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Nature Thursdays—turtles at Independence Lake

We are fortunate to have a really wonderful naturalist with our County Parks and Recreation. We've done several hikes and other presentations with her in the past, and this summer she is offering Kids' Nature Thursdays in which she will cover a different topic at a different park each week. I knew that it would be a lovely program because I know she's great with kids in the way that I like people to be great with kids—by talking to them as equals and giving them respect and space in which to learn. Today was the first of the summer Thursdays, an hour all about turtles. We touched shells we learned some facts, we played with a couple captives, we went looking for the real things in the lake, and we scouted out some nests, finding two in tact (and putting protection over them) and many that had fallen victim to raccoons (which allowed us to come home with shells, and I had forgotten how rubbery they are, not at all like chicken eggs, something Calvin noticed right away).

I learned today that the snapping turtle, unlike most others, has very little shell on his underside, which means he has to be more aggressive and ornery. I learned that my son already knew that, and what a reptile was, and what it meant to be cold blooded. He'd been reading up, unbeknownst to me, in preparation for today's session. I think that was my favorite new bit of knowledge for the day.

Then, being already at the park I figured that Thursdays would be a great time to get Calvin out hiking on his own two feet. He's been out many times before, of course, but really only in the backpack. Today he and I did a mile trail through the wetlands after turtle appreciation hour. We took lunch and ate it sitting atop the lookout, where we promptly got lightly rained on, but to no ill effect. So the weather was iffy at best, we had a great time anyhow.

We identified milkweed, poison ivy, yarrow, and a number of trees. We also saw many butterfly species, including the cabbage white, lady skippers, spring azure, and peck's skipper. Calvin is pretty good with the cabbage white (and a number of other butterflies that visit our own yard regularly), and he knows most of the plants already, but we took some laminated identifying pamphlets with us for fun.

Rain and all, it was a great afternoon, and Calvin is really excited about what I have dubbed "nature day" next Thrusday. He's also asked to go on another hike this weekend, and with the cooler weather it seems like a great time to explore another local path. We'll continue breaking him in on increasingly long trails as the summer progresses. I have images of us hiking into rustic camping already!

My only disappoint from the trip was that, after getting a-hold of nature journals and remembering to pack both them and colored pencils, it was too wet to get them out. When we got home, though, Calvin was quick to jump at the opportunity. So these are not nature illustrations the way that I had them in mind, with the two of us sitting and sketching what we see (and oh, how often will it occur that I imagine an event one way but have to be content with another outcome), but they are his impressions of our hike today. The first is his sketch of us eating lunch on top of a wooden lookout. The second is his sketch of the trail as seen from above. And then, of course, the jounral entry. I was surprised that he didn't add a picture to this as well, but if he does so in the future I will come back and add it.

I linked this post to share at Saturday's Artist.

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Reader Comments (1)

My son is obsessed with turtles these days! What a fun trip! You should check out my field trip friday blog hop!!
June 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer Altman

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