Enjoying an Indiana Summer!

Summer is officially here, and it has been nothing less than amazing thus far! It’s about creek stomping, firefly catching, and seemingly endless daylight. It’s about creating a whole new batch of memories and remembering those of days past. It’s slowing down. It’s cherishing the moment. Because this season too will pass.

Here in central Indiana, we have a lot of parks. We have over 12 within 20 minutes of our house! Needless to say, there is always plenty to choose from when choosing a day outing. Here are a few local events we’re looking forward to attending this summer!

#1. Bamboo Wind Chimes

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Create your own natural wind chime while learning about wind and what causes the wind to blow! What will your whimsical wind chime look like?
Recommended for ages 6 through adult.
$3/project (up to 2 people per project).

 

#2. Lil’ Explorers 

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Get to know the various kinds of animals that visit or live at McCloud Nature Park, visit the Bee House, and build a simple bird feeder to take home. For youngsters (age 2-5) with adult. $12 fee covers both child and adult. Maximum enrollment is 12 children. We prefer a 1:1 adult-to-child ratio, with the exception of siblings (in that case, one adult for two siblings is fine).

 

#3. Young Adventurers Camp

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Look for animals, build a shelter, and go on an adventure! Become an expert of all kinds of McCloud animals.
For kids ages 6-12.

 

#4. Creek Critters and Bugs

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Step into the natural habitat of our local aquatic creatures! Together we will capture water insects to see how healthy Big Walnut Creek’s ecosystem is. Be sure to wear closed-toe shoes in the creek to protect your feet. A towel and extra shoes and socks are also recommended, and don’t forget your water bottle!
(If the creek or weather conditions are unsafe, there will be alternative activities.)
This program is FREE to attend, appropriate for all ages, and no advance registration is required.

 

#5. Nature’s Floral Fireworks

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Nature is bursting with color in the summer and putting on a vibrant display just in time for the 4th of July! Learn to identify some of our native wildflowers and discover which ones will complement your landscaping!
Hiking terrain info: easy to moderate difficulty, natural and gravel surfaces, up to 2 miles.

 

#6. Firefly Night Hike

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Learn why fireflies flash (and why they never have to pay an electric bill!), and catch and release these bioluminescent insects! Registered participants will receive glow sticks and insect jars. Wear comfortable shoes and bring a water bottle.
Recommended for ages 6 through adult.
$5/person.

 

#7. Fly Fishing for Beginners

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Have you ever wanted to try fly fishing? Learn the basics of fly fishing during this hands-on program. We will go over some of the local fish that you can catch, as well as assemble fly fishing rods and practice casting on land. No fishing license is needed, as this is on land only. Dress for the weather and bring a water bottle.
Recommended for ages 13+.

 

#8. Bald Eagles

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These majestic birds have recovered from their endangered status, and it is much more common to spot bald eagles now. With any luck, we’ll see our national bird flying along Big Walnut Creek! Be sure to bring your camera and a water bottle, and wear comfortable hiking shoes as we learn all about these regal creatures who double as our national symbol. 
Hiking terrain info: easy to moderate difficulty, grass and gravel surfaces, up to 2 miles.
This program is FREE to attend, appropriate for all ages, and no advance registration is required.

 

#9. Mud Soup!

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Get messy! Help make mud soup and mud pies, paint with natural materials, create natural crafts, and play outdoor games.
For youngsters (age 2-5) with adult. $12 fee covers both child and adult. Maximum enrollment is 12 children. We prefer a 1:1 adult-to-child ratio, with the exception of siblings (in that case, one adult for two siblings is fine).

 

#10. Creek Stomp Hike #2

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Cool off and enjoy a splashing good time in Big Walnut Creek! Stomp in the water with Naturalists to learn about the health of the creek and to discover some great places to explore! Wear closed-toe water shoes or old sneakers, bring towels, and don’t forget your water bottle!
(If the creek or weather conditions are unsafe, there will be alternative activities.)
Recommended for ages 6+.

