Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve

One of the benefits of currently living on the Forgotten Coast here in Florida is enjoying all the natural beauty around us.

This weekend we took a family field trip to nearby Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve. Located near East Point, FL just before you drive over the Apalachicola Bay to St. George Island, this Reserve has an incredible Nature Walk, an Overlook for observing the Bay, and a wonderful Nature Center with lots of specimens, exhibits as well as aquariums.

Welcome to the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve (ANERR)!
The littles exploring the Nature Trail.
Purple Martin houses near the Bay Overlook.
The kids loved looking across the Apalachicola Bay at St. George Island.
After thoroughly exploring the Nature Walk and the Bay Overlook, we headed up to the Nature Center.
The boys were amazed at the size of this whale backbone that was found.
This wonderful interactive map showed the various boundaries for nearby parks and reserves and sensitive areas.
Aquarium residents Horseshoe Crab and Atlantic Stingray. We loved watching them interact!
diamondback terrapin
Aquarium resident Diamondback Terrapin.
water collection
ANERR collects rain water and it’s quite the show! There are two pipes for observing water moving from the roof to cisterns below the building, where it is used for flushing toilets and other non-potable uses.
activity guide
My book worm already working on the Activity Guide she got from the gift shop.





Junior Naturalists at San Antonio Botanical Garden

I love sharing about the educational opportunities available at San Antonio Botanical Gardens. In addition to their seasonal exhibits like Savage Gardens (which is going on through the rest of the year), the Garden has a wonderful selection of curriculum material on their website. Educational material can be found here and here.

We took full advantage of this resource this morning. The children and I met several other homeschool families from our local homeschool group at the Garden this morning. Together the children worked through the Junior Naturalist Program. Even with the hot and humid weather, the kids had a great time exploring the Garden and earning their Junior Naturalist Patch.

The Junior Naturalist booklet describe a junior naturalist as “someone ready to learn about plants and explore nature.” This program is designed to get children interested in learning about plants and exploring nature, so that they understand why plants are so important and worth protecting.

This booklet contains fourteen activities – some are game-type activites such as word unscrambles and decipher activities, and some are activities to be done while exploring the Garden.

To complete the Junior Naturalist program, children are expected to complete a certain amount of activities. For ages 3-5, children should complete 3 activies and one reflection question. For ages 6-8, children should complete 6 activities and two reflection questions. For ages 9-12, children should complete 9 activities and two reflection questions.

After working through the Junior Naturalist Program booklet, the children then receive a patch and are officially Junior Naturalists!





Illustrating her ice cream sundae containing ingredients found in the Tropical Room.
Showing off her Junior Naturalist badge!

Savage Gardens at San Antonio Botanical Garden

I love sharing about various events that take place at San Antonio Botanical Garden. We have had a family membership since we relocated to the Alamo City in 2011, and we have been so pleased with events, exhibits, classes available to adults as well as children, and educational material available on their website. We always try to make it for the opening events for exhibits because the Garden puts a lot of time and effort into planning activities and crafts to kick things off.

This weekend Savage Gardens opened here, and there were opening day activities scheduled Saturday 10:00 – 2:00. The exhibit itself includes several species of carnivorous plants, such as Venus Flytrap, Sundew and various types of Pitcher plants. There are several artistic structures erected throughout the Conservatory, where the exhibit is located. In addition, there are several education stations set up, covering the different insects that carnivorous plants consume, and the various methods in which they trap their prey.

For the opening event, there was a Monster Plant obstacle course set up for the children, which was a hit! There was a Venus Flytrap puppet craft, Carnivorous Plants mind puzzles,and an opportunity to plant a sundew to take home.

Chipotle was on hand providing free lunch, along with very nice plant activity guides for children. Admission included tickets for paletas as well, very welcome in the middle of the heat currently baking the city.

The family had an awesome time, and we went home with our potted sundew, as well as a Venus Flytrap we purchased from the gift shop. Kyri is quite enamored with her new “pet” Flytrap and is waiting anxiously for it to capture its first meal.

Even though the opening event is over, the Savage Gardens exhibit itself runs from June 29th through December 1st, 2013.











Art Works Field Trip

We recently participated in a field trip with several homeschooling families, to Art Works Studio here in San Antonio. The kids all had a great time exploring several art stations that were set up just for them. Activities included playdough, painting with tempura, stamp art, spin art, crayon rubbings, sand art, pencil and marker drawings.

Art Works has a great schedule, with several kinds of classes, open art, and even classes geared specifically toward homeschoolers. They also offer private field trips.

