Wednesday, August 20, 2014

All About the Fox

There is a nature center two towns north of us that we just love. The center itself is amazing -- a rich educational experience for kids of all ages. Then there's the wetland preserve; it offers boardwalk and trail hikes through forest, wetland, and prairie. In the forest areas there are even play stations for little kids: a giant eagle nest to climb in and out of, a child sized ant, mushroom stools to climb on, fox holes to crawl through -- it is nothing short of awesome. During the winter they stay open for snowshoers (something Ben and I must do one year). All this alone would make Heckrodt noteworthy, but on top of that they sponsor once a month preschool classes that are worth every penny.

Here's what today's "Sly Fox" lesson included.

It started with circle time, which included a story, a short video of a Fox hunting during the winter time, and a sampling of fox food and scat.

Next we moved on to stations. There was a craft station, library (book) station, fox food station, track making station (pressing fox claw molds into sand), and Reid's favorite -- a fox burrow. 

He was actually the hand behind this fox's wild escape. He really wanted me to get a picture of his fox coming out of the burrow. 

Nell loved the craft.

After stations we went on a hike. There are some foxes that live on the preserve, but we were probably too noisy to have any chance of finding them. Reid was displaying his independence again today (which I love) and I hardly saw him on our hike. I noticed the class was a little boy heavy, and he and a few other boys spent the entire hike up front by the teacher. Nell and I took our time bringing up the back of the group. 

I also spent lots of time carrying her. She's mastered the stand-right-in-front-of-mommy-and-whine "hold me! hold me!" protest. I foolishly forgot a stroller, so her demands were met.

Thanks to his red shirt, I was able to keep an eye on Reid. He didn't seem to get into too much mischief. His position as lead must have been quite thrilling when a teenage deer ran right in front of the group (just before this picture was snapped).

Every now and then the front of the group would stop and let us stragglers catch up. His teacher was good to point out who ate what vegetation and who made which tracks. It was an excellent hike. 

After the hike we returned to the center for a snack and some free time. 

 This sack puppet was the craft. Nell glued the big pieces and Reid finished the finer details.

We sure loved learning all about Foxes!

The kids knew just how to use their free time. One of the three main rooms in the center is full of educational nature toys. Nell always, always goes right to this forest tree. 

Reid and a friend he'd made during our class time worked together to complete all these wall puzzles.

What a picture overload! And they aren't the best quality since they're just phone pictures. But I'm glad I was able to capture these memories. I find so much joy in watching my kids interact with others and learn through structured play. 

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