I wanted to share some of the ways we have built on our family walks to turn them into learning experiences as well as fun family outings. I mentioned in my last post that we had been out of town, visiting family. Our visits tend to last a week or more, and I have found that schoolwork is hit-and-miss when I bring it. This time I tried to take advantage of the weather and some near-by attractions.
On this visit, we found Black Hawk State Historic Site in Rock Island, Illinois. They have a very small (free!) museum on the grounds, which depicts summer and winter homes of the Sauk and Meskwaki (Sac & Fox) Nations. There was also a photo display and video about the park's use as a Civilian Conservation Corps camp during the Depression. On the ride to the park, I read the children some history of the park from the time in between these two periods (which I found through the park's website), when the land was an amusement park. They found the pictures of the rides interesting, especially that of the first log ride.
After browsing the museum and watching the video on the CCC, we headed back outside and enjoyed a walk along a trail to an observation point on the Rock River. We took a lot of pictures of the flowers along the way, and the kids really got a kick out of the rock formations. Thanks to a flier provided by the museum clerk, we were able to identify all but one of the flowers we photographed. I later went over some biographical information on Black Hawk (also from the park's website). Even though the museum features a bust of him, and the park is on the site of his ancestral home, I found there was really little information there about him, specifically.
A couple of days later, inspired in part by a bear claw collar at the museum, my dad helped the kids make necklaces featuring faux bear claws and glass and wooden beads. He also had a few beaver teeth, which were a reminder of a previous excursion to check out a local beaver dam. We discussed materials the Native Americans might have used to make amulets and medicine bags, and the symbolism behind the different items. Later that afternoon, we went on a walk on a local trail and were able to spot flowers we'd identified from our walk at the state park.
Next up in this train of thought: Journals of our walks! I just haven't decided if I want them to be solely of our nature walks, or if I want to include other educational trips we make. Hmmm...