Sunday, March 23, 2014

Growing Up Wild

I'd been looking forward to this Growing Up Wild training for several months. I know the book is highly sought after and is included in the $20 fee. If you can find it, it usually costs more outside of the workshop. In addition to the curriculum guide, it also was good to swap ideas and experience some of the activities in the guide.

I am excited to have this resource. It is centered on 27 nature based lessons for children ages 3-7. It includes the rationale of connecting to nature, developmentally appropriate practices, nature play, nature in the classroom, math connections, language and literacy connections, and healthy kids sections to approach these activities with a comprehensive mindset. It talks of sparking creativity, scientific inquiry, assessing children's learning, respect for living things, responsible collecting, and safety. 

Each activity shares standards and correlations, resources, quick facts, vocabulary building, materials and prep, warm up activities, tips for excellence in early childhood education, activities to take outside, health activities, helping hands to help build on appropriate respect for living things, math connections, take home activities, art projects, music and movement, extension activities, and an snack idea. It's nice to have this all in one place! While the book is oversized and rather large, the suggestion to put it on top of the books on the bookshelf was helpful. It includes many additional resources, such as an index, children's book list, educator resources, federal agencies, organizations and programs, and a list of where to purchase materials. Here is a sample activity on fishing fun. Many of the copy pages are available here, which makes it much easier to print as the books is rather bulky. I also had found this wildlife correlation to holidays previously on the Internet, yet didn't realize it was part of Growing Up Wild. The website for Growing Up Wild has a wealth of other resources if you keep poking around. It is part of Project Wild. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Sugar Camp Days!

This is our second year visiting Sugar Camp Days at Bendix Woods County Parks! What a tasty adventure! Here is our report from 2013 if you are interested.

There are several areas within Bendix Woods for the event. We started near the historical encampment where we found candle dipping. My kids have done this many, many times so we skipped it, but many children were enjoying it! I know mine have enjoyed it in the past.

While it's neat to see the encampments, I really enjoy talking to the people more as they share information about the time period they represent, how artifacts were used, and bring to life the past. 


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Nature Center at Bendix Woods County Park

We stopped by the Children's Discovery Room at Bendix Woods County Park during the Sugar Camp Days. I took a few pictures to let you know what to expect at the area. I love the park in general as there are plenty of natural spaces, playgrounds, and the nature center. Bendix Woods County Park has many amenities, such as hiking trails, ponds, fields, mountain bike trails, and the famous Studebaker pine trees. I've seen beautiful pictures of trillium in the spring as well.

In the Children's Discovery Room, I loved this area for young children! I like the mirror down low, dress up items nearby, flowers to plant, etc. Everything is kid friendly and meant to explore.

Across from this area is a "dark" room where we crossed over into the night. Various nocturnal animals were highlighted, as well as a guide to the planets. 

Displays on the wall help the visitor explore and interact with nature more. 

This section is neat as it looks at life under the soil. I liked the interactive aspect of finding the right animal that fits with the tunnel. There is actually a tunnel right here that children can crawl through to go to the Night World room, further extending the experience underground. 


This display on soil really let us know what all is happening under the ground! I know as spring approaches, I'm glad to see more and more of my yard as the snow melts. 

There were a couple of displays on birds, looking at "tools of the trade" and different parts of a bird. The Birds & Blooms display helps the viewer know what to name when describing a bird during observation.

There is a small viewing window with information about typical birds and blooms that might be seen out the window. I like how these are easily accessible in a handy bin on the wall. The discovery drawers were also neat, with interesting artifacts to explore and learn more about.

Another exploration area included animals on the wall, build a forest scene and other items on the floor. Since we were there for Sugar Camp Days there were also Pioneer toys out for play, along with the normal books, blocks, and other items.  

Another area had a small winter display and pictures of animals to categorize on the magnetic side of the display case. 

The building also houses offices for staff at the park and a multi purpose room. It had a display on maple sugaring at Bendix Woods when we visited, though they may change it out from time to time. 