They can accommodate a group with a minimum of 10 children and maximum of 35.  And because these Field Trips are private, you have the entire studio reserved just for your group!

I am really looking forward to our next visit to Art Works. This is a great opportunity for children to explore different art media – and when they are done, you don’t have a mess to clean up!

artworks3 artworks2 artworks1


Lego Comes to San Antonio

Most people in my generation as well as the younger generations, have grown up with Lego blocks. I used to love building houses, buildings, towers, and vehicles as a child. The Lego kits available now are much more complicated than just the basic bricks I grew up with. But the kids really love building with them!

San Antonio just got their first Lego Store, located at the North Star Mall, and we recently went and checked it out for the first time.

This was a fun shopping trip! The entire back walk is covered with bins to choose indivual bricks. You can fill two different sized cups with whatever bricks you need. While the store had basic building sets (including Duplo for younger kids), it was the special kits that were awesome to check out. Trains, Hobbit kits, Superman kits, Ninjago, and lots more!

There was a Lego table with a bin filled with bricks for everyone to use. This kept the kids busy for quite a while. They also had something really cool – the Digital Box. This is a video screen that recognizes certain kits (usually special kits with 250+ pieces) and the screen shows you holding the box. Then an animation of the structure being built is shown above the box, complete with Lego minis walking around. It was pretty cool!They also had a “Build a Mini” stand, with several bins of pieces for you to cutom build your own Lego mini figures.

We left with a cool Lego car from their City collection (Ender LOVES cars) and a basic brick set to get the kids started building. This is definitely recommended for the kids this summer!



Explore:The Wolf Wore Shoes

We had another fun visit to Friedrich Wilderness Park for the Explore class this week. This month’s topic was “The Wolf Wore Shoes” – this was an exploration of animals in children’s literature.

The kids explored several book selections and discussed whether the animals in the books were 1) real animals doing real things, 2) real animals doing imaginary things (like wear cloths) or 3) imaginary animals doing imaginary things. Kyri had a blast!

After the classroom portion, everyone went for a nature walk at the park, exploring the plant and animal inhabitants there. I managed to keep up with Kyri even though I was wearing Julian the whole time and carrying Ender a fair amount too. He loved the nature walk!

If you haven’t checked out the classes offered through San Antonio Natural Areas, you are missing out!





Learning About Mammals

Our co-op had our second zoo field trip this week. Last month we went at the end of our Bird unit.

This trip we focused on mammals, and we kept track of all the animals that we saw. As we observed the different animals and their names were recorded, we discussed if their names came from their looks, or where they were from.

Kyri and Ender had a fun time seeing all the animals. Kyri says her favorite was the elephant, though I know she was enthralled by all the different wild cats.

The ostriches put on quite a show! They were in a gated area and you could only see their necks and heads from behind the fence. They kept dropping below the fence line and then slowly raising their heads up to peep at the folks watching them. It was very funny!

Kyri really enjoyed our field trip. She loved seeing all the animals. Even though we do not usually go to zoos, I have been trying to use our visit(s) as an educational opportunity. Kyri thought the cheetahs were incredible and was amazed to find out how fast they run in the wild (70 MPH!). I asked her later if she thought they were able to run that fast in the zoo. I explained to her that while it is nice to be able to see the animals and have a chance to study them up close like this, a zoo enclosure is no substitute for their natural habitat.

I was honestly a little nervous to see the elephant exhibit. Captive elephants make me very sad, and I hate seeing how trainers hit them with metal hooks. The last time I saw that was at the renaissance fair in Maryland (had I known they were going to have an elephant there to give rides I would not have gone). Anyway, Lucky, the elephant at the San Antonio Zoo did show off some “tricks” for people, lifting her legs in response to her trainer. In the picture below, you can see the sticks he used to tap her legs – they were long bamboo poles with plastic covers on them. He would lightly tap her leg and she would lift it in response. 










Growing Up Wild: Backbone Bonanza

We participated in this month’s Growing Up Wild class offered through San Antonio Parks and Rec. This month’s topic was Backbone Bonanza. There were educational crafts and a nature walk as a group to try and spot different vertebrates in the park. Rabbits, birds, squirrels, even a gentleman’s very large dog! A small trail was observed crossing our walking path, and we saw footprints in the soft dirt. Off in a clearing the group could clearly see two large deer. It was wonderful!

I’ve talked about Growing Up Wild in the past.  I went to a workshop with several other homeschoolers and took home the curriculum guide. We have been participating up until recently with a small co-op working through the guide. Now that the Parks and Rec folks are offering monthly programs, we are taking advantage of their knowledge and expertise.