Sunday, December 21, 2014

Michiana Winter Guide

Michiana Winter Guide

by Dr. Carla Gull

The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?
J. B. Priestley

It's cold outside. How do you connect with nature during the winter? We have great options in the greater Michiana area.

Outdoor Options

Take a First Day Hike at one of the local State Parks or find a trail near you on New Year's Day. What a great way to start the new year!

Try inner tubing at Ferrettie/Baugo Creek County Park.

Go snowshoeing! You want a fair amount of snow for this. Last winter was great for it! We went at Ferrettie/Baugo Creek County Park, renting snowshoes there.

Cross Country Skiing can be fun. Outdoor Adventures has a list of places for skiing in general in the greater area here.

Zoom down the toboggan run at Pokagon State Park.

Take a winter walk at Wellfield Botanic Gardens or Cobus Creek. Also try any of these places to walk in Elkhart during the winter--it will be a very different experience than spring or summer.

Take a winter bird hike with the South Bend Elkhart Audubon Society.

Sledding at Potato Creek State Park or Ox Bow Park. See our lessons from sledding and the broken window. Where do you go sledding? Bonneyville Mill, Abshire Park? 

Go ice skating! Try NIBCO Water and Ice Park and Howard Park

Try outdoor photography

Visit a local Natural Playground. The experience is quite different in the winter. 

Even in winter an isolated patch of snow has a special quality.                            Andy Goldsworthy

Fun at Home

Make your own Maple Syrup
Make Nature Art
Start a Rock Collection
Create an indoor fort! Or take it outside!

Develop a Loose Parts of Natural Treasures play area inside. Let your children have their own natural stuff
Work on 4-H projects.
Have indoor snow fun--cutting snowflakes, watching water vaporize, and make snow ice cream!
Been stuck at home too long? Try these ideas for indoor winter fun!
Create a winter outdoor play station. Include sleds, buckets, shovels, etc.

Snow provokes responses that reach right back to childhood.                          Andy Goldsworthy

Indoor Places to Explore

Visit a Nature Center
We particularly enjoy the wildlife viewing windows during the winter. Try a hike beforehand if you're up for being outside. Also watch their program schedule to combine the visit with great nature education! 
Local ones include: 
MapleWood Nature Center
Love Creek
Rum Village
Rieth Interpretive Center
Merry Lea Environmental Center
Bendix Woods
Woodlawn Nature Center
Pokagon State Park
Potato Creek State Park
Kalamazoo Nature Center
Fernwood Botanical Gardens and Nature Center

Here are a few other places to explore. TIP: If we are just going to go straight inside, I usually just have the kids wear a smaller jacket rather than their bulkier coats. They can tie it around their waist or easily carry it rather than lugging around the masses of coats.

ETHOS Science Center has a special night the third Thursday of the month. We've really enjoyed these! It's much easier (and cheaper) to just go and enjoy while they set up all the experiments and explorations for us. (They no longer do this but are moving to a cool new building!)

The Elkhart County Historical Museum is always a great visit. 

Check out a planetarium through Penn-Harris-Madison School Corporation. Here is their schedule

Kalamazoo Valley Museum has great places to explore!

The Curious Kids Museum and Discovery Zone are fun indoor places that also have some natural themes.

Festivals and Events to Explore

Do citizen scientist activity with a Christmas Bird Count. This is a great list by Outdoor Adventures with dates and contact information for local Christmas Bird Counts.
Start the New Year out right with a First Day Hike! We have several within an hours drive or so. See the schedule here.
Ice Sculpture Contests! We like the one in Shipshewana. There is also one for the January First Friday in Goshen and others in the area.
Sugar Camp Days at Bendix Woods County Park or Sugar Tapping Days at Maplewood Nature Center
Science Alive at the downtown St. Joseph County Library.  It is great!

Here are additional nature study in winter ideas.

Tools to Use in the Winter:

Magnifying glasses
Scavenger hunts
Notebooks and pencils

What I Like to Pack in our Winter Bag:

Extra hats and gloves
Snow Pants
Pocket warmers
Snacks that can handle the cold
An extra towel
Plastic grocery bags
Keep extra sleds in the back of the vehicle

Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.                                  John Ruskin