Wednesday, April 22, 2009

We've been doing a bi-weekly class at Pocahontas State Park in Chesterfield called outdoor living skills. Led by ranger Kristen Miller, the class has been a great class on all the things that I wish we covered in scouting.

Here Kristen gives a run-down of what we are looking for in our most recent Animal Tracks class.

The nature room is packed with stuffed real) animals, live snakes and turtles, and lots of hands-on furs and skulls.

On our hike out to find animal tracks, we stopped to admire the waterfall.

It's man-made, but Kristen was telling us that the beavers like to help when the water is low by bringing more logs in and helping to build it up.

I also admired the beech tree buds starting to let loose. It had been a month since we last visited, and the difference in the woods was astounding. During our last visit we could still admire the birches and their coppery leaves that the hold all winter scattered through the forest, but on this visit, we admired all the budding trees and the blooming dogwoods.

Now, here's where the action is:

More signs of beaver life:

And a very resilient little stump that would not give up:

Along the trail back we saw this odd stuff. It looked like black asphalt chunks stuck in the trees:

Turns out it is sooty moss. Aphids collect on the undersides of the birch trees, eating. Honeydew collects on their bodies and drips down on the branches below where sooty moss develops. Underneath all of that, there are usually ants that feed off the honeydew.

Here is the whole ecosystem:
The irony doesn't escape me that I drive almost an hour each way to walk through the woods when we live in an area surrounded by woods. However, it is the perspective of our ranger that makes all the difference. She can tell us in seconds what it might take us hours to research - that is if we even noticed. She has a great way of pointing things out to the kids and expanding on their questions to connect and bring a whole new world to life.
Lots of learning, lots of birches and lots of walking in the woods. It was well worth the drive.

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At 4:55 PM, Blogger Charity said...

I love the idea of a class like this! :o)

At 11:35 PM, Blogger Alycia in Va. said...

Wow those beavers were busy! Be careful around that waterfall. Over the summer Alex and I took off our shoes around the shallow end of the water and found several water snakes.

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