Field Trip: Cleveland Botanical Gardens

I love spending time in nature.  There is nothing like time outside in a beautiful setting to rejuvenate my soul.  I sincerely wish I were better at gardening, unfortunately I’ve never developed the consistency to create beautiful well maintained gardens at home.  I’m so thankful the Cleveland Botanical Garden offers such wonderful spaces we can enjoy without having to do the weeding and watering ourselves.

Botanical Garden Birds

We enjoyed visiting the Glass House to get a taste of Madagascar and Costa Rica.  The boys spotted larvae in the cockroach display.  I have to admit I’d never given any thought to the life cycle of a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach.  We really enjoyed the birds and butterflies in the Costa Rica section.  Of course we had to take a picture of a chipmunk hanging out in the gardens.

Botanical Garden Butterflies

I always enjoy seeing the chrysalis display.  The boys arrived just at the right time to see one of the butterflies as it emerged.


Botanical Garden BromelaidsI’m also a fan of bromeliads.

This trip the boys were much more interested in the plants and structures throughout the garden.  In the past, they had reserved most of their interest for the Hershey Children’s Garden, which is absolutely fabulous.  One of the things that increased their interest this trip was the addition of LEGO sculptures throughout the garden.   We were amazed by the  complexity of many of the structures.

Botanical Garden LEGO and fairies

The LEGO sculptures were all part of the Nature Connects exhibit by Sean Kenney.  Unfortunately the display of Nature Connects has already completed its time in Cleveland. If you are near San Antonio or San Francisco, you will have the chance to appreciate the display in person this winter.  Otherwise, check out Sean Kenney’s website to see even more examples of his amazing work and check the future schedule.

What field trips have you taken lately?  Are you planning something for fall?

Yellowstone and Grand Teton – Wildlife

We wrapped up our Yellowstone unit study – WITH A TRIP TO YELLOWSTONE!!!   I have wanted to go to Yellowstone forever!  Last year I finally quit wishing and planned a trip for this fall.  It was AMAZING!  Mama Bear w/ Cubs

One of the best parts of the trip was seeing 6 Grizzly Bears in our first hour!  I had prepared the boys that we would be extremely lucky to see a bear so you can imagine our excitement when the ranger at the entrance gate said there was a bear family on a carcass about 18 miles into the park.  The picture is a bit blurry because they were really far away.  Our binoculars allowed us to see an incredible scene.  The mama and her three cubs were feeding on this carcass with ravens all around.

Lamar Valley - Male Grizzly Approaching

Then we spotted a male grizzly approaching.

Male Bear circling Mama Bear with cubs and carcass

He circled around and eventually challenged the mama bear.  We actually  heard them vocalize!Mama Bear nursing cubs

She decided to give up the tasty bit of carrion, led her cubs a short distance away and began nursing them.

Lamar Valley - Bears

One last picture of the beautiful Lamar Valley, so my mom knows we weren’t in any danger.  The bears were out beyond the trees.  Good thing we had binoculars!

Once we were about another mile down the road E spotted another grizzly headed in the general direction of the scene.  The boys were so excited.

Bald Eagle - Upper Falls of Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

The next morning we saw a bald eagle nesting in the canyon.  We watched it for several minutes before it flew right over our heads.

Osprey and Raven in Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

In the afternoon we spotted a young osprey defending its nest against a raven.


Another day we took a side trip to the Grand Tetons where we saw a  PIKA!!!  We had seen them in a documentary, so I was thrilled when I heard one peeping high up in a rocky area.  Just like in the documentary, it was busy bringing grass back to its burrow.  These little guys are amazingly fast and completely adorable.  It sort of reminded me of a chinchilla.


As we were leaving that evening we saw several cars pulled over to watch something which turned out to be a few moose.  Again it was a good thing we had binoculars but the kids were very excited.

Coyote Hunting Dinner

Further up the road we spotted a coyote hunting his dinner.  C really wanted to see a wolf, so he is holding on to the possibility it was a lone wolf.   Unfortunately we didn’t see a wolf pack.

In Mammoth Springs we saw lots of Elk and we even heard them bugle in the early morning.  Of course there were lots of bison, squirrels, chipmunks, deer, and pronghorns.  No marmots this trip, but the pika more than made up for it.

It was such a thrill to actually go to Yellowstone and Grand Teton and see so many of the animals we have been studying.  Seeing the animals free in their natural habitat is so much more exciting than viewing them in a zoo.  We really had to use our knowledge to help us stay alert for the animals we might see.

Stay tuned for posts on the thermal features and hiking the “Grand Canyon of Yellowstone”.

Thanks to Kris for hosting the Weekly Wrap-Up!




Inspiration at the Children’s Museum

Don’t you love places that inspire you?

