When you need courage..Think back

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First the Photo: Can you name this National Monument?  Can you find where it is located on a map of the US?

Second the Question:  Do you know it is referred to as the Gateway to the West?  There was once a time in American history when many families packed everything they owned in a covered wagon and headed out on a journey that would last months.  It would required them to walk miles each day, cross raging rivers, climb mountain passes and go for weeks without seeing another living soul.  Can you imagine leaving family and friends behind, knowing that you will never see them again and heading to a place you have never seen, even in pictures, to begin your life anew?  That is serious courage.  Many people would never survive the trip.  They went for one reason: the hope of a better life for themselves and their children.  Would you make such a journey?  If so, where would you go?

Third Next Steps:  Spend some time as a family imagining life on the trail.  First what would you pack up and bring with you..a treasured piece of furniture?  A keepsake from a past relative?  Remember that your wagon could only hold the bare essentials..and needed to have space for all of you to sleep too.  Next using just recycled items build a diorama of a homestead you would live once you arrived.  This is a fun thing to do around Thanksgiving.  As you build your diorama remember that everything you include, someone would need to create…every sock you wear, someone needs to knit.  Every new piece of furniture you acquire, someone needs to cut and split the wood to build.  Every meal you eat, needs to be hunted, gathered or grown.  It boggles the mind the talents and courage that people needed just to survive. Would you move and be a farmer, a rancher, a store owner, a teacher or pastor?  What skill would your family offer to a new settlement of people?  Go to the library and check out some books about pioneering life.  It sure makes us thankful for the comforts we have today.  Whenever we feel stressed by our modern life..spend a few minutes remembering people of the past and let the gratitude of their sacrifices sink in.  How grateful we are for their courage and our comforts.

Seasons of Change

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First The Photo: Name each of the seasons you see in the picture.  Can you list the seasons you experience where you live?  What months do those seasons include?

Second The Questions: Which season is your favorite?  What do you enjoy about that season?  How does the outside world prepare for each season?  What do animals do?  What do trees and flowers do during each season?  What is the weather like in your area during each season?  For many people these seasonal changes outdoors affects how they interact with the world.  Do you have activities that you do only in a particular season?

Third Next Steps: What feelings, sights, sounds and smells do you associate with each season?  Write the words: Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter across the top of a page.  Under each heading list all of the things you think of for each season. Draw a picture for each season.  Try to include a few of the items you listed and share those pictures with others.  See if they can guess what season you are trying to portray simply by your hints in the drawing.  Our daily lives revolve around subtle changes outside.  We sometimes don’t even notice the pull of the days but they shape our interaction with the world.  How we live, what we feel and what we do.  Think of it as a dance where the weather leads and we modify our steps to each of the tunes it sings to us.  Go outside today and listen to the seasons around you..Dance to the music of today.

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Heroes Among Us

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First the Photo:  This fountain is in a large city on the east coast.. Do you know where it was taken?  Notice the water in the fountain is dyed pink.  Can you guess why?  For a hint look at the color of the trees in the background.  What month do you think we took this picture?  Does that help you know why it is pink?

 

Second the Question:  October is breast cancer awareness month.  All over America we celebrate the people who have battled this disease.  These people are heroes. Not because they got cancer, but because of the way they choice to fight it.  Do you know anyone in your life who has been touched by breast cancer?  Or any kind of cancer?  It is a life changing event to battle an illness of any kind.  Have you ever been to a hospital?  Had a surgery? How did you feel when you were sick? This is the time when you need courage and support.  Those two things are the most important medicine in the world. 

 

Third Next Steps:   How can we help share our support for people struggling with an illness?  There are simple ways to show people that we are thinking of them as they battle to overcome the challenges of a disease.  Stories of support are everywhere look for ideas on line or at the library.  You can do outdoor work for someone who is home bound with an illness, or help with indoor chores.  There are stories of groups who shave their heads to show their support of someone who is losing their hair to chemo.  Simple things like bringing a home cooked meal to someone or offering to help take their kids out for a day of fun.  Or even just listening to them talk about their battle.  Celebrate the strength that they have to deal with these trials.  Show them how much you honor their courage.  Heroes come in all ages, shapes and sizes.  Help someone walk their road and find the hero inside of you!

A-Maizing Corn

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First the Picture: Can you locate on a map where corn is grown in the United States?  Can you name all of the different types of corn that is grown? From feed corn, to sweet corn to a corn that you snack on in movies! Corn is the #1 crop grown in America.

