Sunday, September 29, 2013

Audubon Society Hike at Boot Lake Nature Preserve

This last Saturday morning, my husband took the kids to soccer while I went on a bird hike with the South Bend-Elkhart Audubon Society. I recently became a member, though the hikes are open to others interested in birds. I was just at Boot Lake in July while working on a segment for Our Town Elkhart. True to form, I did take at least one wrong turn getting out there--I guess I don't follow my own advice on checking the directions before leaving. It was neat to see the fall changes since my last visit was in the middle of summer.

We took the trail by the gate over to the left as we entered. It took us past the tree nursery, prairie, out to an overlook that is hard to see through the trees, and through the woods to a pier over the water. This let us a see a variety of habitats. Everyone was very friendly and talked amongst themselves as we walked. 

There are nesting boxes throughout the area. I saw many frogs in them before. One of the hikers found a turkey feather and stuck it in a tree to delight someone later. 

The Hunt: Grand Opening

Saturday, our family went to Woodlawn Nature Center for the grand opening of The Hunt, a new exhibit that is a tribute to the late Dr. Rudy Echeverria, Sr. I had just been to the family gathering for the preview the night before. It was wonderful to hear stories of his life and the family's dedication to having children learn more about God's creations.

We started with a service project for National Public Lands Day. This happens once a year as a way to serve, clean up, and lend a hand to public spaces. Most sites also have additional activities and free entrance for the day. For the event, we were working on the climbing area of the developing outdoor classroom, Nature's Connection. When finished, it will have numerous areas to interact with nature, such as a nature art area, messy materials area, digging area, open play area, music and movement area, garden area, building area, and possibly more! Several sections have a start, though help is needed to finish them. Groups or individuals are welcome to contact the center (or me, since I'm in charge of it) if they'd like to be involved. There is a wish list and specific needs at the website.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Nurturing Acorns: Trees!

Nurturing Acorns started with plenty of time outdoors. While the weather is nicer, we'd like to be outside while we can. The topic was trees, so we collected various tree items we found around the grounds--fallen leaves, acorns, seed pods, helicopters, sticks, and more.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Approaching Fall at Lieber Nature Preserve

We had a little extra time this last week and thought we'd take a stroll at a nature preserve in our area called Lieber Nature Preserve or Pipewort Pond. It is actually one of the reasons I started this blog. When I initially looked for information on this little spot, I only found about a paragraph about it. I asked around the circles, emailed the appropriate people, etc. but didn't find much. Also, as I talked to people who lived within a couple of miles of it, so many didn't know that it existed. So, we started making and recording our own observations!

First off, it looks so different than when we last recorded about it in May on the blog! Some of the grasses and plants were up to our shoulders! It's also less green right now. The fall colors are really popping!

This goldenrod was gorgeous! Many people think this is giving them their allergies; however, it's really the Giant Ragweed which often grows nearby. There is also Staghorn Sumac near the entrance. These leaves are really changing! I've noticed it all around the area right now and the fuzzy branches are soft to touch. I have had several people mention poison sumac recently, wondering if plants like these are poison sumac. From what I understand, poison sumac is very rare and not generally in the area that most of us would be in. Here is an article that sheds a little light on it.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Kercher's Apple Picking!

My son was so excited about his field trip to Kercher's Sunrise Orchard this week! We've already picked apples this summer, but it's different when you get to go with your new friends from school. The field trip was $5/child and $4/adult, which I thought was well worth the money for what we did and brought home with us. Kercher's is located south of Goshen on County Road 38. They even have a fall festival on October 5th and 6th and other special activities throughout the season.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

ETHOS Science Center: The Senses

We checked out the ETHOS Science Center Sneak Peek Science this last week! It was all about THE SENSES! I recently took my son to a Elkhart County Parks program on My Five Senses and often experience nature and life with all our senses. The children were given a brochure with the activities to use as a checklist. The checklist really gave my children purpose in the activities and helped keep their focus on the "special" activities of the night, though there are always the regular exhibits that are enticing.

We started out in the sound room. This involved using a tuning fork and suspending a ping pong ball against the fork after striking it. Playing with the tuning fork was fun in its own right, but "seeing" the sound vibrations through the movement of the ping pong ball was pretty neat! We also experimented with a homemade harp.


Friday, September 20, 2013

Rainy Days and Optical Illusions

We were driving to a morning activity yesterday and it actually RAINED! We haven't had a good long rain for a bit, so it was interesting to watch out the windows of the Swaggerwagon!

