Animals, Art Crafting, Holiday, Lake MetroParks, Nature, STEM Careers, STEM Resources

Lake Metroparks STEM Programs for Children and Families

For those that live in Northeast Ohio, Lake County Ohio’s park system known as the Lake Metroparks has extensive STEM programs for children and families. They also have specific programs geared towards home school parents and children.

Our family has greatly enjoyed the convenient, educational and fun programs that the Lake Metroparks system provides – specifically, the young child story times / explorations through the parks as well as numerous programs that are provided by the FarmPark and Penitentiary Glen Reservation. We have learned a great deal about farming and agriculture as well as the natural habitats and animals / insects that live in Northeast Ohio.

During the story times, children listen to stories associated with a nature theme, make a craft, play games and (weather permitting) take a hike outside along the paths in the park with a guide. The last one we participated in was all about frogs and it was held at Penitentiary Glen Reservation. The educator that ran the program was absolutely wonderful with the children. She taught them about the lifecycle of a frog, they made crafts, sang ‘5 little speckled frogs’, went on a nature hike outside, went on a scavenger hunt to find their own (fake) frogs, and many other activities.

Some of our favorite family friendly activities at the Farmpark have been Working Dog Weekend, Sheep Sheering Weekend, Horse Fest, Halloween Hayrides and Christmas Country Lights. At Country Lights, children are able to build a wooden toy with an elf from Santa’s Workshop. It’s a truly magical experience but also gives young children the opportunity to use real tools, listen to instructions and take pride in creating a wonderful toy for themselves.

For more information on their available educational programs for teachers and schools, click here. For more information on their upcoming family friendly events, click here. For more information on upcoming programming and registration, view the latest Parks Plus! magazine here.

Have you participated in any of these programs? Which is your favorite? If not, what park systems or parks have you enjoyed the most that provide STEM educations?

Experiments, Inexpensive and Versatile, Nature, STEM Resources

Make your own Explorer Packs for Nature Exploration with the Kids

DISCLAIMER: I am an Amazon Associate and may earn from qualifying purchases made from the links in this post at no additional cost to you. Many of the items we selected for sample collection had fallen to the ground. I do not recommend teaching your children to collect live plants from the parks that you visit, especially if they cross state lines, as this many not be allowed or could cause disease outbreaks or infestations.

We packed an backpack for the kids full of ‘explorer gear’ and made our way to the woods nearby. We told the kids that we were going to go and explore nature. They were beyond excited!

Inside the ‘explorer pack’ was a couple blank notebooks (found in the Target bins), crayons, an empty peanut butter jar for sample collection, shovel, ruler, magnifying glass, two guidebooks to Ohio wildflowers and a camera (we have this pink one and here’s a similar one in blue).

(If you purchase the camera, don’t forget get the case – in pink or blue – and memory card too.)

We allowed the kids to explore whatever they wished. We looked for bugs, plants, seeds, flowers, leaves, sticks, etc. My youngest loved looking at several items with the magnifying glasses and making ‘notes’ in her notebook. My oldest drew items to find for a scavenger hunt in her notebook which included an orange flower, 5 trees, a stick, a lily pad and a piece of grass. She loved taking photos of the items that she found.

My husband and I pointed out interesting items along the way and facts that we knew from nature. We found interesting plants, pine cones, beautiful flowers and plankton, just to name a few. We also saw many bees, dragon flies, butterflies and birds. We also heard bull frogs.

When we returned home, we looked at each of the items that we had in our sample jar under our portable microscope. Take a look at the images below! We actually saw a bug climbing out of one of them!

This was such a fun family day and we all learned so much about nature. This is an activity that could be easily done in your own backyard.

What outdoor places do you love to explore with your kids? What other items can you think of that you would pack for your little explorer?

Fairy Garden, Nature

Coining a new phrase: Fairy God-Momgineering!

OHIO.  Rolling hills with gorgeous tree line views, rivers, lakes, creeks, beaches, ponds, gorges, waterfalls, farmland, marsh, etc.  The landscape here is beautiful and there are plenty of park systems with scientists, naturalists, biologists, zoologists, botanists, geologists, architects, ecologists and engineers that ensure that the beauty of OHIO is preserved for us to enjoy.

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Fairy house at Holden Arboretum in Kirtland, Ohio

In our family, we do our best to spend as much time outdoors as we can.

Recently we went to our local arboretum and stopped by the Children’s Nature Play Area.  This area has climbing ropes, a reading area, balance beams, a small zip line and an area to watch birds, squirrels and chipmunks feed from the feeders.

But what was most exciting for the girls was a recently added Fairy Garden. They played with it for more than an hour before we had to bribe them to go.  So, that’s where the idea for our next family project began…

This winter, we will be building a fairy garden for our yard.

There are many fun elements to this project that incorporate aspects of STEAM (I’ll be starting to add the Arts portion to many of our projects too)!  Most of our materials will be found in nature or scrap that we have – other than some items we may need for attaching (like glue, nails, etc.).

Using items from nature will allow us to:

  • Identify trees / plants and their attributes for building,
  • Identify types of fruit / nuts various trees / plants produce,
  • Identify other items in nature that can be used for building / decorating,
  • Use our creativity and
  • Study actual structures out in the real world.  For example, go look at the structural aspects of a bridge – what holds it up?

In the words of William Wordsworth, we will try to “let nature be (our) teacher”.

This entire project will be a great introduction to many disciplines in the STEAM fields.  Key ones that come to mind for this project are Structural or Civil Engineer, Materials Engineer, Mechanical Engineer, Safety Engineer, Naturalist / Biologist, Botanist, Geologist, Architect and possibly even Ecology.

I fully expect that as parents of two young children, we may be doing much of the work, but it will be incredibly worth every ounce of energy considering the tremendous amount of education and confidence that this will provide them.  And the final result will be so much FUN!

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Our first bucket of nature materials

Over the next several weeks / months, we will be collecting nature materials to use (started this weekend), taking photos of various structures that we want to build, planning our builds and finally, building several pieces and problem solving any (hopefully minimal) failures.

I will share each of the pieces in this blog – how they were made, what we would do differently and hopefully we will inspire some of you to do something similar!  Feel free to submit ideas that you have or items you think belong in a Fairy Garden – let me be your Fairy God-Momgineer (HAHA!) and bring these ideas to life! 

I am also SO excited to see the kids ideas come to life too.  Maria Montessori once said, “A child, more than anyone else, is a spontaneous observer of nature.”

All ideas in this post, as always, are my own.  Please reach out to me below in the comments or at momgineeringthefuture@gmail.com if you have any additional comments, ideas or suggestions for our fairy garden.  I’d love to hear them!

And if you love this blog, PLEASE share it with family, friends, colleagues, etc. that you think would love it too.

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