how the commu,nity of plants and animals around the water changed with the seasons and came
to listen to the birds in the spring, to catch lizards in the summer and watch owls hunt mice in the fall moonlight. As he crept closer a pair of mallards quacked their alarm and flew
toward the river. He explored around the spring and found that a burrowing owl had moved into the burrow. By noon he was hungry so he cut some tender cattails and sat on a rock to eat them. As the sun warmed the rocks he hoped the cold blooded lizards would climb out
and sun themselves. He had not caught one yet this year. Maybe he would today.
Above him a hawk circled low in the air. Suddenly it folded its wings and shot downward. The plunging raptor stretched out its talons and grabbed a ground squirrel. Grasping the squirrel the hawk flapped toward the table rock. Yoshee knew the hawk was a carnivore and lived on ground squirrels and other rodents. The hawk also ate small rabbits.
He knew rabbits were herbivores and ate the plants in the foothills. Yoshee and his family ate mostly plants, but sometimes they ate rabbits, birds and fish, so they were omnivores. Just like Yoshee, the hawk, ground squirrel, rabbits, and coyote were part of the food web in
the foothills. Yoshee thought more about the coyote. Coyotes ate both plants and
animals, but they would also eat rotting meat. That made them scavengers. He had tried to eat rotting meat once, but it smelled too bad. Yoshee did not know decomposers made the meat smell, but he wondered what made the meat decay and eventually recycle into soil.
As he sat there thinking about how each animal was adapted to the desert habitat Yoshee heard a rumble and a large crack in the distance. Huge thunder clouds were building in the west and the sky was turning dark. A storm was coming. As the wind began gusting the birds headed for cover. Rabbits and ground squirrels scampered into their burrows. Yoshee looked for shelter and found a narrow fracture in a sandstone bank. The crack was just big enough for him to squeeze into. It had probably formed long ago when the earth was uplifted along a fault line that ran across the foothills. Centuries of weathering and erosion had
made it big enough for him to crawl into. The rain was cold and blew into the crack. Yoshee shivered. The storm lasted a long time and he began to fall asleep. While he slept Yoshee had
a strange dream. He saw men cutting giant pieces of sandstone out of the table rock. They built a city below. In the center of the city they built a beautiful domed building and called it the capital. Many children came to learn about the foothills. They even came to Yoshee's spring to watch the birds, to look for lizards, and to learn the secrets of nature's garden.
As the storm passed Yoshee awakened. He was puzzled by his dream, but another storm was already covering the setting sun. Quickly Yoshee gathered a few cattails to take home and said good-bye to his spring. He started for the river in the fading gray light wondering if someday other children really would learn the same secrets he knew about nature's
1. Make your own illustration for the Nature's Garden story.
2. Find and study the ecology key terms in the story.
3. This story could have taken place about 100 years ago. How do you think the Boise Valley has changed since then?
4. Write your own version of a nature story or poem.
Review these terms and their meanings. Read the story about Nature's Garden to help you understand how these words fit together in the study of ecology. Write a complete sentence for each key term. Include an example in your sentence. Share your examples with the other students in your class. The first one is done for you.
1. Adaptation: how a living thing fits into its habitat.
The wings of a bird are an adaptation that allows flight.
2. Botanical Garden: a place where plants are collected and displayed for scientific,
educational, and artistic purposes.
3. Community: different kinds of plants and animals living in the same habitat.
4. Decomposers: living things that get their food from the remains or wastes of
plants and animals, example: bacteria.
5. Ecology: the study of how living things interact with each other and with their
6. Ecosystem: a group of communities and their nonliving environment.
7. Environment: the surroundings of a living thing, includiing the plants and
animals with which it lives. .
8. Erosion: the moving of sediments to a new place.
9. Food Web: a description of how all the living things in an ecosystem feed on each
10. Habitat: the place where a plant or animal lives, example: a pond.
11. Herbivore: an animal which eats only plants or plant parts.
12. Introduced Plant:a plant not native to an area, but brought in by man's activities,
13. Native Plant: plants that are natural to a c;ommunity, example: sagebrush.
14. Omnivore: an animal which eats plants and animals, example: people.
15. Pollution: the adding of any substance t~ the environment in harmful amounts.
16. Predator: animal that h~nts and eats o~er animals.
17. Producer: a living thing such as a plant that makes its own food.
18. Recycle: turn waste or trash into usable products.
19. Scat: an animal's solid waste.
20. Scavenger: animal that feeds on decomposing plants or animals.
NAME TAG ACTIVITY: A. LESSON IN PREDICTING
Objective: You will be able to predict one thing you observe in Nature's ..
Procedure: The process of predicting involves l;lsing details and
information available, using information from prior experiences, and
using common sense.
