Spring brings syrup season

Another fun activity I heard about through Free Things to do in Chicago:

Mark your calendars!  Bring the family out to the North Park Village Nature Center on March 26 & 27, 2011 to experience the entire maple syrup making process, from tapping the tree and collecting sap to boiling it down to syrup. Stroll the sugar bush, enjoy storytelling and live music, make a craft, and taste homemade syrup.

Date: March 26 & 27, 2011
Start Time: 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Cost: free
Location : North Park Village Nature Center

5801 N. Pulaski Road
Chicago, 60646

Come out to these family friendly and nature friendly events. From campfires and hikes, to story-telling and canoe trips, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Bug fest

The Red Oak Nature Center, part of the Fox Valley Park District is having a bug fest this coming Saturday, August 21.

The time will be full of fun with activities, crafts, competition, and lots of learning. This event is geared to the whole family.

When: Saturday, August 21, 9-noon

Where: Red Oak Nature Center
On Route 25, one mile north of Route 56
2343 S. River St.
North Aurora, IL 60542

More information: 630-897-1808

Fullersburg Woods Nature Education Center

Last week we enjoyed a fun outing with my parents to Fullersburg Nature Center. We ended up there during a preschool story time, in which my kids made up most of the audience, but they learned some new information about beavers and other animals native to that preserve.

The nature center has a variety of animals for viewing, stuffed and living, a partial woolly mammoth skeleton from nearby Blackwell, puppets and books, loads of information on the creatures of the area, and lots that kids can get their hands on. A popular display had about a 2 1/2 foot square wooden box with silly putty type substance covering the bottom. Stored along the sides the kids could find prints of various animal tracks that they could then press into the putty to make their own animal tracks. Cards hanging next to the display helped them figure out which animal they had and a bit about the animal as well.

My kids also enjoyed the giant bird nest they could climb into and pretend to welcome mama bird home. Puppets and books help create a fun environment for kids in the cozy nest.

My mom brought a simple craft project that also involved animals and fine motor skills — weaving. She always has surprises tucked away, like this one from Oriental Trading Company,  for times like that. Simple, and yet it tied in nicely with all they saw and learned that day.

After some time inside, we headed down the trail to the Graue Mill. Although closed for winter, we had a quick walk around outside and watched the ducks in Salt Creek nearby. It will not open again until mid-April. You can get those Museum Adventure passes for some free admission at that time.

After our fun day there, I found on their website that they offer other educational resources. The center offers field-trips which would be a great option for your homeschool group. Fullersburg Woods also offers educational loan boxes. Their website says, “Each box includes reference information, lessons and activity outlines, and natural objects for display and for use with activities.”

Even as the winter weather sets in, as long as you dress for it, a hike outdoors can do wonders for bringing a special refreshment to your day, and you never know what you might spy along the way.

Be sure to check out the detailed Field Trip listing on our site when you search for more ideas to add some sparkle to your school day.