Friday, May 31, 2013

Living Trails at Woodlawn Nature Center

It was Kids Day as part of Living Trails at Woodlawn Nature Center on Friday. The boys started with a scavenger hunt to find various artifacts inside the Nature Center and outside with the reenactors. This living history weekend gave us a look into life in the past. Various tables were set up inside, showing different foods and artifacts from the time periods represented.


Ox Bow Scouting Activity

On our way to my son's scouting activity on Wednesday, it was raining and sunny. I quickly exclaimed, "Look boys--there should be a rainbow out!" They quickly found this in a nearby field. It looked like we could have found the pot of gold, we were so close. It was fun to hear my 4-year-old ask where the rainbow was the next day as we passed the same area. He's developing understanding of these prisms of light!

Nurturing Acorns: Pond Life

In Nurturing Acorns last week, we looked at Pond Life, reading the book In the Small, Small Pond by Denise Fleming. I like her nature related books and find them a good fit for the preschool crew. We talked about things we find in a pond, including frogs, plants, and more. We talked about how ducks don't get wet.

We took a walk through the Woodlawn Nature Center to find animals that might be in or near a pond, like a turtle, swan, duck, fish, and more.

Then we explored the concepts, sink and float, trying several items to determine if they would sink or float.

There is something about putting our hands in water that is engaging!

We revisited this later.

We explored the life cycle of frogs.

On our hike, we had specific items to find, such as a leaf, stick, and more. We brought these back to see if they would sink or float.

The children started testing out their hypotheses.

Did they sink or did they float?

We went fishing during snack time: grapes in jello, topped with goldfish crackers. The children used pretzels with cream cheese to "fish"!

Yum! Yum!

We also blew bubble prints with food coloring and soapy water. 

Interesting artwork!

We sorted and categorized frogs.

We explored our sink and float bin more.

We put "growing" insects in water to see what would happen.

We explored a mini pond! We also visited the pond outside the nature center.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Baby Animals, aka There's a Coon in my Van!

So, we had an interesting experience today . . . as we were leaving Woodlawn Nature Center, someone had a raccoon hanging all over him. We'd just been to Ox Bow County Park last night with raccoons boldly hanging around the trash cans, so we could easily tell how tame this young raccoon was by watching him. We asked what he was doing with the raccoon--he thought it would be a good place to drop it off. He knew someone who found "abandoned" babies and had been raising them. He  had the raccoon for just a few days and it was starting to bite. He could no longer care for it. Knowing there shouldn't be a tame raccoon on the property, we started calling rehabilitators in the area, but didn't have anyone answering calls. I finally called the local county parks system, as I knew they have dealt with this issue in the past. They knew someone who accepted any type of animal and how to properly care for them.

See the box . . . that's not just a box in my van--there's a raccoon in there! I couldn't let the raccoon run wild in the van while driving with my younger children. So, into the box he went!

Positive Organic Living

The other weekend, I took the boys to Positive Organic Living to meet up with the 4-H Club for the POL Open House. I've seen this company out and about different places and read about how they got their start at The Elkhart Truth. Here is another blog interview at The Elkhart Truth with the owners. They had welcoming balloons to help us find the right place--very helpful!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Nature Summer Day Camps Round Up

I've always enjoyed summer day camps. It's fun to get out, meet new people, and do something besides sitting glued to the television. I went to a few as a child, was a counselor for camps as a young adult, and now send my own older children to summer day camps! We're still trying to find the right ones that fit with our schedule. There are several great options in the area!

Elkhart County Parks--My son went to the Nature Explorer camp here last year. He enjoyed being outside each day and building huts! We like Ox Bow and enjoy classes with Miss Krista. This is for ages 7-9.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Wildlife Hike at Ox Bow County Park and Watershed Treasure Hunt #2

Friday evening, we joined a Wildlife Hike at Ox Bow County Park. It was EXCELLENT! And FREE! I like FREE, but also don't mind paying for good nature experiences. The FREE makes it easier to take the whole family of 6. Andy, the naturalist, asked me if I'd be okay with the baby on the hike . . . :-) Cute! The baby goes on hikes all the time (even winter ones!), but I appreciate the concern. The hiking backpack makes it very doable to go on hikes with the little one. I was very lucky and paid $25 at a garage sale down the street about 4 years ago; however, I would pay 5 times or more for the mobility it gives me.

Woodlawn Nature Center's Harvest Market

I was at Woodlawn Nature Center early on Friday and decided to stay for the grand opening of it's Harvest Market for the season.

While there were just 4 vendors, I still found enough to spend almost $20 on various items at great prices. 

Watershed Treasure Hunt! #1

I'm so excited about this Treasure Hunt, sponsored by Greater Elkhart County Stormwater Partnership. There are 50 signs placed in various places along the watershed in Elkhart County. To be eligible for the prizes, we have to collect the letters and fill in the puzzle. My 4-year-old understood the letter concept, but not what kind of sign. As we started looking for the signs, he found a sign and said, "Look, LETTERS!" He did this for many signs until he started getting used to the type of sign we were trying to find. He is reading very short Bob Books as he is learning to read and doing lots of "letter play", so letters are on his mind! We've used these to start reading with the other boys, too, and had great success as we helped them form the words without reading the books to them. We provide support, but allow them to read the simple books to us. They've all been early readers with them. I found some of our sets at garage sales, too, which is a bonus!