My 4-year-old asked, "Mom, did the sun go to bed?" Trying to figure out what he is asking . . . he goes to bed at night when it's dark outside. It's dark outside, so the sun must have gone to bed as well. As a society, we also use terms that are most likely misnomers, such as sunrise and sunset. The sun doesn't actually rise and set every day. While the sun moves as part of the larger galaxy movement, WE (the Earth) are actually rotating that gives us the illusion of the sun rising and setting. Talk about the ultimate optical illusion!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Bonneyville Mill Heritage Day

It was Bonneyville Mill Heritage Day on Saturday! This is a slightly new format from what we have seen in previous years, with a shorter time frame, new name, and slightly different focus. We've been going to the celebration for the last several years, even before we lived in the area. It can be a great time to visit with family, grab a few treats, enjoy activities and music, and explore the outdoors. True to form for the last several days, it was a chilly morning, warming up later in the day. We appreciate the effort of Elkhart County Parks and numerous volunteers in putting this together!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Ex Quotient: Are you Willing to Fail?

I'm up again past 1am because my brain is making connections and the "busy brain" syndrome won't let me fall asleep.

We went to a great fair yesterday focused on TINKERING! The Maker Faire in Fort Wayne was a gathering of people who enjoy tinkering, stretching their thoughts, experimenting, thinking outside the box, and playing with ideas. Creativity abounded! See our experience here.

As is my usual routine, I came home, worked on my college classes (I teach online) for a bit, wrote a blog post, and tried to go to bed. TRIED! Have you head of Multiple Intelligences and Emotional Intelligence? I have been talking about these concepts and different types of learners this week. My children happen to be in PEP classes at their school, which is a self-contained high ability program. I grew up in numerous places with pull out talented and gifted programs, though started in the PEP program in Elkhart many moons ago. In another online class I am teaching, we are discussing high ability learners as part of exceptional education (special education to most). My students are often surprised that high ability is included in special needs. Anyway, I had MI (Multiple Intelligences), EQ (Emotional Quotient)/EI (Emotional Intelligence), and IQ (Intelligence Quotient), and Tinkering floating through my mind as I went to bed and reflected on our day and children.

BINGO! Experiment Quotient! ExQ.

While we were in a HIGHLY creative place, I noticed a couple of things about these two young men!
At the end of the fair, the 4-year-old was highly involved in experimenting with his shadow. There was a willingness and interest in this. HIGHLY!  We talk about our shadows when we're out walking, but he was almost being a contortionist to see how his shadow would grow and expand as he shrank and contracted. I saw his mind thinking, his body twisting and turning, and the return to thinking as he made sense of it all. Then he revised his movements and started again.

The almost 7-year-old was willing to try things he never had done before. He let his body experiment with awkward positions and tried to find balance. He WELDED his own metal sculpture (with a little help from a professional). He was willing to TRY! I'm so proud of these guys for experimenting, for trying. The older two did it with science fair projects this last year, too. They were all collaborating earlier this week as they made catapults out of loose parts. My husband joined in after the fact.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Maker Faire: A Tinkerer's Dream!

We made it the the Maker Faire in Fort Wayne, sponsored by Make Magazine and TekVenture, a public art and technology laboratory (SUPER COOL). My mom gave my husband a subscription to the magazine a few years ago. We knew it had COOL stuff in it to try and do and suspected the Faire would as well. I learned about it from a local new media artist, Sarah Soriano. I also found a Groupon, which made it an even better deal!

Let me first say, that I mostly would not consider this a "nature" event; however, it was superb and we did find nature!

These chain saw carvings below were done by an artist near Ft. Wayne. I loved the mushrooms and natural themes!

I also found a family team from Goshen that has a neat, automated pumpkin carving machine--the punkinBoT! They're carving on a fall fruit or veggie (which is it? FRUIT!), so I call it nature. I enjoyed talking to the son who shared good resources for Goshen. They actually have a group that gets together on a weekly basis with free space to work on these types of projects in Goshen. They mentioned sharing their vision with others as they worked on their prototype and others would offer suggestions and ideas to make it happen. Makerspace: Goshen meets on Thursdays at 5:30pm at The Local, which is it's own unique space!

