Thursday, October 8, 2015

Field Trip: Wichita Mountains

  Hubby and I's work project ultimately took us to the Wichita Mountains.  Have you heard of them? They are located in southern Oklahoma and are encapsulated in a wildlife preserve.  As homeschoolers this was a a schooling dream!  Geology, biology, history and more, not to mention all the hiking too!

  The wildlife includes buffalo, longhorns, and elk all of which are herds maintained for preservation purposes.  These guys are everywhere.  You see them on the roads and on the trails.  It is super cool!  The boys even heard the elk bugling while they were out hiking one afternoon!  The kids got chased by prairie dogs, poked at millipedes, and saw these wonderful little lizards too...
The kids had seen pictures of them prior to our trip and it was their goal to see them before they left.  We saw the biggest concentration at the Holy City of the Wichitas.  The Holy City is neat, it was and is the site of a large passion play every year.

The neat thing about the Holy City is that it is not only the setting for a play, but for those that come to wander the grounds, they have little dioramas amongst the set that tell the story of the different stations of the cross.  The kids loved exploring here!
  Our explorations also took us to the Wichita's dams...

And to the summit of Mt. Scott its highest mountain (3 miles!)...
While we were up there we saw another fun member of the wildlife in the mountains, a roadrunner...
One of our favorite treks was to the "watchtower" at Jed Johnson lake. 
It was about 1/2 mile to get back to it and when we did we felt like this...
*disclaimer* we did not write this, but it was funny :)

Well, some of us did.  Some of us were just content to pick up "treasures" aka. pieces of glass (notice the bulging pockets?). 
One of our favorite places that is on the edge of the Wichitas is Medicine Park.  It was created as a resort community to the Wichita Mountains.  Its architecture is fun with the cobblestone boulders...
The building in the background of the picture above is the Plantation Restaurant - excellent food!
The neatest part of Medicine Park was the "Creek Walk" which took you along Medicine Creek.  There was a swimming area...
and just fun little park areas...
We spent a full week in the Wichitas.  The working vacation kind of wore us out, but we were having so much fun we were not too willing to come home.  I'm hoping our schedules give us another chance to return and explore some more!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Field Trip: Sam Noble Museum

  This is a weird blog for me to write.  I get to tell you about one of the most fantastic museums we have ever been to, but this time around I didn't get to go with the kiddos.  Hubby and I had some work in Oklahoma so we packed up the kids and Ducky and Grandma for a working vacation.  Our first stop took us through Norman, Oklahoma where Hubby and I did some research on the University of Oklahoma campus and Ducky and Grandma took the kids to the Sam Noble museum.  The last time we had taken the older kids was when they were about 4 & 2 (they are now 12 and 11).  If I had one sadness on this trip it was that I didn't get to go to the Sam Noble museum too - it is that fun :)
A dino lover's dream.  Now this being said, I have not been to any of the "big city" natural history museums, but this satisfies just fine ;)
The real fun is the "dinovator" which is an elevator that takes you eye to eye with one of the big plant eaters (ha, can you tell I'm not the dino expert?  I'd want to say apatosaurus, but we'll just play it general...). 
  They also have a wonderful diorama area which has all the flora and fauna of Oklahoma, even down to caves where bats are lurking...
 My favorite picture from their experience there is with the big mammoth statue. 
  Mookie and Bubby are proudly posing with the mammoth, but do you see Shorty?  He's getting ready to kill the mammoth with the ancient Native American family. 
  We had the biggest discussion about what the family was doing, why the mom was hiding behind the dad, what the dog was doing, etc... With field trips, you don't need to "do" anything, kiddos soak up more than you realize, but you reinforce what they learn with a good discussion and make it all applicable to their lives right now it just encourages them to seek out learning later on. 
  If you get down to Norman, Ok you should definitely check the Sam Noble out.  Our family got in for around $15 which was well worth the trip!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Field Trip: PowWow