 

 

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A Charlotte Mason Summer

Summer is here  (we still can’t believe it)! With that being said, it’s time to step back and enjoy some calmness. One of our favorite things about the Charlotte Mason method is that it promotes short lessons, outdoor time, nature, books, and narration. Perfect for the calm summer we so often seek.  Here are some fun Charlotte Mason inspired activities to enjoy this beautiful summer!

National Sunglasses Day (4)

Teaching Kids How To Use A Map And Compass

Learning To Embroider 

Washing Farm Animals Sensory Bin

Weather Stones

Color Changing Flowers

Flower Fine Motor Activity

The Very Hungry Caterpillar 

Painting Sunflowers

Nature Suncatchers 

Leaf Threading

National Sunglasses Day (5)

Light and Shadow Painting

Rock Balancing

Making Mandala Art

Make A Stick Picture Frame

Name That Tree

Journey Sticks

Nature Cuffs

Bark Rubbings

Using the Senses Outdoors 

National Sunglasses Day (5)

Art and Nature Study with Beatrix Potter

How To Start A Family Nature Journal

Nature Journal For Kids

Nature Journal With Twig Binding

How To Make A Nature Display 

Printable Nature Journal

Julia Rothman Nature Journal Guides

Nature Log

Keeping A Nature Journal

Nature Observer

National Sunglasses Day (6)

5 Free Living Book For Nature Study

Billy and Blaze Series 

Living Forest Series 

Nature Reader Series

Robby-Bird Life

The Locust Story

A Horse Called Willing

James Herriot’s Treasury for Children

Learning From the Book of Nature

 

Old Trees, New Life- Camping Activity

When a tree falls, its life is over. But the tree can still give life to others. The dead tree becomes its own ecosystem, where plants, insects, and microorganisms thrive-from the mosses, ferns, and fungi that make the rotting tree their home to a whole host of bugs and bacteria that eat the tree and break it down into soil for new plants! Next time you see a dead log, take a close look and record your observations in your Field Journal. You just might be amazed by what you see.

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What You Do

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#1. Find a rotting log: Look for a tree that has fallen and that has wood breaking apart in pieces. It may be slightly damp.

 

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#2. Describe what the log looks like. What is growing on it? Can you see any mushrooms, ferns, mosses, or lichens? Are there baby trees or any other plants sprouting out of the wood?

 

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#3. Do you see any insects? What are they doing? Look for tiny piles of sawdust at the base of the log. This is evidence that insects have drilled into the wood, starting the decomposition process. The holes left behind create highways for fungi and bacteria to come in and break down the wood even further.

 

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#4.  Tap the log with your fingers. Is it hollow? Wet? Bone-dry? What does it smell like?

 

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#5. Put on your gloves and gently and carefully lift the log a few inches to see if you can take a peek underneath. What do you see? Are there insects underneath? What are they doing? What do they look like? When you’re done, put the log back.

 

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#6.  Use your magnifying glass to peek at the log itself. Do you see insects breaking it down? What do they look like under the magnifying glass? What about the plants growing on the tree? What do the mushrooms look like up close?

 

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#7. Draw and describe what you’ve seen in your field journal. Try to identify plants, animals, and insects by looking at your field guide or Nature Anatomy book! 

 

There is so much to learn! Head outdoors and explore! 🙂

 

 

Keeping a Field Journal

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

– Albert Einstein

 

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You’ve got your tent pitched and your fire pit set up-you’re finally at home in the wilderness. But one of the best parts of being in nature is exploring it,  and discovering the plants and animals that call your campsite home, sweet home. Keeping a field journal is a fun way to record what you see or hear while in the great outdoors. In it you can make drawings, describe in detail the plants and animals you come across, and collect leaves and flowers to press and tape right into your book. When you get home, you can gather more information at the library, local wildlife center, botanic garden, or online.

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What you need:

  • Sketchbook
  • Pencil
  • Colored pencils or markers
  • Watercolor set with brushes (optional)
  • Camera (optional)
  • Envelopes for holding any leaf, flower, feather, or other natural treasures that you may find along the trail.

