Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Homeschool Day at the Virginia Living Museum

I've rarely been as impressed by Homeschool Days as I was today by the one theVirginia LIving Museum put on for the Hampton Roads homeschooling community today.

Our day started off with a talk called, "Born to be Wild".

Here we learned about the Goliath Bird Eating Tarantula, the largest spider in the world.

We also learned about the American alligator. It turns out that I was a liar when I told the kids that there were no alligators in Merchant's Millpond when we went canoeing there a few weeks ago. There are apparently no alligators in Virginia, but a fairly sizeable population of large ones at Merchant's Millpond in North Carolina.

Thankfully the one we saw was a baby. The kids had a real kick out of touching it.

The kids were fascinated by the great horned owl. They were especially fascinated by the fact that they catch skunks and because they have no sense of smell, the skunk spray does not bother them. Apparently vultures are the only birds with a sense of smell. Ben spent a while trying to pretend he was an owl by trying to see around himself by turning his head, not his eyes. He discovered it wasn't a whole lot of fun.

The ball python wasn't my cup of tea, but the kids loved it.

After this talk, it was on to the one on Animal ABC's.

Here the theme was not the alphabet, but how animals adapt to their surroundings.

The teacher was very clever when she showed the children the different types of bird beaks. She showed them a humming bird, a warbler and a cardinal. After she had described how well their beaks were adapted for the foods they eat, she pulled out a straw, a pair of tweezers and a pair of pliers and demonstrated their similarity to the birds' beaks.

This is something I always try to do with my kids and appreciate it when others do it as well. I've found that the more connections you draw for the kids, the better they remember and understand the subject matter.

After the birds, she showed us a box turtle, a land turtle. She showed the children how the box turtle's shell is more rounded than it's aquatic cousins, how it's shell is colored to give it great camouflage within the fallen forest leaves and how it has a hinge on it's under shell to allow it to withdraw into it when threatened.

Did you know that you can tell a box turtle's sex by the color of it's eyes? Red or orange eyes mean it's a male while brown eyes signify a female.

I loved how she demonstrated and explained the duck's weatherproof coat. The kids enjoyed watching the water roll off the duck's back. The saying, "water off a duck's back", now has meaning for them. I never knew that the oil actually came from the feathers and that when the ducks ruffle their feathers, they are actually oiling them. I learned that this is called gleaning.

Did you know that a possum has four fingers and a thumb, just like humans, or that they have 50 teeth, more than any other land animal? Or that they are North America's only marsupial?

The final animal we saw in this talk was a Kestril, the smallest in the falcon family. I never realized that their eyesight was quite that good. They can see a mouse at a 100 yards.

The final talk of the day for Ben's and Shira's age group was "The Web of Life". This teacher was superb. She was funny and strict at the same time and kept the kids enthralled. The web of life is just up Shira's alley as she is turning into quite a little nature girl.

When she was showing this dear, little bunny, it decided to get back on me for banning the unpotty trained animals from my home by pooping at my feet.

The children also got to pet a "destinked" skunk.

Ben and Shira tell me that the bunny's fur is much softer than the skunk's.

This teacher did a great job of explaining the food chain and the different types of "-vores". She ended with the decomposers and showed us some Betsy beetles.

When we arrived home, after the visit, we did all the worksheets that the museum gave us to help solidify what the children had been taught. I'm not a big fan of worksheets, but these were well done and the kids enjoyed them.

After the talks, we mooched around the museum. The kids loved the dino exhibit.

Here's Shira playing with the mechanical dino.

My budding paleontologist .

Having some fun.

I think the highlight of the trip came during our walk of the trail where we saw two bald eagles.

We had a splendid day at the Virginia Living Museum and want to say a great big thank you to everyone who made this superb field trip possible. The kids can't wait for the next one.


Our Home Schooler and Jen said...

another great field trip
what a big spider and Im afraid Im not a fan of snakes
even though we dont have in New Zealand i seem to have a fear of them

Michele said...

I've been interested in this museum since I first learned of it 8 years ago, but I still haven't made it there! I enjoyed your pictures and words about the event. Thanks!