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Second the Questions: Did you know that corn is called maize in many other countries and was called that by the culture native to the Americans. What is your favorite way to eat corn? Do you know who..or what eats the most corn here in America? (Hint it isn’t humans!) Did you know that an ear of corn is actually part of the flower of the plant and each kernel is a seed?  Can you guess how many average kernels there are on each ear? (800) Corn will always have an even number of kernels on each row. Corn is native to our country..do you know what that means?

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Third Next Steps: Corn makes a wonderful sensory experience for kids of all ages.  Find a place that sells dried cobs meant to put out for squirrels and deer to nibble on.  Then put a few in a large Tupperware tub.  You will be amazed by how relaxing it is to pick the kernels off of the cob.  It is fun to count the kernels and investigate the structure of the cob as you work.  Once your cobs are clean and your tub is full..add some funnels, scoops and small bins. Scooping, measuring and weighing the corn as you run it through your fingers. It is a fun sensory experience.  You can even try adding toy tractors into your bin and drive them through the mounds..pretending to harvest your crop!  Once you have spend days enjoying your sensory bin..bring your bin of corn to a nature area and spread out your kernels for your animals friends to enjoy!

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Friends of the Skies..

 

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First the Photo: New Type of Scavenger hunt: can you name these beautiful birds.  Find out if they live in your area.

Second The Questions: Do you know these feathered friends?  Do you recognize their colors?  Do you know their song? Birds make up the beauty of our homes and communities.  Do you know they were once hunted for their plumes, heads and wings to decorate women’s hats, shawls and dresses?  How very sad. They are such amazing creatures to watch as they float and flutter on the air, traveling from flower to flower.  People have been mesmerized by birds for hundreds of years and they began humans yearn for flight.  Can you imagine soaring through the air without the aid of a plane?

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Third Next Steps: What do you think makes things more likely to fly?  Weight? Surface area?  Think of the man made things that can fly.  What do they all have in common?  How many things can you name?  Gather up tape, string, used toilet paper rolls, boxes, old Tupperware containers and garbage of all sorts.  Now try to make something that will soar through the air.  After you are done bring out a fan or stand up high and release your creation.  Does it float and twist in the breeze?  If it doesn’t see if you can make modifications to make it fly longer and longer.

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Open Air Markets

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First The Picture:  Open Air Markets or Farmer’s Markets are all over America..this is one of the most famous.  Do you recognize it?  Can you find it on a map? 

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Second The Question:  Have you ever visited a Farmer’s Market and explored the treasures found in each booth?  Most markets feature fresh produce, flowers and plants, but some even feature locally caught fish or seafood.  What type of things are harvested in your area?  Can you name some of the local crops, plants and ag-based products?  Can you make a list, based upon the seasons of the year and the things that could be harvested in your area?  Try to be as creative as you can. Many markets even feature home-baked products, canned goods and organic products.

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Third Next Steps:  Take a field trip to a Farmer’s Market as a family.  Make a scavenger hunt game out of it.  Take the list you made of seasonal products and see who can find all products beginning with one letter, or made from one crop.  Explore the booths and come home with one idea that you would like to made or grow yourselves.  Bring home all of the ingredients for a salsa, pie or salad.  Spend the day enjoying your bounty.  It is fun to visit with the people running the booth and learning a bit about life on a farm.  Buying local is a wonderful way to celebrate the producers in your area.  Dig in!

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Water You Up To??

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First The Photo:   Instead of our usual scavenger hunt to find the place this photo was taken..Everyone: find the closest water source to your house.

Second The Question:    Is it a lake, river, or the ocean?  Is there a beach with sand or a dock to fish off of?  What is your favorite way to enjoy water on a warm summer day?  Do you run through the hose?  Play in a pool?  Fish for dinner or paddle a canoe?  There is nothing like cool refreshing water on a hot day.  Cools the body and relaxes the mind. Helps to wash away your troubles and infuses the day with a burst of refreshing energy that was sapped away by the sun.

Third Next Steps:  Here are some creative things to do with water:

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  • Fill some balloons with water, tie them to a string and play pinata!  Or have people try to hit them with a dart to pop them while someone else gets splashed!
  • Draw a large crayon bulls-eye on a driveway or parking lot and give everyone a different colored  sponge.  Dip the sponge in a bucket of water aim for the bulls-eye.  Everyone has to stand in a circle around the target so you get to feel the splash!
  • Put golf tees into styrofoam then place ping pong balls on top.  Have everyone stand in a circle around the block..the same distance away and see who can dislodge the balls just with their stream of water.
  • Go wading in a pond and observe the tadpoles and fish swimming past your footsies!

Make a Splash!!

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What would you do, if you made all the rules?