We also were able to try out telescopes and received more in formation about the Ft. Wayne Astronomical Society. It's a bit of a drive for us on a regular basis, but they meet on clear skied Saturday nights for star gazing and meet at St. Francis University's Schouweiler Planetarium every third Tuesday of the month at 7:30pm.

I had just seen a swing similar to this on Pinterest this morning. It is hooked up to some type of programming that understands gravity and the timing of swinging. If they swing at the normal intervals, they shouldn't get wet as they swing through the air, with water dripping from above. Pretty fascinating! Water=Nature! 

We also saw GEEK chocolates from Sweets So Geek. They have an Etsy shop and ship easily! I saw recycled bird feeders, sensors that could change light based on the color of fruits while connecting the circuit, and turkeys made out of welded found metal items from Black Sheep Welding. I thought it was SO neat that my six-year-old actually welded his own metal sculpture with their help! Thanks for this experience! I saw others making butterflies and flowers--nature! They also were selling dragonflies and pigs. 


Other cool finds . . . several 3-D printers--this was from Allen County Library! I had not seen one of these, so it was fascinating to see in action. There were other objects made of "found"items, put together in unique ways. There was also an antique printing press--what neat machines! 

There were ROBOTS everywhere. This exersaucer with toddler in tow, was remotely driven by a nearby adult. How amusing to see a young child whizzing by! It might be easier than asking the older boys to bring the baby to me. There was also a twinkie shooting mobile! There were also Lego robotics courses. My oldest is in a club at school for this. It's fun to see the possibilities! The boys could have stayed all day at the remote controlled race car track.


There were so many exhibitors with unique activities. I saw wooden pieces glued together for sculptures, the metal welded sculptures, and then rockets as well. There were electronics, textiles, 6-seated bicycles (yes, six!), and more! I've actually seen whole families of six ride ONE BMX style bike while on a mission in the Dominican Republic about 15 years ago. Mom was on the handle bars with a baby, another was in front of Dad on the seat, and two were on the pegs on the back wheel. This would be handy for them. 


Everyone really enjoyed the Cirque Amongus! There was a rope to try tricks. I loved how willing this guy tried different techniques. My husband showed off his mad juggling skills. They had huge wooden balls to stand on, throwing sticks, tiny bicycles, unicycles, hula hoops, and more!


This was a huge marble run from many different parts and pieces. Way to recycle! We also were intrigued by Touching the Impossible, a carver who works with the Mobius Band. As of right now, he has made 701 beautiful sculptures/optical illusions around these principles. The Mobius Strip can be found in nature, too! 


This is another business out of New Paris. Te Maak makes a spin casting machine in many types of shapes. 

They enjoyed making their cookies! We also explored home made airplanes.

We also liked the BMX show! What fun to see people flying through the skies, doing flips on bicycles! will say that I saw heightened creativity in the kids while we were there immediately. This young guy became intrigued with his shadow, much more than I've seen him in the past. He was experimenting with all types of ways to move his body to see how his shadow reacted. Well worth it! I did the standard "butterfly" after he was being a contortionist! We had a great time!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Nurturing Acorns: Fall Fruits

What an invitation to explore! Mums, apples, sunflowers, gourds, pumpkins, hickory nuts, acorns, and more!

Loose Parts Play Before School

I was trying to make some signs for a project recently and had some extra ends and pieces from our home gutting when we moved into our place. My signs didn't work and I didn't put away my scraps as soon as I should. (SIDE NOTE: Anyone good with a woodburning tool? I still need signs!)

First, the 4-year-old started stacking the wood pieces and moving them. They really are "loose parts" with plenty of options for open-ended play. Here is a good description on loose parts and a blog post I recently made on Natural Treasures.

Eventually, the scrap building on the living room floor got to be too much, especially when they realized they could turn them into a catapult! So I sent them outside and the older kids experimented more and more. The catapult got larger, the pieces thrown in the air got larger.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Nature Nuts: Five Senses

We went to another preschool program at Ox Bow County Park. They have these once a month and are a great time for children ages 3-5. I bring my little one along usually. There are always books, usually a hike, a craft, and a snack. Krista does a great job of them!

She started out with a book, My Five Senses by Aliki. I just picked this up at a garage sale this summer--score! She discussed how we use our senses all the time to learn about the world around us. She brought flowers out for the children to touch and smell. Many sensory words were flying: smooth, rough, bumpy, colors, prickly, and more! She had sensory bags for the children to investigate. What is inside of all those bags?