Monday, June 6, 2011

Dear Metro Park System: I love you!

In the past week, we have availed ourselves of our local Metro Park System three times; twice we went walking at two different parks, and today we went to one of their free "Nature for Kids" programs and it was absolutely wonderful. Today's topic was pond creatures. After a brief instructional / safety lecture, we were given long-handled nets, colanders, and little tubs of water. We scooped our nets in the pond, then dumped the contents into the colanders and poked around in them with plastic spoons to see what kinds of creatures we had captured. Any creatures were then gently picked up with the spoons and put into the tubs of water. We were given laminated cards with pictures to identify our finds. Each group quickly collected lots of interesting specimens! Here's our tub (Sorry for the low-res photos - I have got to start remembering to bring the good camera with me instead of relying on the cell!):

We collected snails, tadpoles at various stages of development, dragonfly larvae, damselfly larvae, water boatmen, fishing spiders, and our most exciting find: a water scorpion! Here he is:

After everyone had time to collect their critters, the volunteer had us all bring our tubs together so we could all inspect each others' finds while he told us a little bit about each creature. From him we learned that the water scorpion got its name from its long thin tail - but it doesn't use it to sting, it's actually a tube which is used like a snorkel! It just hangs in the water with its snorkel butt tube sticking out, and waits for yummy things to swim by underneath it and then it grabs them and sucks their blood out. As the volunteer was explaining this to us, our water scorpion had captured our poor dragonfly larva and was having it for a snack. Max thought this was very cool. Here you can see the predator and his prey:

"nom nom nom..."

Here's Max scooping up a snail to investigate.

And this little girl found this a ginormous fishing spider!

All I can think about right now is how my best childhood friend and I used to go swimming in this murky pond on her parents' farm all the time... the gunk at the bottom was so thick, you would sink to your shins with each step. I can still smell the funky smell that the water left on us, that we would immediately have to go shower off. Anyways, I knew there were lots of things living in ponds, but now I can't believe we were swimming with all of THESE guys, and more!

Every so often, I feel like the picture I have in my head of how we are going to "do" homeschooling comes into sharper focus, and I definitely see us spending a LOT of time in our Metro Parks! Today I sat down with my "Programs & Events Guide" and a pen, and circled many more fun things for us to do. I also have a goal of seeing every park - there are 15 of them - and when the boys are older, I really want to do a "Walk in the Woods" - style trek along the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, (nearly completed) which stretches about 100 miles, from Cleveland to New Philadelphia.

It's funny - this is the time of year when school is just about out for the summer, and here we are - on a Sunday no less - going out and learning stuff! How crazy is that?

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