It's great to have another option to explore nature in the Michiana area. I would combine this with a hike and a stop at the playground if I took my children. What a fun way to get outside while exploring through play and learning about nature! 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Stomp, Stomp, Roar, Roar!

We had such a fun exploration at Nurturing Acorns, a preschool nature program at Woodlawn Nature Center, this week. The kids had not seen each other for a few months while we took a break and there were several new faces.

We started with a chocolate play dough that smelled divine. The children were recreating dinosaur themes, making nests, eggs, and more. They learned about dinosaurs through their play. As they played, we talked about what scientists have discovered about our possibly feathered friends.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Seeds are so fun! They come in many shapes and sizes. Some are tiny and others are huge, like a coconut! They are bumpy, smooth, round, striped, dotted, etc.

My son and I attended a Nature Nuts program at Elkhart County Parks this last week. I always enjoy how the naturalist pulls together special programs and activities for the preschoolers. She had a variety of seeds for the children to feel and touch.

The children passed the seeds and pods around so they could inspect first hand these various types of seed. Krista shared some pictures and information about seeds. 

There were so many textures! Some of the seeds even made noises (like the mango pit on the top right) when shaken. 

Each child explored the inside of a peanut and could see where the new plant would be growing. They sorted seeds in their very own seed collection. This really kept my son's attention! The egg carton was perfect! He kept sorting throughout the day. 

For snack, they had various seeds to eat, like sunflower seeds, peanuts, and sugar snap peas. Then they used seeds to create a picture collage. 

They read a few books, too. As you can see behind the kids, the feeders were hopping! 

Then they made crazy haired upcycled little faces. How cute!


My son was very proud of his face. He did great in class--there have been a few times when he was a little shy, but on this day he enjoyed all the hands-on elements of the class. He also really enjoyed playing with the ice on the sidewalk outside! 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Michiana Master Gardeners Spring Celebration

I manned a booth at the Michiana Master Gardeners Spring Celebration this last weekend. There were various nature and gardening related booths set up outside the main presentation hall. People had time to chat, mingle, and check out the various topics and ideas. Sally Roth was the main speaker . . . read about her presentation at the end of the post.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Sugar Tapping Day!

Finally! Temps above freezing during the day and below freezing at night!

Here are a few posts I've done about maple tree tapping in the past. There are many community resources on it. Will you try it this year? :-)
Sugar Camp Days at Bendix Woods
Maple Sugaring--this gives more of the basics
Maple Sugaring from InMiddlebury Magazine

This is perfect weather to tap your maple trees! Yesterday was sunny and beautiful. Our son was okay outside without his coat on even. To prep, we washed out our buckets, spiles, and plastic tubing lines, gathered our tools, and refreshed our memory on what angle, drill bit size, etc. we needed. It has been a year since we tapped our trees.  After drilling the hole, we tapped the spile into place with a mallet. I love the tongue sticking off to the side while my son was working hard! Such concentration. He's almost five and very much wants to be involved in cooking, cleaning (maybe not enough!), and working right along us. He's gaining more independence.

While we were working on the buckets, he started playing in the snow and counting. Reminds me of a dice or dominoes. Nature is a perfect place to practice counting! Love that it was completely spontaneous and self-directed.

Then he started making snowballs and patterns in the snow with his tracks. It almost reminds me of a bee dancing in its communication pattern. 

He looked up high in the sky. It was a lot different than what it looked like in the spring, summer, and fall. I look forward to seeing it wake up! He went to a program earlier in the week about seeds. He noted earlier this week there weren't any maple samaras or helicopters out, but when we looked in the tree, we found a few! I actually found a few in the buckets when I was washing them out, too. :-) 

We explored the bark while we were tapping in the spiles, connecting the tubing, and adding our buckets with lids underneath.

The toddler fell forward in the snow and left a great handprint. It was pretty crunchy in this area. He was a little unsure of the snow. 

We even found a bird's nest that fell from one of the maple trees.

Even little guys get interested in natural things like this! Of course drawing in the snow with a stick is fun, too. While we were outside to tap the maple trees, I'm glad we had a little nature exploration as well!