Sunday, June 30, 2013

Cheese Factory!

Have you ever been to the Cheese Factory out between Middlebury and Shipshewana? I haven't always lived in the area (moved away for almost 30 years), but often visited during the summer or for family trips throughout the year. We almost always made it out to what I have always called the Cheese Factory, which is now named Deutsch Kase Haus (German Cheese House--my German classes while living in Germany helped a little!). I remember stopping and trying different cheeses, watching the cheese being made, and picking out a candy or two. In more recent years, I've loved getting a cold birch beer, which is similar to a root beer, but from the birch tree.

Birthday Wish List!

My birthday is coming up! What does a nature loving girl like me want? Hmm . . . considering I got a Worm Factory 360 for Mother's Day last year and Tattler Reusable Canning Lids for my birthday last year, I guess I don't usually get traditional gifts! My mom keeps asking, so here are links to a few things I'm hoping for--maybe this will give her a few options.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Hero Adventure

What a fun evening! Another mom posted on our moms group page about a mother/son activity yesterday called Hero Adventure at Grace Community Church in Goshen. We used to live near Indianapolis and there were yearly Touch a Truck (hint, hint, this would be a super cool activity for an organization to coordinate!) events that brought in big equipment, race cars, helicopters, and anything else with wheels for the children to climb on, look at, push buttons, and more. I haven't heard of an event like this in the area until I read about Hero Adventure. It is designed as a special evening for mothers and their sons (ages 2-11). Let me tell you, it was full of boy power!

As we entered, the boys received lollipops and met a local K-9. The boys enjoyed seeing the dog and the partner showed us his trick of having the dog look at the camera. The dog loves the toy ball. If the trainer puts the ball over the photographer's head, the dog will look at the camera. Makes for a good picture!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Project Learning Tree

Saturday, I went to a Project Learning Tree workshop at Rieth Interpretive Center in Goshen. It was a busy day, but I would have loved to spend more time on the topic and with the people attending. Thankfully, I do have the curriculum after attending and know how to find many of the people there. One lady who attended is an artist--I loved hearing her thoughts and applications on how to use different art applications to tie into nature.

Project Learning Tree is a multidiscipline curriculum that uses the forest as a springboard to help students understand environment, increase critical thinking and ability to make decisions, and to empower taking action in communities. I actually took this training about 13 years ago while living in Japan, but knew a refresher course, updated curriculum, and connecting with others in the area about local knowledge of trees would be beneficial. Plus, it was FREE! Elkhart County Soil and Water District Conservation underwrote the training for those living or working in Elkhart County. Still, it's only $20, so is an inexpensive way to learn about trees and get professional development credits. The instructors were Nancy Brown and Eric Kurtz from SWCD, as well as Aaron Kingsley, the Goshen city forester who works out of Rieth Interpretive Center.

We started by decorating tree cookies for name tags.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Cub Scout Day Camp: Orienteering

Maps and compasses! I helped with Cub Scout Day Camp last year, too, in the same capacity. It's neat to see the boys learn about a skill that is seeming more and more outdated, though is still very important. With GPS capabilities in our cars, phones, cameras, and more, do we still need compasses with magnetic north and maps to find the way? I say yes! 

We are in a transition in this area, though, so I'm curious as to where we go and if requirements to learn about these will be changed. I asked my husband who said GPS units can run out of batteries, be subject to selective availability (used previously so only military had precise measurements--not used after 2000), it's easy to keep a record of your track in coastal waters (he's from a Navy background) and is required by law in these cases, etc. "Prudent people will always have a paper back up, that doesn't run out of batteries or is not dependent on a satellite system."

We started our session talking about basic map skills, highlighting the compass rose, Never Eat Soggy Wheat (North, East South, West), how to orient a map, basic parts of a compass, magnetic north, the concept of a pace, and how to use the compass. I had a great, ENTHUSIASTIC helper who made it much easier. Thanks! He took half the boys to work on map skills in more depth while I took the other half to the field to work on using the compass. 

This was the center spot. We always came back here for our next direction, though these could be set up in different ways. 

Wild Edible Cub Scout Hike at Ox Bow

I dropped my oldest off earlier this week for Cub Scout Day Camp at Ox Bow County Park. This is his second year attending. It has been well run and a good experience for the children and adult leaders. One requirement is to take a hike and learn about poisonous plants. Andy took us on a walk to also learn about a few wild edibles.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

ETHOS Science 2 Go:Astronomy

This last week, we had an opportunity to visit the ETHOS Science 2 Go Bus as part of the Junior Indiana Master Naturalists. What a great bus/classroom/exploration! The bus in and of itself is a whole fascinating topic. I especially liked figuring out how they stored, organized, and prepared everything for a seamless learning experience, but that's the teacher geek in me. ;-)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Cummins Park Splash Pad

What a great day to explore splash pads! We were supposed to meet a few people in Elkhart at the NIBCO Splash Pad; however, we go there and it was closed. A couple of others drove or walked up at the same time and mentioned it's never open when they get there. There are several openings for water to splash up in the small area. To clarify, the hours at the Nibco Splash Pad are 2-6pm Tuesday through Sunday.

