This particular park isn't your typical swing and slide kind of place. It only has walking trails and two large ponds to look at. So why did I choose this place to spend my Saturday? Well.....
A few days ago, I broke the news to the kids that our end of the summer beach trip appeared to be on hold indefinitely. Because of the oil spill in the Gulf, all the beaches within a reasonable driving distance will probably be completely ruined. Which REALLY STINKS, considering I've been planning this trip for several months now. Anyways, the kids seemed a little disappointed, but mostly, the wheels in their heads began to turn, and they started asking questions about oil, drilling, spills, and lots of other things that I had no answers to!
BINGO! Homeschooling at its finest! This next week, we are starting our next unit study, and it will be on, of course, the oil spill in the Gulf and oil spills and drilling, in general. Also, we'll be talking about wetlands and how they are so vitally important to our world, our food supply, our economy, and numerous other things! And a few days ago, my friend, Jennifer, sent out a link to a web site that has LOTS of really cool ideas and activities to go along with our study. We will be doing most all of the activities. To find the activities, go here - National Wildlife Federation. One of the ideas was to visit a wetland to see what one actually looks like and what goes on in that place.
This is why I picked this particular park for our fun day today. This park is a great example of a wetland. And so we began our day.
We visited Restoration Park, which is a relatively new park near our house.
The sign at the entrance to the park tells a little about its beginnings. In short, it says that, for over 50 years, it was the site of a major sand and gravel mining operation. But after it had been "mined out," people in the area began to use the area to illegally dump all manner of waste. This happened for roughly 10 years, at which time, the city bought the land to clean it up and develop it into what it is today. The city took great efforts to clean up the waste that had been dumped years before, and did a pretty good job of it! But every time there is a hard rain, the water washes away more dirt, and more waste from years past is again uncovered.
I thought that was a pretty interesting story of this place's beginnings. It was kind of cool to actually know from where this great park that I was about to hike through came. We set off on our hike, fully expecting to see a beautiful wetland in all its glory.
Baby girl, who is now about 19 months old, just would not be held! She wanted to walk by herself. I was thankful they had made such nice gravel walkways! She stopped along the way and looked at some of the leaves. Had to keep an eye on her, though, because there was poison ivy everywhere! Didn't want her rubbing up on any of that!!
She did agree to hold daddy's hand some, though.
Britches and I let the others run on ahead of us, while we took our time and enjoyed looking at everything.
We stopped to smell the honeysuckles. And boy do they smell good right now!!
She stopped to check out the blackberries growing along the trail, and we thought we should probably make another trip to the park in a few weeks to pick all those yummy berries! (Probably get in trouble for that, I know!)
We looked out over the lovely little bridge, only to realize that, true to a wetlands character, it was only a little water and a lot of saturated sand! But we could still see some minnows in the shallow water.
We finally caught up with everyone. Apparently, we were going too slow for them. I prefer to think that they were just going too fast for us!
Little Sister found some beautiful purple wildflowers, and she just had to stop and smell them!
Baby Girl, hard as she tried, just could not keep up with us, so she got a ride from daddy! Fun, fun!!
My Little Man, found a great pine cone, and he said, "You know, I think I could take this home and sketch it!" And so, he brought it home to sketch!
We saw lots of wetland vegetation, like this fern. Wetland vegetation is any kind of plant that can adapt to growing in water, mud, or dry ground. A wetland can be any of those things at different times of the year, so plants have to adjust. It's cool that God made each one of them exactly how they needed to be in order to survive the ecosystem in which they live.
Baby Girl was absolutely fascinated with the gravel on the walking trail. She would not stop playing in it, and we finally just had to pick her up so we could move on!
Britches and Little Man were really excited and wanted me to come and see what they had discovered. What they had found was...
...a lily pond!! A few years ago, we learned about Claude Monet and how he had a lily pond near his home that he just loved to paint. Ever since then, we have always thought what a cool thing that would be to really see a lily pond to know and understand why Monet would want to devote much of his paintings to it. Well, let me tell you, it was beautiful!
The flowers were white with yellow centers. Somewhere in the pond, we could hear a bullfrog.
And as we looked down in the shallow water, we saw tadpoles swimming around.
Brient even spotted a fish swimming. (I know, it's hard to see. But he's in there!)
Baby Girl was completely thrilled! She loved looking at the fish! She really could see it, because it was swimming right up to the surface of the water. She laughed every time she saw it.
There is a gazebo overlooking and a bridge crossing the lily pond.
On the other side of the park is another pond. There are no lilies in this pond, but there are lots of other plants that live here. It was just as beautiful as the other pond.
The park was absolutely beautiful! And we loved hiking the trails. But one thing that I noticed along the way, nearly everywhere you looked, you could see waste! There were old tires and rusty metal from years past. And there were plastic bottles from people today.
We originally came to the park to learn a little more about our wetlands. But as we made our way along the trail, and as we saw more and more waste that the rain had, over time, exposed, my focus changed. We then began to talk about stewardship of our Earth. What we took away from our trip today was that what you do today WILL have an impact on the people of tomorrow. People illegally dumped waste on this land back in the 1970's. But what they did 40 years ago is now affecting this park today. If you take care of the land you have, it will be good land for your children and grand-children. If you pollute the Earth, it will be a dirty mess for years to come that someone else will be left to deal with. You cannot only think about yourself and today. You must think about tomorrow and the people who will come after you in years to come.
Near the end of the trail is a large Blue Heron. We went to check him out! Brient and the kids have one leg up, like the bird!
Baby Girl climbed on his legs.
Little Sister, being the jealous thing she is, had to have a turn climbing on his legs.
And then, there was a fight over who got to sit on his legs again.
And we ended our adventure with a baby crying because she was having fun and didn't want to go home. My kind of day!
A couple of things I learned today. I can't sit around waiting on fun things to happen, but I need to go out and DO fun things! Wetlands are truly amazing places, and our country would not be the same without them. Which is why this oil spill is so devastating. And the last thing - everything I do in this life, no matter how small, WILL have an effect on those who come behind me. I don't want my great-grandchildren to have to clean up the waste that I leave behind. I must take care of the Earth I have been given.