Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What's Bugging You? at Nature Preschool

We started off Nurturing Acorns (or Nature Preschool) by making butterflies out of pipe cleaners and coffee filters. I was impressed by how much time the artists used to make their masterpieces. Each was completely unique, with some that even had Mickey Mouse characters on them, per the child's request. Of course I see butterflies with Donald Duck on them in nature. :-) We had a few examples out for the children to look at and explore.

Adventure Path at Wellfield Botanic Gardens

In the springtime, making frequent visits to the same place can give very different results. We were just at Wellfield Botanic Gardens a few weeks ago; however, the difference was huge in how many plants were in bloom and the amount of color in the gardens. As we pulled up, my 5-year-old instantly knew this was the home of the Adventure Garden. "I LOVE the Adventure Garden!" He was excited and ready for some exploring!

White-tailed Deer in Spring

White Tail Deer, Public Domain

White-tailed Deer
Family Cervidae
Extinct in Indiana by 1930s
Reintroduced in 1934 and populations from Michigan immigrated south
Home range 1 to 2 miles

Deer in Spring
Males start growing antlers again, triggered by increased sunlight (mid-March to April)
Shed thick winter coats through a process called molting

Friday, April 25, 2014

Beavers in Spring

I'm trying a little different format today. Here is information I pulled together on beavers.  These vegetarians can be found in our area along the rivers. They were reintroduced in the 1930s to the state. 

American Beaver, image from public domain

Castor Canadensis

Called the “sacred center” of land by Native Americans as it creates rich watery habitat for other animals

“Engineers of wilderness”

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Twig Sculpting at Fernwood Botanical Gardens and Nature Preserve

I think that part of my work’s allure is its impermanence, the life cycle that is built into the growth and decay of saplings. My focus has always been the process of building a work and allowing those who pass to enjoy the daily changes or drama of building a sculpture as well as the final product. However, the line between trash and treasure is thin, and the sculptures, like the sticks they are made from, begin to fade after two years.  Often the public imagines that a work of art should be made to last, but I believe that a sculpture, like a good flower bed, has its season.
– Patrick Dougherty (source)

I volunteered a couple of days to help with Patrick Dougherty's twig sculpture at Fernwood Botanical Gardens and Nature Preserve. I heard what they were doing and jumped at the chance to work with an installation artist. I did a little research to understand who Pat is and what he does. Fernwood shared a couple of excellent videos on his work. Here is one from an installation in North Carolina. Here is a clip introducing a documentary of his work in Bending Sticks. There have been numerous articles in the local papers as well. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Spring Wildflower Walk at Maple Wood Nature Center

Maple Wood Nature Center has a beautiful building, active wildlife viewing window, and delightful woods. It backs up to property that is now owned by Acres Land Trust with connected trails, making the natural area of the preserve even larger. We were scheduled to be out in LaGrange today, so were delighted there was also a wildflower walk this afternoon. Scott Beam is the naturalist at Maple Wood and is a fountain of natural knowledge. In this video, he explains the opportunities to learn about nature with LaGrange County Parks and encourages us all to get outside. I can relate to his sentiments on teaching as it is very much a part of me as well.

Here is a review I did of a winter hike we took at Maple Wood last winter. It includes some pictures of inside the nature center. There aren't as many hands-on things for the children; however, there are excellent guide books, a great wildlife viewing window, and many, many stuffed animals and a few displays of nests and such. We found a nest nearby. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Birds in Spring

Our Nature Preschool group at Woodlawn Nature Center had smaller numbers due to Spring Break, yet was still very rewarding. We started with several gathering activities, such as making a bird collage or birds in a nest. Cutting old magazines is great for fine motor skills and using scissors. Children also could explore birds and color parts of birds, check out the wildlife viewing window, explore sensory bins, and more.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Spring Walk at Wellfield Botanic Gardens

Tuesdays at Wellfield Botanic Gardens are free, or "pay what it's worth"-donations are gratefully accepted. We were nearby waiting for a child, so thought we'd take a stroll since it was so nice outside.

We always have to check out the elk--it's neat there are three beautiful, nature-inspired ones in a single area. An older brother tried to force a younger one to pose for a picture--that just doesn't really happen at 1 1/2!


As we walked, we noticed that spring was just awakening. For the most part at this very moment (though I'm sure it is changing daily), there are just a few pockets of color. They are exquisite and merit close inspection!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Holograms and Lasers at ETHOS Science Center

We love going to the Sneak Peek Science nights at ETHOS Science Center in Elkhart! It is usually the third Thursday of the month in the evening. We arrived right after a bus pulled up and they shared a couple of the passes with us. The cost is a dollar per person. In March the theme was holograms and lasers. Many of the rooms had extra special activities to explore the theme. In addition, all the regular displays are up. While we have been there many times, we still like going back and interacting with the displays. The first room we visited had holograms that we needed to use flashlights to see. Others were displayed on the wall and around the room to see floating images and special tricks.

Fairies at Nature Preschool

What a great time at the nature preschool program at Woodlawn Nature Center last week. We started with several fairy and gnome related options, such as counting, puzzles, and herb playdough! The lavender play dough smelled divine! 

The playdough was popular! It smelled good and was easy for little hands to construct fairy villages and houses.