You may find a pair of binoculars to come in handy. They will help you scope out wildlife from a safe distance!

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What You Do:

Get Organized

Before you begin, think about how you want to organize your journal. Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Organize by environment. If you camp in areas that have different climates and types of plant and animal life-say the woods one weekend, the desert another- you might want to make sections in your journal for every kind of place you go!
  • Organize by topic. Have an animal section, a plant section, bug section, and rock section. Add new entries to each part according to what you see.
  • Organize by camping trip. Keep a running journal of your trips. Gather your information, make sketches, and record your thoughts by journey.
  • Keep two journals. Make one a free-forum for notes, sketches, and collages of leaves, bark, and feathers. Then keep a second, more polished book where you can categorize the random info from the other book.

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Gather the Essentials

Before each entry, write down the date, time, name of your location, and other information that will provide the what, where, and when.

  • Date. Time of year can play a big part in what you see in the wild. In the autumn, many animals migrate and others are busy gathering food for the winter. Leaves begin to turn colors and fall. This season is great for watching foragers-animals that gather their food and hide it for safe-keeping-such as squirrels and chipmunks. In the spring, many animals search for mates, graze for food, and have babies. Trees begin to bud and flowers bloom. Spring is a great time to look and listen for songbirds. Winter is sort of quiet for some animals, but you’ll see lots of activity in the summertime.
  • Time of day.  Most critters are more active at dawn and dusk (though some, like owls and snakes, are more lively at night). So if you want to spot these animals or insects, plan to get up early or stay up late. Some plants are more active at different times of day as well, like the morning glory,a flowering vine that usually blooms in the morning and closes during the day.
  • Notes on the environment.  Are you exploring a pine forest? Wading in a brook? Sitting on a rock at the oceans edge? Describe where you are and what it looks, sounds, and smells like.
  • What’s the weather?  Is it sunny, snowy, or somewhere in between?

 

Gather Information:

A field journal can document more than just animals-it can include bugs and plant life, too. Here’s a general list of questions to ask yourself.

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Animals

  • Describe the animal. What did it look like? What was its behavior? Did it make a sound? Where did you see it? Was it alone?
  • Did it leave behind any tracks? How many toes were on each foot? Are there claws? What is the shape and size of the toe pads and the heel? What kind of pattern do the tracks make as a group? Sketch the track(s) in your journal, then try to identify them.
  • Identify the animal. Is it a mammal, bird, reptile, or amphibian? When you get home, you may want to research the animal further. Leave space to write your findings. Some questions to consider: Does the male look any different from the female? What kind of home does it live in? What are its feeding habits? How does its body develop or change over its lifetime?

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Insects

  • Carefully collect an insect (for observation only) and describe it. What color is it? Does it have wings? How many legs does it have? How many antennae? Any weird behavior?
  • Identify the insect. Leave room in your journal for answers to these questions (you may need to do some research). Where does the bug live? Does the male look different from the female? Is the insect part of a colony? What is its life cycle?

 

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Plants

  • Choose a plant. Draw it, and if there are any leaves, flowers, branches, or bark  on the ground nearby, paste them in. We love pressing the plants into our journals to make them last longer.
  • Describe the plant. What kind of leaves does it have? How tall is the plant or tree? What is its overall shape? Are there any flowers? If so, what do they look and feel like? What color and texture are the bark or stems? Where does the plant live? Is the soil wet, or dry, dirt or sand? Can you tell how the seeds move around?
  • Identify the plant. Using information you gathered, do some research at home to figure out what kind of plant it is. If you like, leave room in your journal to answer the following questions: What is the life cycle? Does the plant serve as food or shelter for any animal? Does the plant lose its leaves in the fall?

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Keeping a field journal is a little like writing in a diary, except instead of writing about yourself, you write about what you observe all around you. It’s great fun, and provides a wonderful keepsake to remember your trips by! If you aren’t able to get outdoors much this summer, be sure to check out Nature Anatomy! It’s one of our favorite completed nature journals!