Monday, October 27, 2014

Pumpkin Pounding

Last month we saw golf tees pounded into pumpkins at a fall festival at the Early Learning Center in Granger. Of course, we had to try it. This morning we tried it out at nature preschool at Woodlawn Nature Center; however, my 5-year-old had been itching to try it once he saw the golf tees . After school I let him pound away!

I found a big pack of golf tees online and figured we could find other uses for them as well. Some people may be working on carving pumpkins; we're working on fine motor skills, using tools, and building skills.

It was so popular that the older boys (8 and 10) wanted in on the action. The younger one (2) wanted more turns and has now learned the word goggles. We even had to bring it all down to Grandma and Grandpa's house so the fun could continue through the evening! It was a hit with all the boys from ages 2-10!

My tips:
1. I like the kids using the safety goggles. I'm not sure they are essential with the mallet, but having eye protection is helpful. Plus, it helps it feel more official. We used a real hammer while at preschool today. As I saw the claw heading back toward toddler faces, I was assured that they were wearing goggles.
2. Some of the heads ended up getting damaged. I wonder if we'll be able to use these tees again. Still it's been an interesting challenge for them.  
3. Child sized tools are helpful. We used what we had, but tools their size would have been better.
4. We can't wait to introduce rubber bands to these to make pumpkin geoboard shapes! I wonder how the children will help expand how these may be used or how they might embellish them more. 
5. My 5-year-old wanted to push the tees into the pumpkin enough to get it started. He's still figuring out how to hold the tee while it gets going. I started the tees for the 2-year-old. 
6. It seemed helpful to have a large pumpkin. 
7. For younger children, holding the tool closer to the head gave more control. 

Leaf Salt Dough Bowls

At church recently, I noticed the upper elementary girls making a fun project that I thought I'd document. They made salt dough in a variety of colors and squashed the colorful balls down to make a calico of colors. After rolling the dough out flat, they used leaves for a template and cut around the shapes. It's colorful and organic shaped!

They draped their cut out leaves over bowls to air dry as a bowl shape. These will be so pretty! 

Saturday, October 18, 2014


Last night we went to Gene Stratton-Porter's State Historic Site for their Owl-O-Ween! We have been for tours of the house in the past. Read about it here. It's a great place where nature, history, and literature converge! It was a great evening to attend the Owl-O-Ween! The grounds were decorated for the festivities, with decorations along our walk and many stations to visit. It cost $3/person, with the youngest free. I thought it was a reasonable price with all that was included. Excuse the blurry picture, but we made treat bags as we entered, with markers and stickers available.

The woods welcome visitors with lists of Gene Stratton-Porter's books. I've enjoyed many of them! We stopped at the sounds of the night station first, feeling a coyote pelt and listening to various sounds we might hear in the night!

Decorations were all along the stroll, with ghosts, creepy hands, black cats, and more! It was dark by the time we left; however, there were some lights to illuminate the creepy features. 


We were able to learn about bats at another station, seeing taxidermy bats, some in acrylic blocks, and learning more information about bats. They are often misunderstood. It was a nice evening for a stroll. Dressing up was bonus for the kids! Okay, they really liked all the candy they got along the way as well! 

The fall colors were a gorgeous backdrop for Gene's garden! Soarin' Hawk Raptor Rehab was there to release several birds back into the wild and to educate us about a few birds that are injured and cannot be released. It was great to see the Red-tailed Hawk released! What a treat! 

We saw several types of owls, including these short-eared owls, which are rare in our area. They have their own stories and personalities. The young lady on the right is Alexandra Forsythe. She does a lot of work through the Indiana Young Birders Club--she's going far with her outreach, knowledge, and ambition!

We also saw a couple of screech owls, both the red phase and the gray phase. They are a lot smaller and more common in this area than some of the other owls. Another bird was released as well.

Another station had a simulated night area--a fun place to crawl! We could also sort animals by nocturnal, crepuscular, and diurnal. I think we don't always realize there is greater variety than just saying nocturnal or during the day as far as habits of animals go. I know I've seen and heard some of them outside of the "typical" time. 

Another station had salamanders, turtle shells, snake skins, frogs, and a toad. Fun to see these up close!

