Monday, June 29, 2015

International Mud Day!

What an inviting set up! My friend, Beth Cauffman, and I have been planning International Mud Day at Woodlawn Nature Center for several months. It's a fun way to get outside and connect with nature.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Drop In Activities at Wellfield Botanic Gardens

We stopped by Wellfield Botanic Gardens last Tuesday for their drop in activity. It's always a beautiful space. They also keep adding improvements to the area, which makes it interesting. The seasonal changes make it something we go back to again and again! We've been here several times, so thought we'd share a few highlights of our visit.

We took the path to the left, as we always like visiting the Adventure Path! On the way, we checked out the lily pads and this plant with all the "fringe". It almost seemed like feathers!

We walked by the creek and the heron's nest in the water. There are so many colors and textures out right now--it's a great time to go!


There is a new installation, showcasing various options for vertical gardening. I'm familiar with the option and have probably pinned several ideas on Pinterest (though these are not mine), yet it was neat to see the variety of options presented. I'd love to hear follow up with this and how successful people were as they implemented it in their gardens.

These were all just really neat! Many of the items could be repurposed to add something to your fencing. This seems like a fun way to garden. I would expect more water than normal might be needed.  Here are vertical gardening tips from Mother Earth News, though, as you can see, there are many options!

We saw these remnants from the Grow Down where groups got together to put together a small landscaped area quickly. Neat to see what they did. I want to play in this area and rearrange it, then do it all over again. :-) We call this small world play in early childhood education. 

Of course we had to visit the adventure path! The boys love this area! They like climbing and finding the animals throughout the path.

Of course, we stopped by the elk as well! Always a favorite spot on our visit.

In the Activity Tent, the topic was on pollinators for the drop in activity that day. We matched pollinators with plants, with some good hints along the way. :-) There was even a bald faced hornet's nest to look at. We have been finding these in our yard the last couple of years. Here are details on other upcoming drop in activities this summer at Wellfield. I always like adding on an activity or program to keep it interesting as we return. 

They also had a flannel board with the various parts of a plant. The boys enjoyed making the pollen (chalk) move from one flower to another on their bee (cotton ball). This was a good idea!

There were also crafts to do--either a butterfly or bee. Loved his butterfly to fly through the flowers pollinating as it went!

While waiting for one of the projects to dry, we walked the nearby woods, finding flowers like spiderwort. Hollow logs are also neat areas to explore! It's a nice little stretch of woods.

We even found a bunch of goose feathers before we left! What a great visit!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Inside Outside Michiana Summer Guide 2015

Last summer, I made a guide for summer. Find it here. It has been one of the most popular posts on the blog and many moms and grandparents tell me it is an excellent resource. I'm updating it for 2015 as prices change and new areas to explore pop up. This is concentrated on Elkhart County, though there are many great places a short drive away. See other places below the table. Feel free to share additional places we should explore. Thanks!

Every child should have mud pies, grasshoppers, water bugs, tadpoles, frogs, mud turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, chestnuts, trees to climb, brooks to wade, water lilies, woodchucks, bats, bees, butterflies, various animals to pet, hayfields pine cones, rocks to roll, sand, snakes, huckleberries, and hornets. And any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of education.
 –Luther Burbank

Michiana Summer Guide 2015
By Dr. Carla Gull

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Loose Parts Nature Play: Ramps!

Okay, so I kind of drool over the Kodo catalog. Seriously, I love the stuff in it, but it's a little pricey! I wondered about making these ramps on our own, so showed them to my good friend's husband. He said, sure, we can make those! Watching the kids experiment, problem solving, cooperate, collaborate, and more, I knew I did the right thing by making this happen. It was magical. I look forward to using it in more ways, too, like running water through it for an upcoming Mud Day! This video by Kodo Kids shows some of the potential and benefits of using the ramps.

As a loose part in a natural playground or even our front yards (I had extra made for my house, too!), there are many ways that children (and adults) can use these to figure out cause and effect. Our friend donated a few wooden balls to go with the ramps, so it was fun to see them roll! What else can we use these for? Do other things roll down? We tried a larger ball and it didn't fit, so it makes for a good experiment. I find the balls almost a necessity. The prices are decent at Kodo Kids, but I also found some a little cheaper at Amazon (affiliate link): 1 1/2 inch wooden ball