Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Field trip: Environmental Learning Center

This morning we woke up to about seven inches of fresh, new powder.  It didn't stop snowing until around eleven in the morning.  Our field trip was slated for two this afternoon.  The sun came out and warmed things up quite a bit and the snow began melting at an astounding rate.  Ahhh.. crazy Colorado weather.

Originally the plan was for Rylan's grandpa Len and grandma Ellie to take her along on the field trip to the ELC this afternoon.  But the snow made that a bit more of a challenge, so in the end, the best solution was for my dad to stay at our house with Jordan and play some games on the Wii, while the little boys had their afternoon nap.

So Rylan and I donned our Sorel's and headed out.  I even switched out to a lightweight fleece because the sun was shining by that point - so warm in fact that the snow melt was sending a small river down our street.  I can't remember my last hike in the snow - but I know it was before kids.  Shoe shoes might have been helpful today - but there were a lot of tree branches on the ground, hidden under the snow, left over from last week's disastrous heavy, wet snowfall that would have made snowshoeing a challenge as well.  We didn't get any damage at our house, but all over town there are gigantic brush piles dotting every street.

The ELC is located along the southern banks of the Poudre River.  It is also home to the Raptor Program.  I have never been there, so Rylan and I were excited to see something new and different.  Even though there was plenty of snow on the ground, we were fairly comfortable in our boots and jackets.

Today's class was about Wildlife Detectives.  We headed into the classroom area first to look at stuff.  We looked at animal skeletons, snake skins, fur pelts, antlers, jaw bones, turtle shells, birds' nests, and tons of other stuff.  We got a basic overview of how to look for signs of wildlife when out walking the trails.  Then it was time to head out and see what we could find.

We crossed a bridge that was sturdy but swayed as people walked across.  It was enough movement to make your stomach a little queasy.  We walked towards the trail system that criss-crosses everywhich way as it travels through the different habitat zones along the river.

Two wildlife biology students were our guides, and they would point out this as that as we walked on.  We spotted deer poop, deer and rabbit tracks in the snow along the trail, yellow snow (snigger), bird nests and potential dens hidden under tree roots.

The kids played a game called 'Camoflague'.  The person who is 'it', is called the 'prey'.  All of the kids are the 'hunters', and they have 20 seconds to scatter and conceal themselves from the prey.  The prey then looks around and tries to spot any hunters who are not well-hidden.  When the prey has finished calling out all the individuals he/she can see, he/she counts again, and the remaining hunters have to hide again, in a different, closer position.  The routine is repeated.  After the prey has counted for the third time, the first hunter to sneak up to the prey and touch him/her, before being seen, is the winner.  It was quite fun to watch.  It is also a little disturbing how quickly fifteen or so noisy children can quietly slip into a hiding place.  Of course, then, there is my child.... all is quiet, and the prey is scanning the trees for hidden hunters..... and I hear Rylan's voice, "Hey momma!  Can you see me??"

We had a wonderful time, and I think the best thing about the trip was some one-on-one time with my daughter.

The second best thing was the scenery.  Ahh... Colorado.  I heart you.

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