1. Details And Information Available: (Including vocabulary, story, and
key concepts from the Nature's Garden instructional material.) Discuss
the environment in which we live, high desert. Make a list of plants,
animals, and geological features found in the Boise Front.
2. Information From Prior Experiences: What plants, animals, and
geological features have you seen while on walks around Boise in the
past? What have you seen while walking in a similar area? Might you
expect to find the same things in Nature's Garden?
3. Common Sense: Discuss how common sense helps you in predicting.
Why wouldn't you predict that you would find a giraffe walking
around the Boise Front? Why might you see sagebrush?
4. Create A Name Tag: Draw a plant, animal or other object you predict
you will see on your visit to Nature's Garden. Print your name largely
and clearly near your drawing. Wear your name tag the day of the
tour. Your docent will want to know who you are! While you are at the
Idaho Botanical Garden watch for signs of the thing you predicted you
5. Evaluation: When you return to class discuss how accurate your
prediction was. If you didn't see your predicted object, or signs of your
object, discuss why you didn't..
6. The pictures below may be used for creating name tags.
THESE ACTIVITIES ARE SUGGESTED FOR USE AFTER YOUR EXPERIENCE
HOW DO PLANTS HOLD SOIL TOGETHER?
Purpose: To look at the way roots hold soil together.
Materials: clear container (baby food jar), six radish seeds, one small paper
cup, one cup potting soil, water, and paper plate.
1. Put several (6-10) radish seeds in a clear container.
2. Pour water in the container to cover the seeds.
3. Leave the seeds covered with water for 2-3 days. Let them have time to
4. Plant 5-6 of your seedlings in a paper cup. Keep the soil damp, but not
soggy, for two weeks.
5. After two weeks tear or cut the paper cup from the soil over a paper plate.
6. Do you see any roots?
7. Count the roots you see.
8. Describe how the roots and soil look.
9. How do plants prevent soil erosion?
HOW ARE PLANTS USEFUL?
This is an extended assignment. During the next week make a list of plant
uses. Read your list to the rest of your class. Discuss and decide by voting on
the five most important plant uses listed.
NATURE'S GARDEN FOOD WEB
Cause and Effect: A Mathematical Journey
This activity shows connecting food chains in the community of Nature's Garden. Look at the living things listed below and draw lines between all of the things that interact with each other. When you finish you will have drawn a food web. You also will have demonstrated the mathematical concept of cause and effect. Please read the Nature's Garden story about Yoshee before you do this activity.
Red tail hawk
1. Which living things in this food web make their own food?
2. Imagine that bunchgrass is taken out of the food web. Count how
many other organisms would be affected. Do this by counting the lines
you have drawn from the bunchgrass. (It is to be expected that
answers will vary.)
3. Now imagine the frog is removed from the food web. Count how
many other organisms would be affected.
4. What are some reasons the answers to questions two and three are
5. Draw a food web or a food chain in which you are a part.
REFLECTION AND EVALUATION
1. Name three plants that provided you with some food today.
2. Name three plants living in your environment.
3. Name a large plant population in your school yard.
4. Besides their food making why do you think plants are so important?
5. Why do we find certain plants in one type of environment, but not in another?
6. Explain differences between plants and animals considering such things as growth, food source, habitat, and adaptations.
7. Pretend you have time-traveled 100 years into the future. Write down what you discover has happened in the Boise Front, Nature's Garden.
8. How could you help solve the problems facing the Boise Front today?
Possible answers to "How Are Plants Useful?" activity:
Plants capture energy from the sun, make oxygen, hold soil in place, provide medicine, food, fuel, clothing, shelter,
perfume, paper, decorations, cosmetics, art, and much, much more!
Possible answers to "Nature's Garden Food Web" activity:
1. Bunchgrass, Sagebrush, and Wild rose
2.Answers will vary.
3.Answers will vary.
4. Food webs may not all be constructed in the same manner.
5. Grass Cow Me (food chain)
Possible answers to the "Reflection & Evaluation" questions:
1. Bread (wheat), Orange, Potato chip.
2. Grass, Maple tree, Pine tree.
3. The population of clover growing in the field.
4. See 'How Are Plants Useful?"
6. Answers will vary. Here are some examples: Both plants and animals grow and reproduce. Plants make their own food through the process of photosynthesis. Animals rely on plants for their food. When considering plant and animal adaptations think about adaptations to the cold, heat, lack of moisture, abundance of moisture, and varying amounts of light. Plants andanimals can live in the same habitats and are found in many different types of habitats.
8. Answers will vary. Here are some examples: Don't litter, be kind to the animals and plants, become and stay informed, and don't destroy habitat.