Friday, January 17, 2014

Nature Study at Elm Fork Nature Preserve

Today we met up with some other homeschoolers for a nature study hike at Elm Fork Nature Preserve in Carrollton.



When we go on a nature hike, we always have supplies like a magnifying glass, field guides to identify plants or bugs we see, and maybe even a nature journal to draw pictures of cool finds.  I was impressed that Nicholas put together his own pack for our nature hike that included his Leatherman multi-tool, flashlight, compass, pocket knife, trail guides, water, and more.  He did this all on his own.  I was especially impressed to see that he packed it all in his old Nintendo DS case.  Out with the video games and into the woods!



Rachel liked studying this damaged branch we found on the ground.




Rachel was in charge of our map and did a great job keeping us on the right path.  There is really only one big loop but she did a great job with her map reading skills.



We talked about trail etiquette including staying on the trail.  They came up with many reasons why it is important to stay on the trail.  If we walk off the path, we will trample and damage the foliage.  We could walk in poison ivy.  We would be more likely to disturb a snake or other creature hiding in the grass.  We could get lost.



Rachel wore two references card necklaces that I've made in the past.



One shows her pictures of poison ivy and the other has pictures of birds she will likely see in our area.




We used the reference cards a few times and did learn along the trail but it was so nice just getting outside and spending time in God's beautiful world.




Rachel found some wheat grass and collected the wheat from it.  She has loved doing this on nature hikes ever since we studied wheat in our Patience unit last year.



I don't think I ever posted that study but we collected our wheat, studied the parts of the plant, toured a bread factory, made our own bread, and even chaffed our own wheat in the kitchen.  I love that she remembers a lot of this even though she was so young at the time.


She enjoyed jumping on the bridge and hearing the funny sound it made!




We talked about what might have happened to kill this tree.  Rachel said "Woodpeckers".  I talked about some other possible causes.




We stepped a little closer to study the wood. She said the holes looked like woodpeckers had pecked at it.  It does look like that could be woodpecker holes and we had seem some woodpecker damage earlier on the trail.  But we also talked about other reasons that a tree might die like bugs, disease, lightening strikes, poor soil conditions, etc.



We found a little nest in a bush.



I gently pulled a branch down and peeked in the nest.  It was abandoned.




Rachel and I hung back and took our time studying anything that caught her eye.  Nicholas spent most of the time on the trail with the older kids and parents but we would catch up with them from time to time.



We heard some rustling in the nearby brush.  We stopped and listened.  Another mom suggested it might be an armadillo.


Rachel got out her field guide for identifying animal tracks.  She looked at the page of buffalo and moose.  She said that we probably wouldn't find those animal tracks here so she turned to the smaller animals like raccoons and armadillos.




The ground was dry and packed and hard to find animal tracks but we had fun hunting for them anyway.



Rachel found this leaf on the ground and studied it with a magnifying glass.  She then told me that a caterpillar must have eaten the hole in it.  Sounds like a good assumption to me.


Along the way, Nicholas found this cool forked stick.  He said it is like Loki's sword (Thor's brother from Marvel Avengers super heroes).



After the hike, we went to the playground to burn off some energy.


Rachel fell in love with this.



You just hang on to a bar and it rolls along a track to the other side.



I loved watching Nicholas.  He stayed right there to help Rachel on and off.



I loved watching Rachel's smile and her confidence grow as she tried something new for the first time.




I took a picture of the mechanism and track so maybe Daddy can make one for our own backyard!  The kids would love it!



Rachel laughed as Nicholas put on quite a show for her. 



Nicholas' favorite thing to do is always climbing.  He's like a cat - I can always find him on the high spots at a playground.



 My sweet girl is more drawn to tunnels and slides.




I'm not sure what he was trying to do but Nicholas almost got his leg stuck down in this contraption.



They played a game where they had to travel through the whole playground without ever touching the lava (aka mulch).  Nicholas was able to do it but Rachel had to ask for help to cross the monkey bars.  I love the creative games they come up with!




We had a wonderful time on the nature hike visiting with old friends and making new ones.  And except for Nicholas' chipping his tooth, we had a lot of fun climbing and playing on the playground.



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