Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Group outing to Rondevlei Nature Reserve.

Our home school group headed out to Rondevlei Nature Reserve for our outing this term. It was a rainy, cold day but nothing could dampen the spirits of our little enthusiastic nature lovers!

At the reserve they have an indoor area which houses a museum, aquarium and presentation room. They have a very interesting display of birds and wildlife from the area. Our children were most impressed and affected by the hazards to the wild animals and the role us humans play in the destruction of wildlife. To take their mind off these sad happenings though, there are also a few live specimens to view.

Michael asked recently if we could find a chameleon in the area where we live. Sadly there aren't many of these interesting little creatures around anymore. But he was delighted to spot a "macheleon" hiding in the reeds in one of the "cages". I know this is a blurry picture, but I had to post it just for him!

To Jenna's delight there were also a few snakes around. I'm not a snake lover, I can look, but won't touch. Jenna is desperate to visit a snake a park which is just up the road from us and I've been putting it off for a while. Well, I think I can go now-they're not so scary when they're behind glass. Just don't expect me to handle one!

The aquarium has fish which would commonly be found in the vlei (marshy lake-like area) which fills up most of the reserve's area.

The one animal which we would all have loved to have seen, but didn't, was the hippo. There are seven hippo's living at the reserve. But as they are nocturnal all we got a glimpse of were these very large skull bones.

And these very large teeth! Amazingly this creature is only a grass eater-those teeth are used purely for defense and can grow up to 30cm long in an adult male!

Because of the rainy weather we also missed out on seeing the abundant bird life which lives there. But the children learnt a lot about different types of beaks and feet and how the birds use them to catch their meals or move around.

After watching a video and hearing about the wildlife we went on a tour of the museum with our very patient (these home schoolers ask loads of questions!) and informative guide. Then we headed out into the rain to see if we could find a hippo or any of the birds she had taught us about.

To be honest with you I spent more time trying to dodge the puddles and didn't see much as we walked along between the high reeds. But the children had great fun splashing in puddles and running along to the next bird watching hide-out.

The views from the hideouts were awesome, but alas we still didn't spot much wildlife.

Before we returned to the museum area to attempt to find some shelter a few brave children (and moms) ventured up to the top of a very tall lookout tower. Getting to the top was exciting. But standing in the open wind and rain at the top and trying to keep excited little bodies in some kind of order while they all tried to stand in line to look out the telescope, was a little too much for this mom! I tried to make a hasty retreat only to discover that the climb down the stairs was more hair raising than standing on top of the tower in the cold rain and wind! Be warned, it's steep! Exciting for my adventure boy but challenging for me who was trying to guide an oblivious three year old past the other children coming up the stairs without knocking anyone over!

Despite the cold and rain, it was a lovely venue for an outing. I would recommend returning on a sunny day though! Unfortunately I also need to tell you that you need to be careful of your cars, as sadly one of our cars was broken into while we were inside. One family did park inside, but I'm not sure if this option is open to a big group.

Our outing inspired some creativity in our home today. Michael created these hippos hiding behind the long grass with his playdough.

And later on we did some printing with different textures and made a collage of Rondevlei using cut outs from our printing. It was a long activity for Michael but it was very interesting to hear all that they could remember from the previous day.

This is Michael's vlei-the bird on the left is a pelican catching a fish. We used stencils to make the animals. Bubblewrap to print the water and corrugated cardboard for the reeds. Any extra animals that we didn't have a stencil for, Jenna drew onto previously dyed paper. I just love her hippo and snake. She had lots of fun creating this picture finding places for her turtle and pelican to hide.

At the end of the day I always ask the children to share with their Daddy what they have done during the day. Michael was very eager to tell his Daddy about his Rondevlei picture-he remembered the name and told daddy that mommy was very funny because she forgot to draw eyes on his snake!