Thursday, October 25, 2012

An Autumn Expotition

Yesterday, I took the kids on a long explore.  Okay, not a really long one -- we went to Prince William Forest Park for the first time.  I wasn't sure how well they would like it, or how much there was to do there other than picnic benches and hiking trails, so I only got a day pass ($5).  The rangers said I could put that toward upgrading to a year pass ($20) if I wanted, and that the day pass was actually good for a week (so then why not call it a week pass?)

We trooped off to the picnic area and had a jolly lunch, at least until an enormous, bee-like insect scared us away.  It was the size of my thumb.  We were about done anyway.

The picnic area
Earlier that morning, I had helped Daniel and Mercedes make "explorer journals" from two pieces of fun card stock with ten pieces of printer paper in the middle.  They got to choose the card stock they wanted, help punch holes, and thread the yarn through to hold them together.  

The library mouse with his journal, and our journals
I got the idea for the Explorer Journals partly from a similar journal my mom helped me keep for a while when I was little (which I still have!), and also from one of Daniel's favorite books, Library Mouse:  A Museum Adventure by Daniel Kirk.  The two mice in that book take journals with them when they explore an art museum, and I figured Daniel especially might like  to try to do the same.

Daniel got his own copy for his birthday -- it's #4 in a series
While we were having lunch, I asked them to observe things and tell me what they saw, heard, and smelled.  Daniel heard truck motors.  Mercedes heard birds.  Daniel saw our car.  Mercedes saw trees.  Daniel smelled the bathrooms.  Mercedes smelled her peanut butter sandwich.  Hmm.  Anyway, I wrote their observations down in their journals and helped them trace around a few leaves they found.

When we got scared away by the gigantic bee, we found a short walking trail the rangers had told me about. (Every time I write 'ranger,' I hear Barliman Butturbur's voice from Fellowship of the Ring saying, "He's one o' them rangers."  Ahem.)  It was less than half a mile long, and paved with ground up tires that looked like mulch and were smashed together to make a soft, but sturdy walking surface that I could also push the stroller on.  Daniel took the lead, carrying his Explorer Journal with him.

It took us about 45 minutes to complete the loop, thanks to lots of trees and logs and bridges and benches to exclaim over and enjoy.

And when we were done, we discovered that this park has a magnificent playground.

The ranger (yes, one o' them rangers again) had mentioned they had a playground.  He didn't mention that it was huge, had the speediest slide I've seen on a modern playground, and had picnic tables nearby.  Next time we go, we will hit the playground first.  We had so much fun, we stopped back by the visitor's center and upgraded to a year pass.

The visitor's center had lots of pamphlets on trees, flowers, and other things you can see in the park, which my kids weren't quite old enough for, but would be great for grade-schoolers on up. And there are more challenging trails too, not just the easy one we took. When my kids are older, I know we'll enjoy those too. If you live in Northern Virginia and have little kids, consider this as a fun and educational place to spend a day.  


  1. What a nice exploration it was! I'm impressed that you remember the journal we made, Rachel, but even more so that you still have it! You are well on the way on your "Great Homeschooling Adventure"! I hope you and the kids enjoy many more such "expotitions" :-)

    1. I'll try to post a picture or two of my journal one of these days! Of course I still have it... don't I still have everything from my childhood? ;-)

      Maybe if it's nice while you're here, we'll go out there one day to play on the playground. It's open year-round.


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