Enjoy it!

Finding ways to enjoy this weather? You know it will be a L-O-N-G time before we see a stretch like this again so I hope you are taking every possible advantage of it. It’s supposed to stay gorgeous through Tuesday, so there is still time to take those lessons outside, grab a good book (or science class . . .) and picnic at the park, plan a spontaneous field trip, bike ride, or let your kids decide. Of course, lots of schools are off for an extra long weekend, so you won’t have the place to yourself like usual, but you can’t complain when it’s 75 in October in Chicago.

What are you planning or already done to enjoy these days?

If you need a few ideas . . .

– Grab your library card! Not to actually check out books, although that would be fine, too — rather to use the Museum Adventure Pass. These can get you into some great outdoor spots:

Chicago Botanic Garden

With its world-renowned plant collections and displays, it is one of the country’s most visited public gardens and preeminent center for learning and scientific research.
1000 Lake Cook Road
Glencoe IL, 60022
Hours: 8 am – sunset, everyday. Extended hours early June – Labor Day 7 am to 9 pm. Christmas Eve – close at 3pm.
Website: http://www.chicago-botanic.org/
Admits 1 Vehicle – Limited to one car per use. No commercial vans or buses

Brookfield Zoo (Chicago Zoological Society)

A world leader in animal care, conservation, and education, Brookfield Zoo is celebrating 75 years of fun this year!
First Ave. and 31st St.
Brookfield IL, 60503
Hours: Jan. 1: Daily 10 to 5; April 4: Weekdays 10 to 5, Weekends 10 to 6; Memorial Day thru Labor Day: Daily 9:30 to 6 (7:30 pm on Sundays); After Labor Day: Weekdays 10 to 6, Weekends 10 to 6; October 25: Daily 10 to 5.
Website: http://www.czs.org/czs/Brookfield/Zoo-Home
Admits 2 (Passes are valid for Brookfield Zoo only and does not include parking or admission to any internal exhibits or attractions, such as Dolphin Show, Butterfiles Children’s Zoo, Temporary exhibits, Motor Safari, etc.)

Cantigny Park

In addition to vast formal gardens and picnic and camping grounds, Cantigny offers two history-rich museums: the Robert R. McCormick Museum and the Cantigny First Division Museum, fascinating for children and researchers alike.
1S151 Winfield Road
Wheaton IL, 60189
Hours: 10am – 5pm (Memorial Day – Labor Day); 10am – 4pm (Labor Day – Memorial Day): Closed December 24, 25 and 31 and all of January.
Website: http://www.cantigny.org
Admits 1 vehicle – Limited to one car per use.

Two others that are only partially outdoors, but both are situated on land with walking trails as well:

Graue Mill and Museum

An operating water wheel gristmill and homestead dedicated to maintaining a bridge between past and present.
3800 York Road
Oak Brook IL, 60523
Hours: Open in 2010 through November 14. Tuesday though Sunday 10am to 4:30pm. Mill closed for the winter season. Reopening on April 12, 2011 through end of program.
Website: http://www.grauemill.org
Admits 4 (2 adults and 2 children)

Lake County Discovery Museum

Offers the fun of a big city museum, close to home with its permanent and temporary exhibits including an 11-foot Mastodon and the world’s largest collection of picture postcards.
27277 N. Forest Preserve Road
Wauconda IL, 60084
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.; Sunday, 1 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Website: http://www.lcfpd.org/discovery_museum
Admits 2 (passes are valid for general admission only. Not valid for use during public programs and special events where special admission rates apply)

Morton Arboretum — We just spent a memorable day here with my parents. Unfortunately it is no longer a part of the museum adventure pass program, but I would recommend it as a field trip, although not a cheap one. We were able to enjoy the day with their annual membership which also got us a free tram ride. I could fill a whole blog post with this great trip. This location used to be for gardeners and tree lovers. Not so anymore. My kids love the children’s garden and could spend all day climbing around the tree fort, the rope “spider-web,” splashing in the streams, getting lost and found in the maze, and chasing bugs. If you go — bring a change of clothes and a maybe even a towel for each of the kids if they are the adventurous sort. Also, this was my first time on the tram ride and really enjoyed it. It is an hour long (don’t know cost . . .) and gives some great tips about what you should be sure to see and do while there. If you take the ride grab a map and take notes during the tour so you will remember all the info the guide shares and where he tells you to come back and when. Great info, but no way I could retain it all.

