Thursday, April 10, 2008

Homeschool Field Trip, or Look at What's in a Pond

This morning the kids and I went to a nature center with our homeschooling group where we learned about food chains and magfly nymphs and dragonfly nymphs (they're huge!) and snails and other sundry forms of pond life. And we learned that when the workers at the center scoop up a big bucket of pond life because it's raining outside and we'll just do the observing inside with trays and plastic lids and magnifying glasses, they end up with two little Blue Gills, the state fish for Illinois! We further learned that with perseverance and good balancing skills, you can scoop up the blue gill and put it in a big glass jar for better observation with nothing more than a plastic spoon.

We also learned that some of the kids can make great frog sounds. Also, that one of the kids had once seen a swan.

We learned that deciding whether a squirmy, skittering creature in the water in the plastic lid really is a magfly nymph is really difficult. It could have been another kind of nymph that I don't remember the name of now. Suffice it to say, we learned that the lakes, ponds, rivers, etc. are teeming with life right now. We also learned that sometimes one of the kids doesn't mind getting his hands dirty when he's mixing up compost in plastic buckets before filling pots and planting sunflower seeds to take home. And, sometimes, his mother reported to me, this same kid will freak out if a little yogurt gets on his hand at lunch.

I learned that my daughter loves to raise her hand and answer questions. I also learned that after the kids became various creatures in food chains my daughter thought it would be fun if everyone acted like the creature that was on their card for the rest of the time at the nature center. She politely asked the instructor if they could do so. She doesn't know that there's an agenda here. Homeschooler! I learned that my daughter knows about prairie burns and that they, in her words, "help the grass and plants grow quicklyer!" Yep. That they do.

I learned that my almost 10 year old son kind of felt insulted when the very nice instructor asked everyone if they know what compost is. There was a certain tone to his voice when he said, "Yes." that seemed like it would be followed by, "Duh!" Gotta try to soften that edge a little bit, I think. Smart kids don't like to be patronized, or insulted, or condescended to do they? Although, to give him some credit, he did not say "Duh!" So, we got that going for ourselves. He also shot his hand upward whenever a question was asked of the group with the same kind of Arnold Horshack zealousness that my daughter displayed.

I learned that the instructor was impressed when he noted that the group of about 16 children was quiet and was hanging on his every word. I also learned that a group of interested kids sitting on the floor and slowly encroaching on the instructor as he shows different kinds of nests can be a little overwhelming and Night-of-the-Living-Deadish, but in a happy, interested way. And then I learned that even though he asks them nicely to give him a little more room, they will back away and then will slowly get closer and closer again any way.

Lastly, I learned that the parents in our group really enjoy each other and like to talk at the end of any outing and that the kids do too. Socialization anyone?

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