We're very fortunate to have a fabulous nature center located close to home. It boasts miles of trails, ponds, wildlife, a hands-on exhibit for kids, and even a fantastic nature playground consisting of logs, stumps and a small shed full of shovels for the kids to use. We still haven't seen the entire place yet! Earlier this spring, we went hiking and found their turtle pond. We had a wonderful time observing all the turtles resting on logs all around the pond. All summer we talked about going back, but never did. Finally one day in late summer, I planned a morning to hike to the turtle pond.
We came prepared. We brought along a picnic breakfast, water, camera, binoculars, turtle guidebook, colored pencils, and notebooks. We were ready to be naturalists. We wanted to observe, record, and figure out what kind of turtles lived in the pond. What we hadn't counted on was the effect that our dry, hot summer had on the pond and the wildlife that lived there. Instead of a pretty wooded pond with turtles resting on the logs, we found a pond that was about half the size it normally is and covered in green. Needless to say, we didn't see a turtle.
Our learning took a curve that day as we discovered first-hand how the environment impacts animal habitats. We understood that we couldn't control the weather, but we talked about ways that we could help. We could keep areas clean by picking up trash and never littering. We also talked about leaving areas alone so that animals still had all the food and materials they needed to live and thrive. Turtles are particularly vulnerable and we were grateful for our nature center and it's turtle habitat. Were all the turtles gone? No, they were most likely underwater. The turtles were still around, but their pond just wasn't as nice of a place as it was this spring.
On our way out that day, we stopped by another pond to see what we could see and well... we didn't see water. But, we could tell that wildlife was still abundant in that area. In fact, it looked like they were having quite the party the night before as evidenced by all the tracks we saw in the mud. If you look carefully in the above picture, you'll see some of the many raccoon tracks we saw.
What do animals teach my children? They teach them compassion for others big and small. They teach them respect for their environment. And, they foster a love of learning that I hope will become a lifetime habit.
What do animals teach your children?