Saturday, September 17, 2016

Tyke Hike #30 - UW Waukesha Field Station & Retzer Nature Center Apple Harvest Festival

As the scheduled hike time came and went, I was worried we might be hiker-less. However, just as I was losing hope, the hikers arrived. All in all, eight people checked out a hidden gem in Waukesha County: the Marlin Johnson Prairie at the UW-Waukesha Field Station.

Led by the children, we trekked the trails and found many things along theeway. We saw prairie plants and even collected some seeds. We entered the forest and found fungi and plenty of sticks. The kids even worked together to build their very own birdhouse out of sticks they found. More ginormous puffball mushrooms awaited us as we ventured closer and closer to the impressive "Halloween Tree." A quick walk across the boardwalk even allowed us to get close to hopping frogs and many water-dwelling insects.

Kid-created birdhouse
Puffball party

And what's a prairie hike without a run amongst the towering plants!

After we parted ways with our wonderful guests, our family headed to the Wildlife in Need Center next door and caught a glimpse of some very cute squirrels getting fed.

Baby squirrels
It was a beautiful day for a hike and an even more beautiful day to be a volunteer. Besides leading a Tyke Hike, I was fortunate enough to volunteer at the Retzer Nature Center's premiere event, the Apple Harvest Festival. This year, the naturalists coordinated an interactions with nature passport which allowed children of all ages to get up close and personal natural experiences while collecting stamps to commemorate every experience. The pond was the station I was assigned to and boy, was it popular.  With nets and buckets, kids and adults alike skimmed the pond water in search of creatures. While dragonfly nymphs, water striders, and diving beetles were the common catch, we also found a variety of frogs and even managed to snag a vole lurking near the water's edge. While the natural catches were precious, watching two kids who didn't know each other work together to fish out a signpost that had been in the pond was lots of fun, especially seeing their reaction be as if they had found buried treasure.

After the pond station closed down, I headed to the reading corner to be a guest reader. After reading a handful of books with a rotating audience of children, my family and I continued our nature day with another hike through one of Retzer's wonderful trails and a stop at and near the nature center for puppet play, craft creations, and nature-themed games.

Raccoon puppet meets paper raccoon puppet

I am pretty sure our daughter will sleep soundly tonight. I think I will too.

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