The fall colors over the lake were gorgeous! 

Tours are available at the house during normal hours. It's neat to see how Gene might have lived, her book collection, and her attention to natural details throughout the home. It looks great in fall! 

There was a craft station with spider web rubbing plates. I loved how they used glue to make a raised surface and enlarged the designs of smaller ones from the Growing Up Wild resource for additional ones. 


They also could make cute, cute toilet paper roll owls! We just saw this option online recently. Fun!

The last stop we visited had hot chocolate, pop corn, and owl pellets! My friend, Jay, from Indiana Master Naturalists was helping at the owl pellet station. It's always nice to catch up with him. I know it takes lots of volunteers to make something like this work. I appreciate how welcoming they were to my children and the knowledge they shared with us about creatures of the night. Thanks!

The owl pellets were a hit! My 8-year-old son really took time and concentrated on getting out every single bone he could from the fibers! They matched up bones to the different animals that were on the chart and also took their baggie of bones home with them. 


It's always nice to see owls out as well! We saw real ones and others that were preserved. The hot chocolate and popcorn, as well as a place to sit for a few minutes and listen to nighttime sounds.

I saw this tree walking around earlier and she let me take her picture. Love it! She even had leaves on her feet! There is also a display on the passenger pigeon upstairs as well. My children were surprised that an animal that had been so numerous that it covered the sky for 14 hours at a time while migrating is now extinct. This was a perfect end to remind us why we need to learn about our natural world and appreciate it. Thanks!

What did the kids like? The candy, of course! Digging a little deeper, they enjoyed seeing the birds of prey and their release, hearing the sounds of night creatures, and being outside in this beautiful fall weather!


In our nature preschool group at Woodlawn Nature Center, we studied spiders the other week. I've heard several people mention recently that it's important for children to understand young that spiders are not creepy, crawly, and scary. I admit, I have been scared a couple of times when I found HUGE ones in my closet while living in Japan (like size of my hand!); however, they serve a good purpose for the most part. We're also unlikely to encounter one of the dangerous ones as they are reclusive in our area.

To follow up from the last week, we did leaf rubbings in our journals. Then we drew a picture of a spider to evaluate what we already knew about spiders. One girl had a big circle with lots and lots of legs and two eyes. She has a beginning understanding of spiders, knowing they have body parts, eyes, and legs.

We made spider headbands. Spiders can have 2-8 eyes, always paired up. Web-spinning spiders rely more on touch and feel as they cannot see well.  Those spiders who hunt their prey have a much better developed sense of sight.


For story time, we read Aaaarrgghh! Spider! and The Very Busy Spider; talked about body parts; and did a couple of songs/poems about spiders. Then we went outside, looking for spiders along the building and such. My son thought he wanted to build a spider web in the trees! :-) That would have been fun!

It's great to explore outdoors and take risks with these kids! 

I love seeing the movement and the action! We took along cardboard looms (sturdier with younger children) to weave natural items in them as we walked. We looked at various types of spider webs and thought weaving would be a good tie in. I was very impressed that looking high and low, the girl in our group that day was able to find a spider and a web on a plant! Good observation!

We had to pose for a couple of photos. My youngest is still wearing his spider hat out and about!

The looms turned out great! I love seeing the colors, textures, etc. that come from natural weaving. Here are other ideas I've collected on natural weaving. One guy is checking out the turtle at the nature center as well. 


For snack, we made banana spiders!

After snack, we had several activities during open exploration time, such as this spider sorting activity. Digging through the sensory items added more dimension and fine motor skills to it! 

We also could match spider webs, shapes, and spiders. Some spiders don't even make a web! We used these lacing cards from Growing Up Wild as well. I saw that someone traced these with glue to make rubbing plates this weekend at Gene Stratton Porter's Owl-O-Ween. I love finding new ideas! 

Later, we used fine motor skills to "straw for spiders". I've used this activity for so many Halloween get togethers. :-) It's always a hit! What a fun spider exploration! We learned about where spiders might live, what they like to eat, their body parts, types of webs, etc. We also strengthened fine motor skills, classifying, sorting, art appreciation, and more!