Friday, August 30, 2013

Night Skies!

As part of our Handbook of Nature Study nature exploration in August, we studied the night sky. We really enjoy these challenges.

During the recent Perseid meteor shower, we decided to stay up a little later to watch the meteors pass by. My husband and I tried it the night before--it was nice to cuddle with him! So, we decided to take the kids and cousins out to investigate. It's hard to get away from the lights, so try to find places as dark as you can.

A few tips we had:
1. Allow time for your eyes to get used to the dark.
2. Try flashlights or laser pointers to enhance the time outside. A red lensed light helps preserve night vision.
3. A blanket is comfy!
4. Think about insect repellant.
5. A star chart or app is a great addition. I have a couple of glow in the dark charts and even a cool glow in the dark book about the moon.
6. Try binoculars.
7. Feel free to look at other things in the sky, airplanes, satellites, space station, planets, maybe even BATS or moths.
8. Even if you're not an expert on constellation, feel free to make up your own and make connections. Also, knowing a few basics, like the big dipper can be nice!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

David Rogers Country Fair

This last weekend we checked out David Rogers Country Fair in LaGrange. As we drove out there, it really seemed like we were out in the middle of nowhere, which kind of added to the rustic feel of the festival. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Cast Iron Cooking

Last night, my husband and I went with the youngest two kids to a Dutch Oven Gathering with Elkhart County Parks at Bonneyville Mill County Park. This is an annual gathering. There are two options for participants. You can either cook/demonstrate or pay $3 and "observe". But we didn't just observe! Courtney, the interpretive naturalist, spent about 45 minutes or so going over cast iron basics. It sounds like he is a bit of an afficionado. He has been a part of the International Dutch Oven Society in the past. His mother also knows of his love for cast iron cooking and picked up any piece she found at garage sales, plus bought him new sets other places. His wife finally had to say enough is enough, though I'm sure a piece sneaks in here or there.


Friday, August 23, 2013

Michiana Gem & Mineral Society Show

This afternoon, I took the younger boys over to the Michiana Gem & Mineral Society Show at the South Bend Fair Grounds. I haven't ever really been to one of these, but enjoy geology and earth sciences, so thought I'd check it out. Plus, it was the 50th year anniversary!

Story of my life these days . . .  the child below did NOT want to go. But we had a great time together and said he really enjoyed it later. My advice--push through. They just don't know they'll like it yet, but they will once they are there. :-) He was so interested in everything!

There were several educational displays of personal collections of club members. These were neat to look at. We could see textures, colors, shapes, and more! 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom Training

When you were four to seven, what did you enjoy doing outdoors? We shared these experiences and our blood pressure dropped. I lived out near Bonneyville Mill as a child. I remember a big strawberry patch, running barefoot outside (and stepping on a rusty nail), selling strawberries by the side of the road, catching garter snakes, and hanging upside down in a tree. The place sits empty now and the nearby barn was just recently torn down.

A couple of weekends ago I attended a Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom and Documenting Children's Learning with Nature training. It was a bit of a drive for me over at a lovely facility at Hoover Forest Preserve in Yorkville, Illinois. I am helping with a project for a certified Outdoor Classroom at Woodlawn Nature Center in Elkhart. "Helping", spear heading, figuring out how many things at home I can repurpose, begging from friends and organizations for materials and labor, making my husband cut wood, it's all the same, right? I can't wait to see the children fully using this area!

The facility itself is beautiful. I wish I had additional time to spend on the grounds. Upon arrival, I explored the grounds, checked out the materials, flipped through their books (I only have one), drooled over the great ideas, and met others who were interested in the topic. As part of our class, we investigated several makeshift areas. The Hoover Forest Preserve hosted the event and is in the process of establishing their own Outdoor Classroom. Since it is still in the works, the presenters brought a few supplies to give us the view of possibilities. A few areas include "Messy Materials", Music and Movement, Nature Art, Building, and Gardening. Inside, we made a map of our explorations, using sills such as visual/spatial, close observation, understanding of physical space, 2 dimensional representations of 3-D areas, written skills, etc. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Walker Park

We went to Walker Park in the north side of Elkhart this last week. While we've been here several times before, there were a few things I learned and/or took note of in more detail.

1. The park has a large open, grassy area in the center. This is a perfect place for a large game or flying kites as there is nothing overhead.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

ETHOS Science Sneak Peek: Space

We checked out ETHOS Science Sneak Peek: Space in Elkhart again this week! ETHOS Science Center has hosted a themed science activity night monthly for the last several months. We've enjoyed the ones we were able to attend: WATER and Summer Science Camps. I also really liked the Astronomy lesson I went to on the Science2Go Bus. If your child goes to school in the area, I highly suggest encouraging your school to schedule the bus for a trip!