  There is just so much you can do in your own backyard.  Nearly a month ago (I know, I'm slow!) some of our buddies were involved as part of the attractions at the Shawnee County Intertribal PowWow and it gave us some incentive to make the trip!  Hubby and I hadn't attended since we were first married (almost 20 years ago).  It is a great experience!
Our buddy is a early 19th century fur trader re-enactor.  He has used his knowledge to teach numerous school children and even was able to travel the Lewis and Clark trail as a re-enactor for the bi-centennial of the expedition.  So, to hear him give his spiel again was so much fun!
Mookie and her buddy
His teepee is set up with replicas of period accessories and numerous hides some of which he acquired himself!  When he is set up for a re-enactment like this he will stay in his teepee and cook in it too!
  When we moved on to the PowWow itself, we took in all of the interesting booths and got some neat souvenirs to take home, some falling into the theme of the event like Shorty's foot jangles- which I appreciated because I could hear him if he took off, and he loved when we participated in the dancing to Mookie and her buddy's parasols...
The best part of the evening was joining in the dancing.  They had a dance time where they allowed members of the audience to come and join in.  Fantastic!  I didn't really want to go myself but everyone else was a little shy so we all went (Bubby took the pictures). 
I would venture to say that we will head back to this event again in the next couple of years.  What a great way to introduce different cultures to the kiddos!


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Field Trip: Cahokia

  It has been years since we've visited the Cahokia mounds.  In fact, I think it was 2008 when Bubby was 5 and Mookie 4.  At that time we didn't take the time to go inside the Visitor's Center either, so really this trip was all new :)
  The Visitor Center has a suggested donation of $15 per family which was well worth the cost.  They had life size figures depicting every day life of the Mississippian culture.  Shorty loved walking through the village, which he and I did several times!
  They had some interactive displays like this one in which you could move some hands back and forth and mimic how to start fire.
  The museum was an excellent place to start but nothing quite beats walking amongst the earthworks on a beautiful day!  Shorty was sad he had to stick to the path, claiming he wanted to "climb the lumpy, bumpy hills".  Mookie managed to distract him from that goal by following the letter markers that guided our path.
Monk's Mound (background)
  Bubby was terribly sad that we weren't able to visit every. single. mound on the property.  We did get to as many as we could and find a good compromise for all of us.
  So you don't get to climb on all the rest of the lumpy bumpy hills, but you do get to climb the biggest one - Monk's Mound.

You can see forever at the top.  It was a little hazy because the rain and drizzle was moving out of the area, but in that last picture you can just make out the Gateway Arch!
As uninteresting as this view from the top may seem I have to include it.  You see Shorty?  He's asking, for about the umpteenth time, if he can go down that side of Monk's Mound.  If we had taken our eyes off of him he may have tried it too! And going down Monk's Mound looks like this...
so it's nothing to turn up your nose at.  Silly child ;)
  At the bottom we found a butterfly friend...
  Then we headed back to our hotel, but not before stopping at the Twistee Treat in Livingston - yum!
(photo taken by Bubby)

Monday, August 10, 2015

Field Trip: Springfield's Capitol

  What started out as a way to find something educational and cheap has evolved into a goal.  We've now gotten 3 state capitols under our belt.  Our latest being Springfield, IL.
   This capitol was the smallest so far, but Mookie said it was her favorite.  It is probably the oldest.  It was interesting though to see the contrast of the old and the new with the large digitized screens that were in the House and Senate chambers. 

  Of the three capitol buildings we've visited so far, it was the one that was the most sparsely decorated with statues, and displays.  We didn't feel like we were missing out though.  These buildings are so grand they just kind of blow you away ;)
they wanted a pic with each of them on a star
  Our trip wasn't merely for art, architecture and history mind you.  We found fossils in the floor, and Mookie proudly told me what each type of stone was in the base of these columns.  Do you know where she got that information.  No, not Mom the teacher - Mindcraft of all places!  Well, that will temper my threats to throw that out the window some days...
Bubby with his foot by the shell fossil & the different stone in the column
We had the awesome opportunity to take a buddy with us to lunch and needed to kill a little more time, so we headed to the State Museum. I'll tell you I am a little thankful for the having to kill time.  We had to park by the State Museum when we landed and Shorty about died when we passed it by to go to some dumb old capitol (which he usually enjoys, but not in comparison to something like that!).
  Shorty made some buddies and played with the animals while the big kids dug for dino fossils...

