Friday, December 27, 2013

Underground at Kalamazoo Nature Center

After our visit to Kalamazoo Valley Museum this week, we stopped by Kalamazoo Nature Center. We've been to the Nature Center numerous times and are members, so it's nice to just go for a couple of hours. I actually thought this was a great pair of activities, with the two venues about 10 minutes apart. We made lunch and ate in the van, so we were ready to rumble once we arrived.

Here are posts from previous visits:
Kalamazoo Nature Center Natural Playground
A Fall Visit
Winter Wildflower Hike
Our First Visit

Kalamazoo had more snow and ice than we have in the Michiana area right now. It was gorgeous--I wish my pictures could capture the beauty better! 

My oldest wondered what we would find to do there since we've been there several times before. I personally like to make repeat visits to places like this as we pay more attention to various aspects each time. There are usually differences in some of the exhibits and there is always something new on each hike we take! They decided the spotting scopes were cool! We listened to various bird songs and checked out the live reptiles and amphibians. 

One aspect I hadn't seen before included a large room that served as the art gallery. It was lined with windows, stools, and a counter--perfect for observing nature and creating art. The gallery contained various works of art from Kalamazoo Nature Center's Nature's Way Preschool. I'd love to see them in action!

I loved the creations of the preschoolers, with the blue jays and the bird marionettes. Each grouping explained how nature was an integral part of the process of this artwork. Notice the wings on the bird on the right--leaf rubbings! 

There is one room that seems to change regularly at the nature center. There were more puppets out today--the boys played with these for quite awhile. Which boy wondered what he would do while he was here? I will say, he did try hide and seek for a bit, too!

There was plenty of background information on rocks in Michigan, which hadn't been up during previous visits. We had a tower building contest with these natural blocks. Yes, I drool over these. My child that was worried we wouldn't find anything to do made the most creative and sturdy towers! 

We also explored tracks!

The boys were excited to see the parakeets eating in the center dome area. It's nice to see all this green in winter!

Downstairs, we explored birds and migration in more depth. To be honest, we have walked by this part several times, but paid more attention to it this time. It was a good way to learn more about the birds presented and practice our identification skills. We're getting better all the time! In the kitchen as part of the bug exhibit, my son was engrossed in the insect recipes, wanting to make meal worm fried rice the next time we have fried rice. I hear they are easy to grow--maybe in the spring!

I picked our arrival time to have a little exploration time and then wanted to catch a program they were having in the afternoon. I watch their calendar when I know we might want to visit and try to pick days where there will be a program. Our toddler was all over the place and the relaxed program made it easier to keep up with the little guy! Dan Keto brought us underground for the program, sharing about what goes on under the ground! We talked about earthworms a fair amount, as we do vermicomposting in our kitchen at home. However, we have more to learn about these wrigglers. All worms in the area are non-native. While most are good for gardens, Dan talked about the differences between forests that have not been invaded by worms and those that have. 

The kids listened attentively the whole time (in my mind, maybe not reality), but did ask a few good questions and explored at appropriate times. Dan mentioned that if we wanted to see the different worms in an area that we could mix 1/4 cup of ground mustard with a gallon of water and pour it in a concentrated 14 by 14 inch area. He has seen more than 70 worms come up from one small area! We also learned that night crawlers make vertical tunnels. When it rains, it's hard to breath, so they often are the ones we see on the concrete after a rain. 

We learned about the layers underground, including layers of salt, limestone, sandstone, etc. My son dressed as a mastodon and was able to hold a mastodon bone! We talked about gypsum and how it is used for dry wall and other purposes. He also said that most fossils will be found in gray rocks, so look for gray rocks if out fossil hunting. We use so many things that come from mining in general.

We touched many other rocks and fossils, such as blastoids from crinoids, horn coral, Petoskey stone (unpolished), etc. I could probably look at rocks all day!

The granite was interesting. We could tell the granite with bigger crystals formed deeper in the earth than the smaller crystals. Dan likened this to making fudge and how is sometimes gets crystalized over a longer time, rather than how the professionals make it on the cooled slabs to decrease crystalizing process. 

We had another fun adventure at Kalamazoo Nature Center! Thanks for the program and exploration time!