Use a sheet to explore just how much life can live in a backyard bush or shrub. Ages 5+, 15+ minutes
What use does an old bed sheet have in a garden? It’s a wonderful exploration tool for examining the wondrous amounts of life that a single bush can contain! Really, all you need for this activity is a bedsheet you don’t mind getting dirty. Go outside to a yard or a bush lined street. Find a nice, full bush or shrub that has less branches near the bottom so that it is easier to access the underside of the plant. Lay your sheet out flat and then pull one side of the sheet under the bush as far as you can. Once one side of the sheet is under the bush as much as you can manage, then it is time to shake, shake, shake! Hold on to the branches above the sheet and shake enthusiastically, but not so hard that it damages the plant. When you’ve had enough fun shaking, gently pull the sheet out from the bush by pulling the side closest to you. The sheet should be covered not only in leaves, twigs, and bits of plant but also in small insects, spiders, or other very small critters. You may need to get on your hands and knees to see the truly small wildlife. Look closely and be patient! Look for movement. You’ll be amazed at how many little friends were hiding in that bush!
It’s also nice to have a magnifying glass on hand to look at the insects close up. I use a bug box, which is essentially a small, clear plastic box with a lid for scooping small insects into the box and closing it. The lid has a magnifying glass built into it so that you can look at your bug friend up close. Then simply open the lid to release your critter.
When you are done exploring the bush, simply shake out your sheet onto the bush so that all the little friends can return to their home. Once you have visited one bush, go try the sheet shake again at another bush, and then another! Try comparing different plants as effective habitats. What kinds of insects do different plants host? Are the insects different in shaded plants versus plants in full sun? Create your own experiments and have fun!