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First the Picture(s):    Can you locate the place where each of these pictures was taken and can you name the type of civilization each of these communities once represented?

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Second The Question:  There are as many different ways to rule a group of people as there are civilizations to rule.  You could be President of a Democracy or King/Queen of a monarchy.  You could be a Pirate ruling the seas or a Dictator commanding an Empire.  If you were in charge..what rules would you make?  What things would you forbid?  What would you make mandatory?  Would you allow others to give input or would you demand that everyone do as you say?

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Third Next Steps:   After you dream of all the crazy rules you would make..try to think of the problems that come with being in charge?  Can you see any down sides to ruling a group of people?  What happens if the people you govern don’t like your ideas?  What steps would you put in place if someone disagrees?  What are things that rulers provide for the people they govern?  Safety, structure, input, education, food, jobs?  What would you provide?

Think of small communities and the people who rule them..Like a Family.  Try letting each person be in charge for a day. Write down the rules you would set and then try to list the consequences of that rule.  If you let everyone sleep as long as they want..what would happen? Or if each person ate whatever they wanted at every meal.  Who would pay for all of that food?  It is challenging to maintain balance within a small group of people imagine how hard it would be to run a country.  You can see that it helps if the people that live in a country have the ability to give feedback and input to the rulers in charge?

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Perpetual Springtime

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First The Photo:    What is a Conservatory?  Do you know what city houses this particular conservatory?  Do you have a conservatory close to your home? If not can you find a greenhouse or a floral market close to home?  All of these house flowers to smell and growing plants that help us to jump start springtime.

 

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Second the Question: Do you miss green plants and blooming flowers?  Are you getting tired of the long winter?  There are places that have flowers year round. Places that helpus to create the hope of spring in the midst of a snow covered or muddy late winter.  Would you like to fast forward to springtime?  Or do you just want a brief change of pace? Conservatories are a feast for the senses with warm humid air, heavy with a multitude of different scents.  Beautiful flowers to see and unique, often exotic plants to enjoy.

Third Next Steps:  Take an afternoon out of your week and hunt down some blooming flowers.  Whether you find them at a local conservatory or you just take a field trip to a flower market.  Spend some time learning the different plants and smelling the various flowers.  Bring a camera and capture some close up photos of the blooms.  Plants can make great subjects for young photographers, as they tend to sit still and look great in most snapshots.  The key is; to get close and personal.  Try to take some pictures of single blooms.  Capture the center structure of a flower.  Many flowers are beautiful, but a single blooms can often be truly breathtaking.

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Color in the Cold

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First the Photo:   Do you know what kind of flower this is? Can you find on a map where they typically grow.  I will give you a hint they need an area with 4 seasons and a long cold spell to get them ready to come up and bloom in the spring.

 

Second the Question:  This flower is a type of bulb.  Have you ever seen them growing?  Do you have bulbs that grow in your area?  Have you ever smelled one of these beautiful flowers? Do you live in a place that has a distinct spring? Isn’t it wonderful to see colors appear in the landscape after a long cold winter? How would you like to enjoy some springtime a little bit earlier this year?

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Third Next Steps:  Would you like to bring a bit of color into the cold days of winter?  Bulbs are very easy to grow indoors..it is called “forcing bulbs”.  It is fairly simple to do and fun to watch the bulb grow and bloom in your own little corner of the world.  Florists sell them already planted, or even some grocery stores with floral areas will often sell them from Feb. through April.  However, if you like to get a bit dirty and would enjoy planting them yourself it is easy to do, so dig in and enjoy! First go to a florist, hardware store, or large chain store and buy the bulb.  The easiest bulbs to force are called: paperwhite narcissi, but you can also force hyacinths(the ones in the picture) or amaryllis or some varieties of tulips.  All you need is a medium sized bowl or pot, potting soil, gravel, a shovel and a watering container.  Add some gravel to the bottom of the bowl to help with drainage, then add soil, if you would like..some of the bulbs can be placed right in the gravel.  Place the bulb on the gravel and keep adding soil or gravel under the bulb is 3/4 covered.  Press firmly so the bulb is set in securely in the planting medium.  Then water the bulb.  If you are growing Paperwhites you can just keep it out and continue to water, keeping it moist but not wet and then shoots will come within 2-3 weeks.  They will flower within 6 weeks.  If you are forcing any of the other bulbs you need to give them a mock winter.  So after you water them once, tuck them into the fridge for 3-4 weeks then bring them out and begin to water them keeping them moist but not wet and you will have yourself a flower about 6 weeks after taking them out of the fridge!  Forcing bulbs are a fun way to help sped up spring’s arrival!

 

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