Local Spotlight: Teatown Lake Reservation

We recently visited Teatown as a family and had a wonderful time there.  Teatown is a little less than a 1.5 hour drive from Brooklyn.  We drove and parked in their parking lot for a $5 charge as non-members.

First, we visited their nature center which had some local animals on display:  turtles, snakes and a salamander.

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We tried one of their easier hikes first, the Twin Lakes Loop to the Waterfall Trail and arrived at a beautiful waterfall where we enjoyed our picnic lunch.  We hiked back via a different trail, the Hilltop Trail.  The first two trails were quite easy hikes, perfect for young children.  The hike back via the Hilltop Trail was more challenging but we made it!  All in all the hiking time was 3.5 hours.  Ethan, 5.5 years old was great on the trail and completed the full hike happily!  I carried, Lillian who will be 4 next month, in the toddler carrier for about 30-40 minutes along the Hilltop Trail.  Other than that she hiked along happily.  I’d definitely recommend this hike for families with young children!

 

Something that I think helped keep the crankies away on this long hike was this book…

Backpack Explorer:  On the Nature Trail

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The kids each had a copy and LOVED it!  I thought we’d pick one page to focus on such as “leaves” or “insects” but they seriously found every single nature item in the book.  This is probably why the hike took so long, since we stopped to check our book and identify mushrooms, leaves, insects, frogs and tracks.  But it was wonderful to watch them be such careful observers of nature.

Ethan’s favorite part was finding a frog and climbing near the waterfall area!

 

Lillian loved finding lily pads and lillies floating in the water!

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What We are Reading Wednesday: Books about Land and Water

*all links are Amazon affiliate links*

I recently purchased this book, Water Land:  Land and Water Forms Around the World by Christy Hale, after seeing it on Instagram.  It’s a beautiful, simple book which very creatively makes comparisons between water and landforms.  It was an instant hit with Ethan who is 5.5.

Ethan is very interested in maps, different landforms and any kind of water so I thought this book would be a jumping off point for a more in-depth study.  I purchased the following books to help our study along:

The Pond by Jim LaMarche

The Raft by Jim LaMarche (I have yet to be able to read this beautiful book without crying.  What a great story!)

The Little Island by Margaret Wise Brown

As we move forward I plan to add kinetic sand and water with blue food coloring to our sensory table for him to explore.

I’ve also downloaded these 3 part cards from The Helpful Garden to help us learn the land and water form vocabulary.  There were many great 3 part cards available for free download on the site.

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If you follow us on Instagram, I plan to share more of our land and water study there.

 

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What We are Reading Wednesday: Books about Nature

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These nature picture books are some of my kids all-time favorites.  We have read them over and over again!

*all links are Amazon Affiliate links*

Finding Wild by Megan Wagner Lloyd – This is a great book about nature in an urban environment.

If You Find A Rock by Peggy Christian – This one is my kids favorite right now

All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon – This is a board book but the text is just so beautiful.

Wonders of Nature by Jane Werner Watson – This is an old book but I love how it notices the very simple aspects of nature and points them out as wonderful.

What a Wonderful World by Bob Thiele- My kids love to listen to the song by Louis Armstrong as I turn the pages of the book.

A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry – This is such a simple, beautiful book.

The Kids Guide to Exploring Nature by Brooklyn Botanic Garden – We love the BBG and we love this book!

On the Nature Trail by Storey Publishing – This is a beautiful take-along field guide for kids ages 4 and up.

Do you have any recommendations of books about nature?

 

Local Spotlight: Battery Urban Farm

Last year I organized a homeschool field trip to the Battery Urban Farm.  I was so excited to find this gem of a place right in lower Manhattan!

http://thebattery.org/destinations/urban-farm/

The farm is open to the public from April to November.  This urban farm provides thousands of pounds of produce to local elementary schools and local homeless shelters.  The mission of the farm is “to engage students, residents, and visitors in sustainable farming techniques, the joys of tasting new foods, and the value of urban farming in the evolving story of this historic public park.”

It was truly amazing to see a functioning farm in the middle of our big, bustling city!

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Their field trip was so well organized.  From the ease of the online registration, to the friendliness of the staff, to the multiple hands-on experiences the kids rotated through, the entire day was full of learning and fun.  We even got to taste some of the vegetables they grow!