We started with number one with is in the southern part of the county in River Preserve County Park. We're not as familiar with this park (which is HUGE), so weren't quite sure where to start. We'd love more time to explore, but were on a mission, so did a quick walk looking to see what we could find. If you haven't been here before, I suggest finding a map as there are various places to visit along the river. We found one at a kiosk in the park.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Michiana Summer Guides 2013

There are so many great places to visit in the Michiana area. The parks departments of nearby towns and cities operate many special programs in the summer. Here are links to the various towns and a few highlights that our family would like to check out!

We want to try out the Twin Branch Park with their splash pad. I think it's on the schedule next week. Looking at the map, there are several parks that wrap around the St. Joseph River--I think it's really neat they have preserved some of these semi natural areas for public use. There is also information about community gardens, various FREE classes for children (self-defense, healthy living, tai chi, baton twirling and more!), summer day camps, movie night in August, Summerfest, Shakespeare Festival, Rennaisance Festival, golfing, and more! The Summerfest on June 21st and 22nd looks like fun!

South Bend
Several free kids' activities in the parks, Passport to Play, pools, East Race Waterway, Celtic Festival (September 1st), Rum Village Nature Camps!, and lots of sports activities. This guide goes into fall--can I already plan for the fun activities this far ahead? The new splash pad at Potawatomi Park looks fun!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Nature at the Ball Field

I'm very grateful that our two older boys are on the same time. Don't get me wrong, a baseball game is great to watch, but it does reduce the hectic days of our lives during ball season. We also have two little ones as well. The youngest likes to eat mulch (much to the panic of other nearby moms) and the older one has been "playing" with nature. A few weeks ago, he just had some sticks for play. This week, after talking about Environmental Art at Nurturing Acorns, he started making his own creations with no prompts from his momma!

There was another girl nearby and she had made a tiny campfire, complete with log benches for the ants. I loved the tiny scale and that she was thinking about summer campfires! 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Hoosier River Watch

Today, I went to Hoosier Riverwatch Training at Bonneyville Mill park. What a training! It is geared for adults--people 18 and over that are interested in water quality in the area. Do you like to drink water or use it for recreational or other uses? This could be a great FREE workshop for you! While the workshop trains volunteers to perform citizen scientist tests to monitor water quality, there are no requirements to do all the tests or any of the tests after the workshop. However, the data collected is very important to monitor the quality of the water in the area. Which reminds me, I worked quality control at a large bakery many moons ago while home from college summer. I did several similar tests to make sure the bakery items were up to standards.

We looked at the many uses and possible pollutants of water. This small scale model let us see how normal life might affect water quality.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Nature Club: Environmental Art

While the theme for Nature Club was Environmental Art, I switched things up a little for the "older" crowd.  We had rocks and water beads for patterns and even tried them out on the light table.

I wondered what the older children would think of the water beads--they were a hit! The kids started making their own designs with the different materials. I loved hearing the oohs and aahs as we looked at Andy Goldsworthy's environmental art. I love his book: Andy Goldsworthy: A Collaboration with Nature He does such neat things! Simple concepts, such as circles, color variations, etc., are used to make stunning natural images tweaked by man.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Nurturing Acorns: Environmental Art

One of my art classes in college touched on environmental art. We looked at interesting, thought provoking examples and debated whether they could be art. We went into the nearby canyon and created our own works of art with found natural materials. Since then, I went on group dates and had fun with nature, gathered my younger cousins for natural art, and am now helping other children see the connection between art and nature. I talked a little of a book I enjoy on the topic and a local artist in this post about Artist Grow.

At Nurturing Acorns at Woodlawn Nature Center, our topic was Environmental Art. We started with a sensory experience with shaving cream to draw and write letters. Little hands squished, squeezed, spread, and begged for more!

Outside, each child found a "precious" item to share with the rest of us. In the hunt for something special, the children focused, observed, and used attentive skills to determine a piece of nature deemed worthy of a special title. Each was unique and the connection was special. We looked at the beauty of what is considered a "weed" and intricacies of leaves.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Nature Nuts: Ducks

Last week, my preschooler and I went to Nature Nuts at Ox Bow Park through Elkhart County Parks. We started with a local birder sharing bird resources and tips on finding birds and knowing calls in the wild. He had a neat book with bird calls built in! I've seen it a few times. 
Bird Songs: 250 North American Birds in Song

I thought we were just looking at ducks, so was pleasantly surprised when the Elkhart 4-H Poultry club was also there. They had several types of chickens, fresh and colorful eggs, and ducks! It's one thing to look at pictures of birds, another thing to see taxidermy ducks and chickens, and yet a whole different experience to see them up close and personal. With both the duck and the chicken side by side, the kids could easily see the differences in the feet and beaks that allow them to live in their own habitats. 

The eggs were gorgeous and so varied in the colors! I appreciated talking to the 4-H mom--made me want to have chickens and maybe even a duck or two! We've been talking about it here and there. It would be even better if it was child led through 4-H.

Looking at the ducklings up close!

The children saw how the duck floats in water and what makes a duck adapted for its life. The children are huddled around the water for the swimming duck!

Of course, looking at a chicken up close was neat! I had a pet chicken when I was a missionary in the Dominican Republic. It ate all the insects in our house for us!

Later the children made duck hats. 

I had a cute quacker! 

They made a cute little duck edible craft. Quack, quack, quack! 

There were several good book options! My great crawler couldn't resist!

The kids went out with Miss Krista and acted like ducks all down the hill! She knows how to bring out their playful side!