Monday, June 30, 2014

Week 1 of the Nature Scavenger Hunt for Families...

It's time for our Nature Scavenger Hunt for Families to begin! Week 1 ahead!

If you haven't signed up yet you can do so by joining the Nature Scavenger Hunt for Families Facebook Group. Anyone can join during the first week. Next Sunday (when I send out the second week's tasks for the hunt) will be the end of new members joining in and I will change the group status to closed.

This nature scavenger hunt is meant to get you and your family out in nature this summer so natural photos are a must for maximum points.

You are welcome to participate just for fun or you can join in for the competitive points side of the hunt but I am hoping your main reason for joining is to bond together as a family while exploring and learning about the wonderful natural world all around us. Each week will focus on a theme in nature.

Since this week marks the first week of summer vacation here in Canada we are starting out with Beach related hunts because what better way to start the summer is there then a trip to the beach. Depending on where you live it could be a sandy beach, or a rocky beach, an ocean, a lake, or a river side beach...the choice is yours. Go to a favourite beach or a new beach or both. Better yet; travel to a different beach everyday!

If time doesn't permit you to travel to a beach everyday you are welcome to take all your photos on one day... however again I recommend you spending a couple days at least exploring the beaches nearby. Take a beach or shell field guide with you for extra learning fun.

Remember you can do each task on individual days or all at once (depending on how much time in nature your family can commit to) just as long as the photos are uploaded to the Nature Scavenger Hunt for Families Facebook Group before the following Sunday each week. So for example all the photos from week one must be uploaded by July 5th.

***This week there will be 5 bonus points per picture if you name the beach you are at and which province or state it is located in, in the photo description when uploaded to the group***

1) June 30th: A family portrait of who is participating in this hunt 25 points (5 bonus points if it's a beach photo)
2) July 1st: (Canada Day Holiday) Maple leaf 5 points (5 bonus points if you have a real Maple leaf in a beach photo)
3) July 2nd: A picture of a beach 5 points (don't forget to share with us the name of the beach and province or state it is located in for 5 bonus points)
4) July 3rd: A shell in it's natural surroundings 5 points (identify it for 5 bonus points)
5) July 4th: (Independance Day Holiday USA) Sunrise or sunset 5 points (5 bonus points for colourful representation of natures fireworks in celebration of the holidays)
6) July 5th: An interesting rock or rock formation at the beach 5 points (5 bonus points if you tell me why you think it is interesting)

Week 1 BONUS'S for extra points:
Show us how you celebrated either Canada Day or Independence Day outside in Nature 25 points

Don't worry if you miss a day's points or don't achieve all the bonus points as there are many, many more tasks in the coming weeks to make up points.

I want to also share with you now some extra activities to gain points throughout the summer. These extra bonus's are meant to get you thinking and participating in outdoor activities throughout your summer.

The following may be uploaded at any time during the 9 week period:
EXTRA bonus 1: A family portrait with a waterfall 25 points
EXTRA bonus 2: Discover a cave 50 points
EXTRA bonus 3: Make art with natures bounty 25 points
EXTRA bonus 4: Go camping... show us your favourite experience while camping 25 points
EXTRA bonus 5: Explore a hiking trail and share with us some of the wonderful natural things you saw while hiking 50 points
EXTRA bonus 6: Use natural items (rocks, sticks etc) to spell the word for how being in nature makes you feel 25 points
EXTRA bonus 7: A family portrait at either a National Park or a Provincial or State park. Let me know at least one thing you learned while at this park  100 points.

Does this all sound confusing? Trust me it sounds a bit confusing to me too but I promise to tally up everyone's point totals weekly so you know where you stand in the ratings. This is the first time I have set something up like this so if I have been unclear or you have any questions at all please feel free send me a message through the facebook group and I will try to answer your questions more clearly.

IMPORTANT!!!! Remember to add the hashtag #2014naturehunt to the photo description of EACH picture as you upload it to the Nature Scavenger Hunt Facebook group so I can easily keep track of each submission and award your points accordingly. Please also describe your photo. For example your entry for July 3rd should have a description like this:

A shell (type of shell) at (name of beach) in (name Province or State) #2014naturehunt 

You will get 5 points for saying the type of shell, 5 bonus points if you show the shell at the beach you found it at and 5 points for naming the beach and where it is located for 15 points total

Ready? Set? GO!!! Have fun exploring, discovering and learning about our wonderful world together as a family. I can't wait to see all your photos...Oh and random bonus points might be awarded for creativity.

