Today was incredible for viewing wildlife, a banner day! It surprassed almost every expedition into nature that we’ve ever had! We journeyed into the forest near Mitchell, Oregon (a favorite), and saw: 380+ black-tailed deer, one wolf, about 6 turkeys, and a herd of at least 150 elk! This is 140 more elk than we’d seen in the entire two years we’ve lived in central Oregon. It was incredible!
There are signs on the road to Redmond, eighteen miles from home, that indicate elk are in the area. We’ve never seen even one! My other half and I frequently joke when we see that sign, “Oh look at all the elk in here! Have you ever seen so many in your life?” Then we go into detailed descriptions of what they’re wearing in whatever season we’re in when we pass by, or what they’re doing (like fanning themselves, and donning sunglasses in August.)
I learn so much from him about the habits of these creatures. He was a hunter, so he had to study the habits of deer and elk to have any hope of catching one. Me, I couldn’t bear to shoot such a beautiful animal, though I do like the taste of venison!
I love to teach kids about nature, but at the same time, I’m reminded of all I don’t yet know. I learned today that elk with horns that go straight up, are called “spikes.” They are too young to have any prongs on their horns. The spikes are approximately a year old. The more horns a deer or elk has, the older that individual animal is (a year for each prong). I also learned that “larch” is a kind of tree in our forests here, that changes color in the autumn, while most pine and fir trees do not exchange their green for other colorful adornments. The larch are now a buttery gold color, and set off the green pines wonderfully. God is my favorite “exterior designer!”
There are so many different directions nature learning can take. I was thinking of many as we traveled further into the forest lately, especially before and after I blogged about the lessons of the forest.
- Can your children spot the discolored places on rock formations, that indicate a waterfall used to be there?
- Can they see the landscape and notice where the plants and trees change from one area to the next?
- How many different species of plants and animals can they find in one day trip?
- What impresses them the most, about the nature they see today? Why is it impressive to your child?
- Have them draw, paint, or collage about their day in the outdoors.
- What fascinates them about being in nature?
- What animals might live in the different holes they spy?
- What vegetation do different animals eat? For older kids, which animals are herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores?
- How do the animals stay warm during the winter months? Or cool during summer?
- How far do different animals travel?
- Can your kids come up with any stories to write, illustrate, and/or tell about animals in the wild?
- Can they compare the different hides on animals, and see differences? Which animals have coarse hair, which have finer hair?
- Which animals have built in defenses against predators (skunks for example)?
- What kind of material lays on the forest floor (pine needles, grasses, etc.) depending on where you are (desert forests, alpine forests, etc.) will likely have different things on the ground.
- What are the different names of clouds (cirrus, nimbus, etc.)? What makes the different hues in the sky?
To answer these questions, you can go online with your kids, or if you have any CD’s for the computer, like Compton’s Encyclopedia. You’ll learn new things with your kids, leading to high quality time with them! Adapt these fun lessons to the age and abilities of your child, and you will enhance their education and their interest in nature. Let me know of any wild expeditions you go on, and where they took place, as well as what you and your kids learned! Happy discovering!
P.S. It amazes me when we pull over to see the deer, elk, or any other wildlife, how many people zoom past, never noticing the splendor of our planet. Do you take the time to notice things in nature with your children? What do you love to see?