Klein Creek Farm: Corn Harvest, Oct. 8-10, 2011 | 10:30 am – 3:30 pm

Help to pick, shock, shuck, shell and store the corn that will feed the farm’s cows and sheep over winter. Activities ongoing. All ages. Free. Registration not required. Call (630) 876-5900.

Lake County Forest Preserve is having a free Fall Festival: with guided walks, games and wagon rides surrounded by some of Lake County’s loveliest fall color.

Meet at Ryerson Welcome Center.

When: October 9, 2011
1:00pm – 4:00pm
Where: Ryerson Conservation Area (Riverwoods)
Ryerson Woods Welcome Center
Who: All ages
Cost: Free

No registration required.

Hopefully that gives you some inspiration in addition to orchards and pumpkin patches that are always fun (and mobbed) this time of year as well. Whatever you choose, enjoy making the most of these next few days!

Great Backyard Bird Count — coming to a backyard near you!

Great Backyard Bird Count

This weekend birders of all shapes and sizes will head to their back windows, or maybe even outside into their backyards and count birds.

I had heard of this event in the past, but did not have any interested kids. Well, today in our science we read about it once again. The book said it took place sometime in February, so I jumped online to see when. And, it is this coming weekend! February 18-21, 2011, you are encouraged to spend 15 minutes at least one day counting birds in your yard or other outdoor area.

There are a few organized events in Illinois:


GBBC event
February 19, 9:00-Noon
Peck Farm Park Interpretive Center
4038 Kaneville Road, Geneva, IL
Contact: Tina Rossi, (630) 262-8244, trossi@genevaparks.com


GBBC participation
February 19, 1:00 – 3:00 PM
Citizens Park, Jewel Pavilion, 511 Lake Zurich Road, Barrington, IL
For ages 4 and up, Cost: $5 per child, families with multiple children pay $1 for each additional child. Registration is required.
Contact:Citizens for Conservation, (847) 382-SAVE (7283), cfc@CitizensforConservation.org


GBBC activities
February Noon-2:00 PM
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL
Join our celebration of the 2011 Great Backyard Bird Count! Learn bird watching skills and discover how your family can participate in this year’s bird count. Compete in the Bird Olympics to test your athletic abilities against those of local bird species. Fun for all ages!
Contact: (773) 755-5126, www.naturemuseum.org


GBBC participation
February 19, 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Anita Purves Nature Center, 1505 N Broadway, Urbana, IL
Join Champaign County Audubon Society members and Anita Purves Nature Center staff as we make an important contribution to conservation by counting birds for the GBBC. Help identify and count the birds at feeding stations and along trails in Busey Woods. Dress for the weather and bring binoculars if you have them. Free! All ages (under 15 with adult)
Contact: (217) 384-4062

If you would rather spend time on your own in your own space there are lots of resources at the Great Backyard Bird Count website:

Ideas just for us educators including bird feeder construction, backyard activities, and ideas for getting kids involved.

Links to more sites with information about bird identification.

– A page to input your zipcode and come up with a list of birds you might expect to see. This is a great tool to look at ahead of time to be prepared for quick identification during the count.

We also enjoy the site “What Bird?” for bird identifications. It helped us identify a flock of Sandhill Cranes that passed over our house last year. You need to be observant, and the longer you do it, the more you know what to look for. I still have a lot to learn to advance beyond a casual birder, but it is a fun activity, and something all ages can enjoy together.

When it’s all over, don’t forget to jump online and submit your count to the official database.