PS a small prize for my token of appreciation for your participation will be awarded to the family with the highest points. Remember...if you miss points one week there will be ample weeks available to catch up in the points department. Some tasks will be easier then others and points will be awarded accordingly. Now get out there and start exploring, learning and having fun snapping pictures and making memories.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Annual Nature Scavenger Hunt for Families

Who is interested in joining a nature scavenger hunt for families???

Why? Because everyone loves a scavenger hunt and what better way is there to get out and explore nature??? It is a wonderful opportunity for families to bond as they discover their wonderful natural world around them.

To join in on the scavenger hunt fun please join the group Nature Scavenger Hunt for Families on Facebook. Every Sunday throughout the summer (9 weeks) I will post the weekly items you need to go out and hunt for.

This is a point based scavenger hunt which will run through Facebook. Every family who joins will receive points for each picture they upload to the group using the hashtag #2014naturehunt. To be awarded your points you must be part of this facebook group and you must describe each photo so I can easily distinguish which item is in your photo. For instance something wet could be a picture of a river, a lake or a mud puddle. I need to know which photo to knock off on your checklist. Every week there will be bonus items to find for extra points as well as overall bonus family activities to complete for extra points. Lets see how many points you can rack up and how much fun you can have as a family discovering the natural world around you.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Sierra's 8th Minecraft Birthday

Sierra turned 8 on Friday the13th! She has been dreaming about her Minecraft party for months now. I must say this was the most challenging party I have ever prepared for. There was so much prep sanding 19 pick axes which my husband cut out for us. I forgot how much I HATE... dislike sanding!

 There were so many ideas I wanted to do but we ran out of time to get them all done. A lot of the inspiration for the party came from HERE.

The whole party focused around a scavenger hunt. The hunt led the kids to find cubes which they used to craft items which we then made, or they received items Sierra and I made for them as prizes.

For the hunt I dyed little wooden cubes (blue for diamond, green for emeralds, drew on a stick for sticks etc). These were used to make the items you use while playing the Minecraft video game. Below the cubes are being used to make a diamond pick axe. In exchange for crafting the pick axe on the cardboard crafting table they were all given a wooden pick axe to paint as their first activity.

 Everyone is busy below painting their pick axes.

Next we listened to another clue in the scavenger hunt and the kids all raced off to find the three trunk tree (little did I know we had three on the property). Here they found emerald cubes and they had to craft emerald armour for protection.
 We couldn't make full armour so after crafting their armour on the crafting table they were given a bag of beads and we created protective bracelets each adorn with their name.

Next up their clue led them to find sand and gun powder blocks to make TNT (which was wrapped up licorice...see two pictures down of the TNT and bead bag for the name bracelets).

Their next clue didn't make them find any cubes it was just for fun...their clue led them to the strawberry patch where they found green powdered strawberries hidden among the unripe green berries growing. The strawberries are so late this year.

 Some of the other clues led them to cubes and they had to create a torch and received a glow stick, or they found cubes to make a fishing rod and then fished for a Minecraft magnet Sierra made. They also created a bow and arrow with string and stick cubes. They were then given a slingshot (instead of a bow and arrow) and had to knock down the pop can Endermen.

Another clue led them to the pin the mouth on the middle head of the wither and everyone won a Minecraft pin.

I didn't get pictures of every clue but the kids all had a lot of fun racing around looking for the cubes to craft their items.

For one of the clues they won Minecraft necklaces that Sierra and I made. The pins and the necklaces were created using THESE and THESE graphics. Here's a picture of a couple of the prizes with the take home treat cups that I made by drawing a creeper face on green cups from the dollar store and filling them with green candies.
Next up was snack time. I planned on creating little tags for all the foods as they corresponded with items in the game but I ran out of time. We had marshmallow mushrooms (these were super cute), pretzel torches, watermelon slices, carrots, grapes for slime balls, blue Gatorade for the blue water drink, chocolate chip cookies, square sour cube candies and pudding 'dirt' cups. I really wanted to make red Jello for lava and rice krispie sand, dirt and grass squares but we ended up with so much food since only 8 of the 19 kids that were supposed to be here showed up due to illness so I am thankful we ran out of time to get it all made.

Next was the cake which Meadow made for us. I am so lucky she likes to bake!

After cake time was presents.

