Thursday, April 15, 2010

Homeschool Nature Walk

We went on a Homeschool Nature Walk at one of our local County parks.  The theme for this walk was Nesting Time.   This was the first time we had been to this particular location so the kids had a lot of fun exploring the Visitors Center before the walk started.  They had a series of buttons you could push to hear the sounds various local animals make, then lift up a wooden flap to see a picture and read details about the animal.  Both kids had fun with this and Vicki loved imitating the sounds.  They were also both pretty good at guessing the animal from the sound.

The Walk started with a discussion on what animals make nests and what materials they use.  My kids are definitely not shy so they spoke up often even though they usually didn't know the answer.  George had a little trouble sitting still for this part and ended up running back and forth behind the seats.

Once the walk started George found some friends to hang out with.  There were two older boys (around 10 or 11) and one girl (9 years old) who he alternated between.  The boys were running ahead of everyone else but the girl would walk with him and hold his hand.   Vicki alternated between trying to catch up with George and riding piggy back.   There were a lot of parts where the "trail" was very overgrown and rocky but for the most part the kids managed well. 

We visited a beaver dam and saw the difference one animal can make to a habitat.  The blocking of a small stream resulted in a swampy, flooded area where many of the trees died off since they were not type that thrived with very wet roots.  We discussed how this was now the new natural habitat for the area and whether it was a good location for birds to build their nests.  We discussed if it would provide shelter, food and protection and decided that the many dead trees and many (many, many) small insects made this a good bird habitat.  We saw a red bellied woodpecker (we also have one of these in our backyard occasionally), a turkey vulture, lots of swallows, a brown creeper (discussed how well he blended in with the bark of the tree), and a tufted titmouse.

the beaver dam

the resulting swampland

There were many things to look at along the way.   There were some ferns growing that were in various life stages that we were able to get a real close look at - perfect for our Plant study.  We also saw tadpoles and frogs in the stream below the beaver dam.

The walk was fun, but exhausting.  George was very energetic and kept wanting to run ahead while Vicki needed to ride piggy-back about half the time.  We will be doing two more of these walks - one in May on Migration and one in June on Bones.   

Once we returned to the Visitors Center we played a really fun game that I'm trying to figure out how to adapt for fewer people.

Two hula hoops were set up about 3 feet apart - these were the bird nests.  Cups filled with snacks (pretzels in this case) were set up about 10 feet away from each hula hoop - one cup was designated for each nest.  The group was divided into two groups (one for each nest), then each group was divided into babies and parents.  The babies sat in the nest (hula hoop) with an empty cup each and chirped for food.  The parents had to go one at a time to retrieve a piece of food, bring it back to the nest and give it to the baby chirping the loudest.  They also had to remember to eat themselves.  At first, the babies were very young and one parent had to stay at the nest at all times so they had to alternate going.  After a little while we stopped and counted how much food each baby had and if the parents had remembered to feed themselves.  In our "nest", the parents forgot to feed themselves, I was the loudest baby but Vicki kept taking the pretzels so we had a bully in our nest.  :-)

For the next run, both parents could go together but they had to be quick so that the babies were safe.  This time they remembered to feed themselves but one of our "babies" (Vicki - who didn't blink an eye at some strange lady picking her up and walking away with her) was taken from the nest.   The guide tried to steal George from his nest but he went and ran back to it on his own.

The game was a lot of fun and definitely made it clear (especially to the older kids) how much work it was for birds to keep their babies fed and safe.

To see what others are doing this week, visit Preschool Corner & 5K too at Homeschool Creations.


  1. What a great walk and a fun group activity in the end. It's amazing that beaver changed the landscape so much - great hands-on lesson on animals and birds in the nature.

  2. okay, that is a super cool game, and it would be hard to adapt to smaller kids, but man would it be fun.