Thursday, October 31, 2013

Nurturing Acorns: Halloween Fun!

This week in Nurturing Acorns at Woodlawn Nature Center, we had a little Halloween Fun!

There were lots of animals out from the Haunted Woods going on over the weekend and Halloween. They were fun to explore, even for the littlest ones!

We started by making some simple cards with Halloween themed stickers. 

Later, the children worked together to put together pumpkin bread, each taking turns adding ingredients and stirring. 

While the bread was baking, we had story time. I really liked Boo to You by Lois Ehlert--I like how she used seeds, gourds, and other natural elements to illustrate the story. It's pumpkin time looked at the growth of a pumpkin over time. We had family favorite stories there as well, like The Little Old Lady Who Wasn't Afraid of Anything and Too Many Pumpkins. 

Since we read about pumpkins, we did a sequencing activity with the life cycle of a pumpkin, looking at what happens first, next, and last. 

Going outside for a hike, we looked at the colors of fall, gathering materials around from different areas to do a color match:

We encountered a huge spider web. They loved crawling through it! I would consider putting more up when we study spiders!

We had ghost bananas, our pumpkin bread, and apple slices for snack. 

Later, we had many options to explore, like Halloween slime, though many were not quite sure what to expect with it. There was also fresh playdough and pumpkin sequence cards to sort.

One girl decided she liked the pumpkin molds as little cups for the beans, which worked quite well. Mr. Pumpkin Head was a hit!

Strawing for spiders and categorizing the spiders and insects in the basket were also popular.

Some of the children liked sorting the pumpkins by size and playing with the playdough. These animals  make the actual print! I'll check on the brand and report when I find out. 

Of course, the kids enjoyed the wigwam, cave, local fish, insects, wildlife viewing window, and more! 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Kalamazoo Nature Center

During our one day fall break (wouldn't mind a little more time!), the kids, their cousins and I visited Woodlawn Nature Center in Elkhart and Kalamazoo Nature Center in Kalamazoo. We are members at both places, but haven't been back to Kalamazoo since we purchased the membership. We really enjoyed it and wish we went more often. As we arrived, the attendant at the gate house made a great joke about gulls (our last name). Why don't seagulls fly in the bay? Because then they would be bagels!

KNC is really an interesting set up. Visitors walk down steps and a long walkway through the woods to enter the building. Of course, they needed to check out the spotting scopes while passing by. While their first stop was visiting the shop (they've been asking about it for ages), we also saw this quote. Truly, the exhibits helped us understand that perspective of an insect. We were here in January this year. Learn more of our visit here and check out some of the neat things they have to offer. I also took a  Winter Wildflower hike and was impressed with their education staff--top notch!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Leaf Art

The fall colors were absolutely gorgeous when we came home the other day! 

As part of our Handbook of Nature Outdoor Hour Challenge studies, we gathered up the colors from the ground. 

First, we sorted the leafs by the various shades and colors. Then we started experimenting with what we had. 

Changing how things were organized just a bit made a huge difference!

Soon, a butterfly was in the works, with a few additional items. I've always loved environmental art by Andy Goldsworthy and local artists, like Artist Grow

Upside down, but a butterfly, nonetheless!

A bit more rearranging. 

My oldest son and nephew made this. They said to pretend the red is really black--it's a bee! 

Which later turned into a sun!

Have you played with the leaves recently? What creations have you made? 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Kalamazoo Nature Center Natural Playground

Kalamazoo Nature Center has an ample amount of grounds. After our visit to the Nature Center the other day, we checked out their Natural Playground. I don't recall where I read about it, but I can't find information on their website, so I'm glad I asked once we were there. We took a walk through the paths, past the gardens and butterfly house to reach the natural playscape.

Eat Wild Potluck

This week, I gathered with others I've met online through a local foraging group on Facebook, called Eat Wild. We met at Junk Evolution in downtown South Bend. They have an eclectic mix of decor, clothing, and other items. Some are repurposed, yet others are just looking for a new home to love. They base their work on green living and share tips on how to live gently with nature. While we gathered to feast on food, we also feasted with our eyes through the lovely displays and items for purchase. The owners did a great job of decorating the tables with a seasonal and foraged theme. Osage orange, acorn squash, tree cookies, and personalized leaves dotted the table. Nature was a part of the meal on many levels.

Photo by Liz Smith

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Gathering at Five Medals

This is the second time we've been to the Gathering at Five Medals. It is held in River Preserve County Park, with parking at the nearby Benton Elementary School. This year the cost was $4/adult, $2/child. There are food vendors as you enter and various items for sale at varying booths. And, there is nature, in many forms!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

El bosque encantado

I had an extra dollar, a little time, desire to do a little Spanish refresher, and curiosity about Merry Lea's programs, though the program was hosted at Shanklin Park. El bosque encantado (The Enchanted Forest) was a little closer to home and on the way back, I could stop by my grandparent's house. I wish it were a little lighter out as my grandfather said the fall colors are gorgeous right now. I went to the Spanish speaking version of the program, though they have English speaking versions of The Enchanted Forest down at Merry Lea next weekend.

Local Honey

On our way back from Kalamazoo, we found the honey spot! We bought a gallon from here when we first moved to the area and were needing more. Did you know that honey pretty much lasts indefinitely? This is located on M40, near M12 in southern Michigan.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Nurturing Acorns: Nocturnal Animals

We had another great gathering time at Nurturing Acorns, the nature preschool program at Woodlawn Nature Center last week. 

The children could make a bat or an owl for their craft, though most of them ended up being a hybrid! :-)


We read Raccoons and Ripe Corn by Jim Arnosky. He has plenty of nature related books. Each page had different nocturnal animals we could talk about. I also like Oliver's Wood where he stays up to see the sun and different animals are out. Night creatures is more factual. I like a good balance between fact and fiction.


These are fun books for the topic and then we can talk about the children's experiences with animals, nocturnal and diurnal animals, do finger plays, touch furs and more.

When we went on our hike, we could easily see where squirrels recently dug up the ground or other animals dug holes. 

The mushrooms were looking great! I love that my son points them out to me. He spent an hour investigating mushrooms in the spring. Wow! 

This is a favorite spot to look for animals on the trails at Woodlawn. The deer like to bed down in a nearby thicket and then jump over the top of this dirt pile. We often see tracks up near the top. Winter is also a good time to see tracks at Woodlawn Nature Center. We played a nocturnal and diurnal animal while we were out exploring!

They were amazed at how this fallen tree had such balance. It has since fallen to the ground, but still has great potential for a little hide out with some outdoor fabric.

We made owls for a snack, with each child making his/her own interpretation.

During open exploration at the end, some chose to dig outside in Nature's Connection, the natural playscape and outdoor classroom. Others were inside playing with the puppets. 

Some matched parts of the owl with the picture and investigated the many owls and the center. 

We also had bat counting and nocturnal animal songs. Here is a fun one. This is another option.