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Happy International Day for Biological Diversity!

You didn’t know May 22 was the International Day for Biological Diversity? That’s OK. Neither did I when I started planning this week’s Fresh Five to be about biodiversity. Talk about good timing! We couldn’t let this special day go by without acknowledgement, so your Fresh Five is coming early so you can celebrate IDB (as the cool kids at the UN call it) with activities to help you think about biodiversity in your neighborhood, on the farm, and in the world.

Biodiversity is, essentially, all the different kinds of plants, animals, fungi, and microorganisms in an ecosystem. Having a wide variety of living things in a ecosystem makes it more resilient and able to handle change. As humans, like all animals, we rely on other living things for food, clothing, shelter, medicine, and more, meaning that maintaining healthy ecosystems isn’t just about keeping the oceans healthy for whales or the forest healthy for moose (though whales and moose are important!). It’s also about keeping the world healthy for us.

Here are five ways to explore and celebrate biodiversity this week.

Make an Ecosystem Web

Fresh Roots grown (mainly) vegetables on our schoolyard farms. Our farmers plant rows of peas, squash, chard, lettuce, parsley, and more. We can grow nearly 100 different varieties of plants in a single season! That might sounds like a lot of biodiversity, but plants and farmers are just a small part of the whole biological picture. Discover how everything from crows to fungus to the air around us contributes to the biodiversity of our farm. We do versions of this activity with kids as young as 8 all the way through adults. (Hint – making the web is only the start of the discussion!)

Farm Ecosystem Web Activity Guide

 

Be a Biodiversity Detective

Biodiversity isn’t just on the farm, though – it’s all around us! This activity from VanDusen Botanical Garden will help you seek out the biodiversity in you yard, neighborhood, or local park. You might use it on a casual stroll, or make it a game and see how many different living things your can find in 10 minutes. And if you find something you don’t recognize, this could be great time to pull out the Seek app from our Earth Day Fresh Five.

Biodiversity Detectives Teacher Guide
Biodiversity Detectives Student Worksheet

 

Join the Bird Blitz

Working primarily from home for the last couple of months has given me more insight on my neighborhood birds. There is a family of European starlings who nest in my neighbor’s rafters every spring (and wake me up at sunrise every day). The black-capped chickadees love to hang out on the apple tree in the backyard. The house finches and sparrows mostly stay across the alley in the blackberries, but will sometimes come over if there’s any weeds that have gone to seed. Crows come by occasionally, and on special days the neighborhood ravens will fly over. Gulls like to sit on the roof of the church behind my house, and every once in a while, a bald eagle can be spotted soaring overhead. And that’s just in my urban backyard without any sort of bird feeder!

Do you like watching your backyard birds? Scientists want to know what you’re seeing! The Schoolyard Bird Blitz is an annual bird survey organized by Birds Canada to get students looking for birds, and contributing to scientific knowledge about the prevalence of bird species across Canada. This year, they’ve switch gears from a Schoolyard Bird Blitz to a Backyard Bird Blitz so everyone can participate!

Bird Blitz at Home!

Build a Crow’s Nest

Crows can be trouble on the farm. They love yanking out newly planted started to get at the insects and worms in the freshly turned soil, and they’ve even been know to pull the protective covers off our plant babies. They dig trash out of the trash cans and throw it everywhere. And if you’ve ever walked under a crow’s nest during baby season, you’ve likely been dive bombed by the protective parents. But crows are also extremely intelligent tool-users, and will build relationships with humans who treat them kindly. (They are still wild animals, so please don’t try to make your neighborhood crow into a pet!) And, just like humans and other animals, they have complex relationships with the biodiversity of their ecosystems.

This activity from Science World will get you thinking like a crow! As you build you nest, think about what other types of life are necessary for crows to build their nests.

Crows Nest Activity

Make a Biodiverse Salad

I’m so glad that my local farmer’s market is open again! It was worth waiting in the long, physical-distanced line to get my local eggs, veggies, and a pastry treat. It will be even more exciting when Fresh Roots’ produce is available but that’s still a few weeks away. One of the things I got recently was some of the first local kale. I eat a lot of kale, in smoothies, sauteed with eggs, in pasta or soup, or in salads. Raw kale can be… a lot. Massaging your kale with a little salt, fat, and/or acid for a few minutes starts the mechanical process of breaking down those tough cell walls, making it easier for your body to digest, and makes it less bitter.

And there are so many ways you can top your massaged kale! I like a little red onion, feta, dried cranberries, grated carrots, and candied pecans in the fall, and snap peas, crumbled goat cheese, fresh strawberries, and toasted sliced almonds in the spring. Just like biodiversity is good for ecosystems, biodiversity of foods is good for our bodies! Different foods have different balances of of the energy and nutrients our bodies need to thrive, so mix up your salads, and have fun!

Massaged Kale Salad Recipe Card

Get out and celebrate diversity!

Kat

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