Attending Scary, Oozy, Slimy Day every October at the Sandy Creek Nature Center in Athens, Georgia has become a tradition in my family. There’s nothing scary about it, of course. It’s a wonderful event that showcases under appreciated animals such as snakes, frogs, bugs, spiders and more. There are many hands-on activities and games for children, and children are invited to wear their Halloween costumes, if they want to. We have especially enjoyed meeting and speaking with the college students who man several of the stations and share creepy crawlies from the university. Since my son is interested in biology, we’ve learned a lot by chatting with them.
Here are just a few images from our visit this year, in October 2013.
It wasn’t long after I taught my (then four ~ five-year-old) about the solar system that I learned about the discovery boxes at the Sandy Creek Nature Center.
You can check out a discovery box for two weeks for the cost of $5.00. Though they are created for classroom use and may have more in them than one family can use, they are still worth looking at if you are working on a particular subject. They are for approximately pre-K through 5th grade.
They have discovery boxes for a wide array of subjects such as astronomy, weather, rocks and gems, mammals, animal tracks, creatures of the night, birds, trees, marine life and more… If you stop by the nature center, ask the receptionist to see the list of discovery boxes. There’s an inventory list for each box.
I tried the astronomy box when we were learning about the solar system. There were two children’s books that were perfect for my son, and a bag of planet magnets that he had fun arranging on our refrigerator. We also had fun trying to get the little planetarium star theater to work, but we don’t have the right kind of room for it, and it didn’t look right in our bathroom! (The darkest room in our house.)
There was a lot of stuff that just wasn’t age appropriate for him and materials for a large classroom that I didn’t need. Unfortunately, some of the materials were old, and things like computer programs were not compatible with my computer. The books were outdated and stated that Pluto is a planet, but that didn’t bother me.
I don’t want to discourage you from checking into these boxes, however. If you’re working on a particular unit, or your child has an interest in a certain subject, you should look into it. Every box is going to offer different stuff.
I have already written about my five-year-old’s favorite knee-high naturalist class at the Sandy Creek Nature Center in Athens, GA. Now it’s time to write about the other awesome classes they have that are just for homeschoolers! We’ve been taking the Homeschool Science classes this past year, and we intend to keep taking them as long as we can. I can’t sing the praises of the staff and volunteers at the nature center enough. They are a wonderful group of people who truly care about educating children.
Homeschool Science classes are once a month and last for two hours each. There are two separate classes – one class for ages 5-9 and another for ages 10-15. They are very reasonably priced (at this time: $4 per class for Athens-Clarke County residents and $6 per class for non-residents) and you can sign up for just one or all of them. Parents accompany the students and many younger siblings tag along too. Everyone I have encountered there has been easy-going yet eager to learn and help the kids. Surprisingly, my two-year-old wasn’t too much trouble for me when I brought him along:
Every class begins with indoor instruction/activities and then everyone goes outside for a hike and other activity. Classes are usually divided into two or more groups, depending on the size, and then they rotate the activities. Quite a few people enroll in these classes!
In our last class, we learned about fish, and the whole class got to go fishing! (Complete with safety instructions too.) Another group went to another area and used small nets to catch critters in the pond. Then the groups changed places. The staff and volunteers always make sure that all the kids get to participate and receive any help they might need. Parents also help as needed. (I wish I had my camera when my son was fishing for the first time! The photos you see on this page were taken during two other classes.)
If you are a newbie to these kind of classes and have small children, you might find that a two-hour class is quite long! At least, I felt that way the first couple of times. I was quite tired at the end. For some reason, it feels a little easier for me now. Maybe that’s because I’m physically and mentally prepared. I make these recommendations for you:
Wear comfortable shoes that can get dirty. Most classes include a hike in the woods. Strollers are not accessible.
Pay attention to weather and wear appropriate clothing. They WILL GO OUTSIDE EVEN ON COLD, RAINY DAYS.
Bring snacks/water, but nothing difficult to carry. Students don’t eat during the class, but I’ve noticed several kids are ready to eat right after class. My five-year-old doesn’t need to eat, but I usually have to give my two-year-old a snack, if he’s with us. I keep water in the car for the drive home.
I wear a small backpack so that my arms and hands are free. This makes my life easier all the time – not just during this class! But I do recommend it for the class.
You may want to leave your toddlers at home with a babysitter the first time so that you can see how the class goes, but don’t worry if you need to bring them with you.
Please share where you live and your favorite classes available to homeschoolers.
This autumn, my five-year-old and I have been enjoying the knee-high naturalist class at the Sandy Creek Nature Center. It takes place every other Wednesday from 3:30-4:30p.m. Children ages 3-5 are eligible and must be accompanied by an adult. Click here for more information.
In the class the children have met and touched several live animals, and many times we go outside too. My son was in his element during the “creep walk” when we waded through a stream in search of critters! We’ve learned about the cardinal directions and how to use a compass and also about recycling, just to name a few of the activities.
“Miss Sarah” is a wonderful teacher/facilitator. Her patience and ability with kids is amazing, and once she talked an extra twenty minutes with just my son after class because he had questions about snakes! (Thanks, Sarah!)
I took a lot of good photos during one of the classes, but I don’t want any parent to be mad at me, so I’m only sharing photos of the backs of heads of the other children.
Below my son is awaiting to get his jar filled with compost in hopes of creating a mini bug habitat in a jar.
Above is a photo of the Kugel at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, which I wrote about in my column. My son loves to spin it and point to Georgia.
Recently I realized that some local friends who live here in Barrow County had never been to my son’s hot spots over in Athens, which is a short, 30-minute drive away. So I wrote a column about our favorite places to go, and they also have FREE ADMISSION. You can click here to read the column, or you can just go straight to the websites of these places, which I’ve listed below for you. If you live around here, you don’t want to miss these places.
For Memorial Park, Bear Hollow Zoo, which is next to each other, and then also the Sandy Creek Nature Center, you need to go to http://athensclarkecounty.com/ and type in the name in their search box. It will take you to the page that tells you where and what these places are about.
Please tell me what your children’s hot spots are!
Note: If you are looking for other places to take your kids in Georgia (whether free or not), take a look at my Resources for Georgia Homeschoolerspage. I am writing a column about each outdoor area and state park that we visit. It also includes information on indoor activities or field trips specifically for Georgia homeschoolers.