“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder . . . he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” - Rachel Carson, “The Sense of Wonder”
I belong to two amazing groups whose missions echo this sentiment exactly. The first group is the Mississinewa Audubon Club (MAC) out of Grant County. MAC’s mission statement reads: “The objectives of this organization shall be to promote the study of wildlife and to undertake appropriate conservation activities. This includes bird and wildlife watching, conservation activities, and educational opportunities for all ages.” In fulfilling this mission, MAC has been busy leading monthly nature walks at Matter Park in Marion. These walks are held the second Saturday of every month at 9 AM and are free to the public. We’ve had many families join us on our walks and we love discovering all sorts of nature through the eyes of the children on our walk – bee hives, katydids, birds, bugs, butterflies – you name it, they find it! We’ve also been working with several schools and are getting ready to start an after school nature club with one of our local schools! This past Saturday we took part in the STEAM Festival that was held at the Marion Public Library. During this festival, different groups from the community came together to offer hands-on science activities for kids. More about this in a bit!
The second group I am involved with is the Friends of the Limberlost. Not only are the Limberlost Swamp and surrounding areas great for birding and exploring, but the Friends of the Limberlost offer many great events throughout the year for children and families. The ring in the New Year (at noon) with a balloon drop in the visitors center. At Christmas, Santa visits the cabin and they play reindeer games. They bring in many speakers, many with live animals and birds, throughout the year. Many school groups take field trips to Limberlost. Alexandra Forsythe has put together some amazing outreach programs. These programs offer presentations, hands-on activities, take home projects, and more. You can visit the Limberlost website (limberlost.weebly.com) for a variety of activities. One of the newest parts of the Alex’s Outreach Program is the “Bird Box.” This trunk is filled with books, worksheets, and hands-on activities that teachers or families can use to explore the wonder of birds. Coming soon Limberlost will also offer a “Wetlands Box.”
When the library asked if MAC would like to be involved in the STEAM Festival, I knew right where to turn. I immediately asked my friends at Limberlost if we could use part of the Bird Box for the festival. They were quick to say YES and I stopped by the visitor center to pick out a few items. What a great way for two great organizations to work together to share the love of nature with the next generation!
MAC set up three tables at the festival. One of the activities we borrowed from the Limberlost Bird Box was a set of 20 plastic eggs. Each egg represents a day of growth of a chick inside the egg. Kids loved looking at all the eggs and seeing how much the egg changes in just 20 days from a yolk – to a chick! One tiny girl who couldn’t have been more than two, kept coming back to the eggs to see the “birdies!” Kids are never too young to start loving nature! Another activity we borrowed from the Bird Box was a set of bird eyes made out of PVC pipes. Many birds, like robins, have eyes that are located on the side of their heads instead of the front so they have monocular vision unlike our binocular vision. These PVC eyes allow children (and adults!) to experience what its like to only see from the side. These were a huge hit with all ages! There were lots of laughs as each individual tried to pick up a peanut while looking through the PVC eye. MAC also set up a station with several different types of bird “beaks” (tweezers, nutcrackers, straws, spoons, etc) and different types of foods (peanuts, nectar, gummy worms in cookie dirt, sunflower seeds, etc). Children had the opportunity to test out different beaks with different foods to see which type of beaks worked best for which kinds of foods. Children also learned how birds use thrust and lift to fly and were able to make their own take-home whirly bird to explore thrust and lift further. A bird ID quiz was also offered and many families enjoyed working together to identify many common birds that can be found in their own back yards.
It was an amazing day of learning and fun. MAC is so thankful to Limberlost for letting us use some of their Bird Box activities for the day! If you are ready to share the wonder of nature with your family or your class or even a friend, stop by the Limberlost State Historic Site and ask about their Bird Box and outreach activities. Until then – take a walk through the neighborhood, stop by the park, explore a nearby woods, drive by the river – what can you see? Share the wonder of nature with the next generation!