Waterfall @ South Chagrin May 30

I love to go for a walk in the woods, listen to the birds, and smell the air. The sound of water rushing through a stream or a waterfall always helps me relax.

This week the boys and I visited one of our favorite indoor places. We took a day trip over to the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum.

1. Magma Chamber by Ned Kahn  2. Pulley, Slowly, Rolling, Bop by Henry Loustau 3. Quilts by Lorrie Faith Cranor  4. Avalanche by Ned Kahn

1. Magma Chamber by Ned Kahn 2. Pulley, Slowly, Rolling, Bop by Henry Loustau 3. Quilts by Lorrie Faith Cranor 4. Avalanche by Ned Kahn

I LOVE the interactive nature of the art! The artists do such a great job of inviting the kids (and adults) to enjoy the pieces and make things happen. I really can’t pick a favorite piece. Ned Kahn’s Magma Chambers are so fascinating. We always visit those a few times to watch the sand build and collapse. Henry Loustau makes full use of the expansive ceiling in the old planetarium with an interactive ball maze that is a complete delight. Lorrie Faith Cranor’s take on quilting makes me want to break out the sewing machine. She makes quilting nerdy chic (a style I adore)! My boys spend long stretches of time playing with Ned Kahn’s Avalanche display.

Children's Museum Gravity Room and Makeshop

After all the inspiration it is always fun to make a visit to the MAKESHOP. They always have a variety of materials and invite you to just make something. I always think, “Why don’t I think to use that stuff?” This visit they were inviting the kids to make items to populate a town. E made a tepee and C put a rocket on a launch pad. A stop by the gravity room is always a must.

It was a great trip to make at the beginning of summer. I’m sitting here thinking about pulleys for the play set, water pumps and PVC pipes. The husband is looking through MAKE magazine and ordering Raspberry Pi boards. Visions of supporting our young inventors dance through our heads.

Do you have a favorite place or activity that gets your creativity flowing?

Grist Mill Visit and Camping Trip

This time of year I get a lot more relaxed about official “school” time.  With one exception we have accomplished or exceeded all our curriculum goals for the year.  The weather tends to be beautiful and we are all longing to be outside again.  The learning doesn’t stop, the balance just shifts even more to interest led learning.

For Mother’s Day we went to Mohician State Park in Ohio.  It was very beautiful.  We had a cottage right next to a scenic river.  Unfortunately it was very chilly and kind of rainy while we were there.  We are all looking forward to going back when the weather is warmer.


The sound of the water rushing past was so relaxing.  We were excited to see a heron(?) come to feed.  A few people floated by in canoes.

Lyons Falls

We took a hike to Big Lyon Falls.  It was so nice to be out in the woods with the leaves back on the trees.


Adjacent to the park, a volunteer group has restored a grist mill from the 1830s.  We frequently find grist stones on some of our hikes but had never seen them in action.  It was very neat to see old equipment and the massive size of the gears.  Thinking about all the machinery in use before electricity was amazing.


On the grounds of grist mill there was an old wagon.  We spent a few minutes marveling over how brave/desperate/adventurous the pioneers must have been to fit everything they would need to start a new life into such a tiny wagon and head west.  I thought of how full we loaded the mini van for a weekend trip!



Orchid Mantises by Andrew Hipp

The Mysterious Universe by Ellen Jackson  from the Scientist in the Field Series

April Adventure by Ron Roy from the Calendar Mysteries series

Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder


Linking to:

Weekly Wrap Up @ Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers




Vernal Pool Unit Study

A local vernal pool

A local vernal pool

We continued our study of vernal pools this week.  We’ve had so much fun with this unit study and learned so much about these unique ecosystems. Vernal pools are filled with water part of the year but dry up for at least 2 months every year. Because these pools dry up completely fish can’t survive in them and that makes them the perfect breeding ground for many amphibians.

A little spring peeper singing at night.

A little spring peeper singing at night.

Spring peepers and wood frogs come to vernal pools in late winter/early spring to lay their eggs.

This is a spotted salamander we observed during a night hike.

This is a spotted salamander we observed during a night hike.

During the first warm rainy nights of spring, salamanders emerge from their underground burrows to make their way to these shallow pools and lay their eggs.

Fairy shrimp, caddisfly larvae, and water beetles also make their homes in these pools.

Salamander underwater during the day.

Salamander underwater during the day.

On one recent trip we were delighted to see a young salamander during the day. There was a lot of reflection on the water but if you look closely you can see the salamander.

Ribbon Snake

Some predators do of course enjoy visiting these pools. On a recent trip we came across a few ribbon snakes.

“Frog Heaven” by Doug Wechsler was a very helpful resource for this study and I am very grateful to our local naturalist for leading salamander walks on rainy spring nights.

What ecosystems have you explored near you?