Friday, August 16, 2013

10 Reasons to go Apple Picking!

My aunt mentioned she had a tree full of transparent apples heavy with fruit. She never sprayed. She didn't know it was an apple tree as she had purchased an assortment of flowering trees. Well, apples appeared!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Power to Heal

My father ended up in the hospital this weekend and will be there for the next week or so. While visiting him at Elkhart General Hospital today, I noticed a few natural spaces amidst all the hallways and hospital rooms. I thought of the power of nature to heal as I walked through the complex. My husband and baby were in the hospital a few too many times last year, so I also saw how nature was helpful in the healing process with the many hospital stays.

I was impressed with the view from the window. My dad can look out and see the river. He mentioned seeing children playing down there before. I suspect boats go by as well. The view from the window makes such an impact while recuperating. When my husband was at University of Chicago last year in various rooms, the one with the flowering tree out the window was a favorite. There was something beyond more buildings to see. Another great option is being lucky enough to have a corner room with extra windows and more to see. My husband missed nature and fresh air while he was in the hospital various times. He had more time to watch the sky and sunset while there. Plants would have nice.

We also noticed a fish tank. When my husband was in Elkhart General, I was often visiting with one to three boys in tow. Having a nearby place to take a break in the hospital was so helpful. Taking a break to visit the fish would be so perfect! I appreciated a juggler in the cafeteria who took a few minutes to share his skills with my son as he juggled apples and oranges. Later, as he recovered, he walked the halls in another hospital and had different views as he looked out various windows. Having a playground nearby was also helpful when I visited with kids in tow. We could visit for 20 minutes, go outside and play or take a walk, and then come back for another visit.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Elkhart County Historical Museum

Elkhart County Historical Museum has more nature than I expected. I knew a few nature related things to highlight, but I also learned more about nature in the area as I made my way through the grounds.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Nature Nuts: Water Bugs!

Elkhart County Parks had another Nature Nuts program for 3-5 year olds this week, centered on macroinvertebrates or water bugs, which is much easier for young children to say. I met my husband half way through to switch off kids, but heard there were a few books about dragonflies and other waterbugs, probably a discussion, and the children made their own nets to explore later.

I met up with the group just as they were getting close to the spillway at Ox Bow Park. My husband looked ready to be gone. Sounds like my son wasn't being very cooperative. He can be a bit shy when we go places and actually cried for a while when dad left. However, as soon as they had water to explore, he was totally engaged!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Wakarusa Historical Museum

I had a meeting out at Wakarusa Historical Museum earlier this week. To be honest, I didn't know it existed before. I don't go to Wakarusa very often, but maybe I should go more often as there are several interesting places to visit.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Riverfest '13

It's that time of year again for Riverfest! We went last year when the baby was just 9 days old. We enjoyed watching the fish shocking, making boats out of natural materials (even if many sank), a family nature hike, a hike out to see the Great Blue Heron rookery, children's activities, learning about area environmental resources, and more! Here is a quick recap of our experiences last year at the Riverfest in Middlebury. See the details for Riverfest 2013 below. 

Riverfest ’13
“Because we all live down river”

Outdoor fun and adventure waits for you and your family in Middlebury Saturday, August 17th in the wet, wild and wonderful Riverbend Park!  From 8 am to 2 pm Rivefest ’13, invites you to discover the fascinating world of water and the amazing plants, animals, people and history surrounding our own local treasure, the Little Elkhart River.  Join an expert led adult bird hike, dig deep into cool facts about the water and soil under your feet, and take a voyage down the drain and back into the river as you learn water is never a “waste” product.  See the fish populating our waters and the tiny beneficial insects and animals that share their habitat.  Learn about the bigger critters of the river’s edge on the family nature hike. Enjoy a kayak ride to Krider Gardens or a guided stroll ending at Middlebury’s first building and oldest business while learning about the history of the river, region and town as well as future plans that will bring you more outdoor fun and adventure right here in beautiful Middlebury Parks.
Other than a nominal fee for kayak rides, all events are free of charge.  Games, crafts, food, environmental exhibits and activities as well as a silent rain barrel auction take place all day.  Join Middlebury Parks and Recreation for the fun!
Scheduled events:
8 am – Adult Bird Hike/River History Hike
9am – Healthy Soils & Groundwater/Waste Water Wonders
10 am – Family Nature Hike
11 am Fish Shocking Demonstration and Exhibit
12 Noon – Water Life/Ethos Science Bus
1 pm Live Animal Program/Rain Barrel Silent Auction Finale

All Day activities:
Food, games, crafts, environmental exhibits & activities, rain barrel silent auction, and kayak rides.
For more information contact:
Tom Enright, Middlebury Park and Recreation Manager

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Natural Treasures

My son found a butterfly wing the other day. He was so excited! Do your children (or you!) ever find natural treasures? What do you do with them?

"Nature is imperfectly perfect, filled with loose parts and possibilities, with mud and dust, nettles and sky, transcendent hands-on moments and skinned knees."
~Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods, 2005