This Saturday, my mom gave me a call as I was sorting laundry and asked if I wanted to head to Blue Springs State Park with some friends visiting from Australia (long story short we know them because their dad goes to our church). Since David was working and I was looking for any excuse to avoid doing the laundry, we jumped at the chance to get out of the house. It was just a bonus that the trip was going to be educational.
When we drove into the park, the lady at the entrance gave us a pamphlet about the manatees. Riley was somehow under the impression that she was supposed to locate a manatee and give the flyer to him. I had a hard time convincing her otherwise. When she saw the colorful manatee she kept trying to stick it in his flipper.
I’m not sure how familiar you are with manatees. They’re mammals that live in Florida rivers. When it gets too cold, they travel toward springs where the water is a constant 72˚. Because they like to hangout in the warm shallow waters, they’re often harmed by boats. They’re even considered an endangered species. Some people think they’re absolutely adorable – I for one don’t agree. I think they’re neat and I don’t mind watching them, but cute is a very, very big stretch. This time of year is a great time to visit the springs because you can see lots of mothers with their babies.
While we were there, we saw lots of wildlife. In one scene, Riley could see these animals in the wild: trout, gar, minnows, bugs, alligators, manatees, several bird species, and various turtles. That’s pretty amazing if you ask me. One of our favorite wildlife “encounters” was the alligator and the turtle facing each other. They were just lazily sitting on the log without a care in the world. Off to the right of the scene there was an even larger gator sunning on the bank.
Since this was an impromptu trip, I didn’t have time to plan. If we were to go again or visit another local park or wildlife refuge, here’s what I’d do:
- Print out a scavenger hunt. I’d have photos or clipart images of the animals or things I thought we might see and I’d have a fun pencil or crayon to circle the things we found.
- Do some research about the wildlife in the area and teach Riley about the wildlife we could find.
- Plan some fun crafts for before our activity to pique my little student’s interest.
- After our trip, I’d help her write create a picture and story about her fun day (this we will still do).
I encourage you to find local parks in your area and do some exploring! If you don’t know any parks near your home, you can check out this site to locate some.Your toddler will love being in the great outdoors and it’s always fun to see the wonderful things God has made.
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