  Right before we left, we were in the area where you could put together pottery replicas. I was telling Bubby how I used to put together Native American pottery for real when I worked in an archaeology lab.  He laughed and said, "let me see what you got old lady!".  So the race was on...yeah, I beat the socks off of him ;)
pottery reconstruction

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Field Trip: LOL

  No, I don't have a case of the giggles... the last time we made the trip to Illinois the kids dubbed it "L.O.L." for its nickname the Land of Lincoln.  Ha ha :)
  This trip to the Land of Lincoln included a visit to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum.  We had some sweet friends act as our guides and introduce us to this cool site.  I had heard that they had pulled out all the stops for this particular museum and that can usually mean one of two things: excellent museum or just wildly overdone. 
  The first stop was where it all began, Abe Lincoln's boyhood cabin.  The big kids were drawn in to hear the stories and see the lifesize figures depicting Abe's early history.  I caught a quick glance, but mostly I stayed outside of the cabin with Shorty.  He had caught sight of two fake cardinals in the trees and with the bird sounds playing there HAD to be more birds out there! 
looking for the birds
  After the cabin you walked right into the middle of a slave auction (the red lit area in the photo).  This display smacked you right in the face with the evils of the practice.  A woman being torn one way by her new owner while her husband was being led another by his and the crying child being held  by the auctioneer to be sold off himself.  Mookie said it was one of those things that made you want to cry.  The scene was so powerful that Shorty kept migrating back to the scene.  While he couldn't grasp what was going on there, we talked about what feelings were being shown and who was making people sad. 
Shorty and the slave auction (right) and Lincoln-Douglass debate (left)
  Interspersed with the striking scenes with life-sized figures there were notable artifacts, some of which were from the Lincoln Home we'd visited a couple weeks before. There were also sound and temperature effects (heat radiating from a wood stove, etc...) like we'd found when we visited the Flint Hills Discovery Center.  It's one of those things that I don't necessarily need as a museum attendee, but is really quite fun :)
  The museum did a really good job of evoking the feelings of the viewer.  The hallway with the Lincoln newspaper political cartoons was garish in an Alice in Wonderland type of style - off set frames, elongated and crooked doorways, nearly made me sick walking through the thing.
Bubby in the political cartoon hallway
Pardon my funky photo, but they don't allow flash photography in the displays and it was reeking havoc on my photos!  The hallway leading into the Emancipation Proclamation was equally as suffocating, with holographs yelling at you from either side - what poor Mr. Lincoln must have felt like.  The dizzying effect was reminiscent of the riots hallway at Brown vs. Board of Education in Topeka. 
  Mookie's favorite part was the map that showed the Civil War in 4 minutes.  That's 1 week/second.  The battles would explode upon the big screen.  She was so enthralled that she went back twice!  That is the best part of the museum for me.  It didn't have tons of actual artifacts but it made history come alive!  It made you feel with your senses and your heart all aspects of what was going on!
Civil War in 4 minutes

  They had some really awesome shows too which took you on a short tour of Lincoln and then of the importance of historical documents and artifacts (my favorite one!).   Like main character stated in one of the shows "Our experience becomes your experience, our courage becomes your courage, and the best parts of our lives on in you".  This is why history is SO important!
Shorty and his buddy


Field Trip: Hannibal

   Another trip out to see Hubby and some more stops on the way.  Right now Hannibal is a great place to stop and stretch our legs and wait for Hubby to get off of work.  This time we did a little more exploring of the town.  Our travels took us out to Lover's Leap which has an amazing view of the landscape.  We saw train tracks, barges, the steamboat, and speedboats.  When we told Ducky and Grandma where we had been they sent pictures of when I had gone to the same spot when I was Bubby and Mookie's age.
Mookie, Shorty and Bubby at Lover's Leap

Me & Ducky at Lover's Leap
  While we were there we compared the story of the two Native American "lovers" to the story of Romeo and Juliet that the kids had been reading over the past week - edged in a little literature discussion there ;)
  One of our favorite, and cheap, places to go is the local library wherever we are visiting.  So far both the ones we've been too have been great historic buildings.  Hannibal's was really neat because of all the fun things to play with, and Bubby discovered they had every single Hank the Cowdog book and maybe each Boxcar Children - that's important you know! 

  The day ending up with seeing Hubby and some treasures he found for us - a coral or crinoid fossil and coal, which leads into a science/art study just because - I love homeschooling!
Bubby drawing his new fossil