 

While you are there you can also check out the Sea Glass Carousel, a very beautiful and unique carousel.  You can also spend time near the water watching the boats or hop on the Staten Island Ferry.  There are many beautiful gardens to stroll through, bike paths to ride, and even a labyrinth to walk through.  There is so much for kids to enjoy in this small area of NYC.

What We are Reading Wednesday: Books about Insects

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Here are some of our favorite books (with affiliate links) about bugs!  My kids just love when we take out the bug books each May.  Insects are one of their favorite topics to read about for sure.

A Ladybug’s Life by John Himmelman

The Big Book of Bugs by Yuval Zommer

Bugs A to Z by Caroline Lawton

National Geographic Little Kids First Book of Bugs by Catherine D. Hughes

From Caterpillar to Butterfly by Deborah Heiligman

I Like Bugs by Margaret Wise Brown – This is a great easy reader for young kids learning to read.

My Busy Green Garden by Terry Pierce

Some Bugs by Angela DiTerlizzi – This one is my favorite.  It’s fun to read out loud and the pictures are great.

This year, Ethan (5.5) has loved The Fly Guy Series by Tedd Arnold.  He finds it so funny!

We have also been enjoying the hands-on experience of having insects in our home to observe.  This is our second year with both the Inset Lore Deluxe Butterfly Garden and the Insect Lore Ladybug Land from Amazon.  The caterpillars and ladybugs are currently in pupa stage so I cannot comment on our success rate this year but we had a 100% success rate last year!

Here’s a few pictures of our Insect studies throughout the last few years.  Even though we use the same insect kits and the same books, I find the kids learn more and more each year.

 

Local Spotlight: AMNH Discovery Room

I feel like a lot of parents in NYC have most likely been to the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH).  But have you checked out the Discovery Room?  I hadn’t until I organized a homeschool field trip there last year.  This year I learned anyone can visit the Discovery Room, even if you are not part of an organized group with a scheduled time.  Apologies if this is common knowledge.  It was news to me!  My kids visited again recently with their grandparents and had an awesome time!

Setting up the field trip was very easy, I simply sent an email and then got a response rather quickly.  While I thought the room might be booked through the school year, it was not and I got our first choice of dates.

First, the staff who was working the day of our trip was just FANTASTIC.  Not only were they knowledgeable and had planned an interesting schedule for our time there but it was obvious they really loved children.  Sadly, this is not always the case when visiting places, even places intended for children.  They moved our group of 4 year olds through several hands-on and engaging activities.

 

My son’s favorite part of the field trip and his recent trip there was their “paleontology field site.” The museum fills a pit with plaster every so often to cover up dinosaur bones on the bottom.  Kids use real archaeological tools to uncover the bones.

He also loved the magnetic dinosaur bones which you can attach to a frame to recreate a dinosaur skeleton.

 

There are also live animals in the room along with several other artifacts and specimens to explore.

The field trip was very inexpensive as far as NYC field trips go, $75 for your group which includes museum admission for the kids and chaperones.  The museum had no problem with a large number of chaperones as each child’s mom accompanied them.  I’ve organized other homeschool field trips where places have not been able to accommodate that many adults.  The discovery room is a large and homeschool friendly place!

But again, even if you’re not part of a group, you can head to the Discovery Room while you are visiting the museum.  You will either be allowed to enter right then or invited back at later time the same day if if’s too crowded at the moment.  It’s worth the wait.

We highly recommend it!

What We are Reading Wednesday: Books about Rocks and Soil

We recently kicked off a small study of rocks, minerals and soil, per my kids request.  Below are the books we are using to learn about this topic (affiliate links).

My Books of Rocks and Minerals by DK

Mud by Mary Lynn Ray

Rocks and Soil by Rebecca Rissman

The kids have requested I read the book Mud, several times a day.  I don’t mind at all because the pictures are great and the language is really beautiful.

My Books of Rocks and Minerals was great to help us identify the minerals we found when we broke open real geodes.  We used this kit, Break Your Own Geodes, which was a lot of fun!  The geodes were not easy to open and required a lot of patience and perseverance from the kids.  When they finally smashed them, they were so excited!

Fossil Digging Together

Any other junior geologists out there?  Let me know in the comments!