So, we checked in on the new Splash Pad at Cummins Park in Bristol as we were headed in that direction anyway. We've seen pictures posted, yet hadn't checked it out yet. Cummins Park is located behind the Elkhart County Historical Museum in Bristol. While it is a small splash area, the kids and I really liked it. I think doing a quick tour of the museum first, and then changing clothes in the car to use the splash pad would be a good itinerary.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Primitive Skills at Woodlawn Nature Center

The Junior Indiana Master Naturalist group came to Woodlawn Nature Center to hear Erik Vosteen, a regional primitive skills expert. He started talking about archeology and how professionals learn how people lived in ancient times. He also touched on ethnography, which includes living with local ecosystems. A point he brought up often is that people's needs have always stayed the same over time. Resources are things we need to live.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Indiana Master Naturalist Program

We have a GUEST POST today by Monica Yoder. Each week during my Indiana Master Naturalist training, she was there helping our class, being an example, and mentoring us as we went through the learning process. I started Inside Outside Michiana shortly after I finished my training, wishing all these cool nature events were on one calendar, rather than scouring 8-10 (now more!) newsletters and other online sources for neat programs. I also wanted to give a voice to nature in the area and help others experience a bit of what I was learning in my classes. I've been helping with a Jr. Indiana Master Naturalist day camp all week (hence fewer posts) and I'm reminded of the power of this program to empower people to learn about nature in our community and to give back! Word on the street is that classes will start after Labor Day  and will be on Thursdays from 3:30 to 7:30pm at various locations around Elkhart County. The cost is about $175; however, I received a new book many weeks and now have a great reference library to go with my learning and volunteer service. They do not advertise this, yet I find this to be a great benefit to the program. Some might ask how to fit this in to a busy work schedule . . . some arranged with their bosses to come in early and leave work a little early for the classes. To be honest, attending this came down to scheduling--it basically worked on a time/day that I usually could have childcare. It was nice to have a little "me" time, dedicating time to learning more about something of interest. I really 
enjoyed meeting people and making friendships with others who had similar interests. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Strawberry Lemonade!

We went strawberry picking last week and one of the moms that went mentioned making strawberry lemonade with some of her strawberries. She told me how she did it, but I forgot some of the details. This is my version, based on her original. And it was good . . . very good! "I think I'd like another glass" good.

To begin, we washed, cut the tops off, and halved our strawberries.

Rhapsody in GREEN!

I stopped by Rhapsody in Green on Saturday. I loved seeing the flags across the bridges!

Goshen First Fridays: Rain Barrel Auction!

Friday night we went to Goshen First Fridays! When the weather is nice, there are lots of people there. The city, downtown businesses, and other community groups work hard to make this a great night out.

So, nature, you ask?
There were plenty of natural chalk drawings by children. I saw a few of the ever popular sun. I like to draw this one too!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

What to do with all those strawberries?

Of course, we have eaten PLENTY of strawberries since we went picking earlier this week Yoder's UPick. However, we still had PLENTY more! I've always liked the taste of strawberry freezer jam, so thought we'd make more of this. It is very fresh tasting, though some say it is a little runny.

We washed and hulled our strawberries, cutting them in half or so. Then we started mashing. The recipe on the back of the Freezer Jam Fruit Pectin said to use a pound (4 cups mashed).

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Nurturing Acorns: Water Play!

We had our last session of Nurturing Acorns at Woodlawn Nature Center for the season this last week. We were studying the water cycle and decided to have a little outdoor H2O fun outside during the beautiful weather! I was gone for the beginning part, but came back to find the children ENGAGED in this:

Science Sleuths: Fish

Monday, we headed out to Ox Bow Park after going strawberry picking so the older boys could attend Science Sleuths through Elkhart County Parks. There was only one class and this was a BIG group. As we waited for others to arrive, it was interesting to see the naturally occurring activities between all the children.

A group started throwing a ball to each other. We almost always have a few balls in the van--they've helped so much to have impromptu outdoor recreational activities.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Strawberry Picking

This morning we made it out for the first day of the Strawberry Upick season at Yoder's in Goshen! We have not been here before. The only address we could find was 15th Street in Goshen. I still don't have a better address, but we hashed out a few more directions in our Elkhart Moms and Tots group. Go south on State Road 15 though Goshen, past the library and South Side Soda Shop until you find College Avenue on the left. Turn left. Look for 15th Street on the right (several blocks down the road). Yoder's is on the right, across the street from Greencroft.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Congdon Park and a Little Treasure Hunt

The last day of school . . . the cousins were sleeping over and we wanted to go do something! The kids mostly wanted to go to Shanklin Park in Goshen, which is a fun fortress type park. We went and had a grand time running and playing. The cottonwood seeds were swirling all around! While we were just "at the park" it was a great time to explore seed dispersal too.