Then it was piƱata time (Meadow made this too). Thanks so much Meadow you really made Sierra's day :)

All in all everyone had a great time. There was a lot of prep ahead of time but it was all worth it in the end but I am thankful to have this one behind us!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Pond Play with the Frogs

Yesterday we took a walk back to the Vernal Pools at Copeland forest.

We started out on our walk and lasted less then 5 minutes before being bombarded with mosquito's so I ran back to the truck as I thought we had a spray in the glove box (I forgot the natural spray at home). It was a kid friendly spray and it didn't hold the mosquito's off very well at all, but it was all we had.

As always my eyes are wandering as we walk and I am taking pictures of flowers, bugs and bees... this flower must have a brunch special today!

Common Goat's Beard
 This flower below had me stumped for a bit but a quick search led us to figure out it was Cypress Spurge and is listed as a Noxious weed in Ontario and it is mandatory to be destroyed when on or near farmers crops, as well as the Goats Beard above. I am going to look into whether or not it should be destroyed when ever you see it to stop the spread. I found this out while searching for info on Milkweed which has now been removed in Ontario from the Noxious weeds list to help the Monarchs.
Cypress Spurge...I believe?

As we got closer and closer to the Vernal Pools the bugs got heavier. So bad in fact we almost turned around to leave. Then as I was walking I saw this... it wouldn't focus sorry but I thought it was a life saver.
We sprayed ourselves and continued on. The mosquito's were still horrible and bit us even with this spray but it was a helpful at least.

 Already the pool where we found the Eastern Newt Efts last time had completely dried up so it wasn't a true vernal pool and those Efts must have just been feeding there.

There was one pool near by that was full of frogs and polliwogs.

The frogs were quite photogenic today.
The is guy was named Hopper

The tadpoles were plentiful! Shown here around the edge but the whole surface of the pool looked like this.
It didn't take long to get a couple tadpoles in a bucket to observe for a bit.
 There were lots of pond snails too.

Green Frog
 The first catch of the Skipper.

Next was Hoppy.

Then a few pics of "Sally" the Eastern Newt Eft.

We started to pack up to leave and of course there were more flowers calling my name.

Dog Violet?

Herb Robert
 I wonder who lives here? A little mouse, a gnome...?

 This butterfly was very interesting to watch as he sat sunbathing for a moment...The way he held his wings.

I have since learned this is a Hobomok Skipper Thanks to some members of the Brereton Field Naturalists Club in Barrie, Ontario.

We left this pool and found an even bigger pool...this one must be a true Vernal Pool as in the centre it is still quite deep and hopefully will last until August so the the salamanders can develop and make their way out of the water and onto the land.

I'm not sure if this is a bullfrog or not. i think it might be. They are very similar to green frogs but have no ridge down their back on each side. This guy was more rounded and no predominant line.

We found some salamander eggs in this lager pool.

 I found one free floating egg nearby and picked it up to examine it for a moment. You could see the gills.

 Then Sierra spotted a baby Salamander resting on a leaf near the egg sacs. Can you spot him? As well there were many floating pond snails. These snails were fun to watch just float around the pond.

Close up of baby salamander
 There were so many frogs...everywhere you stepped sent a frog off hopping.

Sierra was in heaven here catching frogs with her bare hands this time only to have them hop out and swim away and start all over again.

 So much fun in fact she didn't care when she bent too low and got her feet soaked.

 As Sierra caught frogs and released them (or rather they released themselves)...
I walked around the outer edge of the pool. Since the pool is receding there were clumps of egg left to dry out of the water. Some of them were empty, the frogs or salamanders had already hatched from them but I found about 8 clumps on the dry land which still had salamanders in them. I gently picked them up and put them back in the pool in hopes they will still hatch OK and didn't perish within their sacs on the dry ground. Thankfully the canopy is full above now and there was lots of shade provided so I'm crossing my fingers these will still hatch.

I do hope that putting these sacs back in the water will help them to survive.

After a couple hours here it was time to leave but our discovery didn't end. We continued looking for creatures on our walk and saw all kinds of dragonflies but they are really hard to catch sitting still. I did get this one picture.

 We were amazed when I stopped to take a picture of this little guy...
 and then this beautiful Swallowtail swooped in and landed right in front of us.
Talk about perfect timing. I snapped a couple pictures and she was gone again.

Another amazing afternoon full of so many wonderful discoveries. I love our days out exploring and learning about our natural world.