In a huge answer to prayer, the weather held, and we were able to go on our hike yesterday morning! Hooray! It was cloudy and a bit chilly in the morning, but it didn't rain--and the day got progressively nicer. Now the bad weather seems to have moved off for awhile, and we are all so thankful to see the sun again!
I took the 3rd graders over first (Jonathan's class). There were 10 of them, and 3 other parents. I wasn't exactly sure how the timing of the hike was going to go (since Luke and I had spent a lot more time stopped, identifying trees, than we did yesterday as a group), but it was fine. We ended up going up this path, then diverging onto a second path that goes up along a ridgetop. The forest up there is different than the one down at the bottom of the trail--primarily tall oaks and hickorys, as opposed to a ton of red cedars and shrubbier-type trees down at the bottom. We walked around the trail and started down, and then turned onto a different trail that heads back and meets up with the trail we were on originally (at the point where we diverged), so we didn't have to back-track the whole way. The timing was just perfect! Luke and I probably wouldn't have paid much attention to the second trail, if we hadn't run into those wasps, so it was all good that I knew how the trails connected and could go that route.
The park has planted a stand of trees in a little meadow, next to their nature center, so we started there. American chestnuts, sweetgums, and ash are planted there, and all those leaves were in the book we made last week, so we reviewed the identifying characteristics of the leaves (simple, compound, alternate, opposite, margins, etc). We looked at all the chestnuts that were on the ground in their big spiny cases ("Why would a chestnut not be a good shade tree to plant in your yard?"), and I talked about the chestnut blight that killed over 3 billion chestnut trees in the first part of the 1900s. Sad! We talked about how you can chew the sap of the sweetgum tree (not that you should ever wound the bark of trees!) and what sorts of things are made of the strong yet elastic wood of ash trees (baseball bats, bows, etc.). Then we moved onto the trail.
I talked about the 4 layers of the forest, and what sorts of living organisms are in all the layers. We saw dogwood trees, and a blackgum tree, with its characteristic square blocky bark. It's leaves are among the first to start changing colors, so we talked about why leaves change colors, the different pigments in leaves, and why only some trees can have leaves turn red (not all trees produce the pigment anthocyanin, which helps the tree regain the nutrients in the leaves when it is stilll producing sugar in the warm sunny days of fall, but the sap can't move the sugar back down the tree during the crisp, cool nights).
As we walked up the trail, we noticed how the forest changed in appearance. We looked at the ground to see the acorns and hickory nuts, which are so important for animals in the fall and winter months. We talked about moss, lichen, mushrooms, and bracket fungi, of which there were lots of examples to be noted! Some bracket fungi even have growth rings, which I didn't know before I started reseaching exactly what I was going to say! There were a lot of downed trees, and the ones which had been chopped gave us a chance to review the inner parts of the trunk, which we talked about last week--heartwood, sapwood, cambium, and bark.
We meandered our way along, and I think all the kids were just so happy to be outside, stretching their legs in the fresh, non-rainy air! I know I was! It was wonderful to be outside. The kids really remembered a lot of what we talked about last week, about the different tree types. I was pleasantly surprised! Of the 14 leaves we talked about last week, we saw 9 of those trees. I think they enjoyed recognizing the leaves on the trees!
So the timing worked out perfectly--we got back to the church a few minutes before 11:00, when they switch to their "aide-time" class, where they eat lunch, play games, take prayer requests, and do character time. They had plenty of time to wash their hands and drink some water. Then I picked up the 4th graders, and after their bathroom break, we were good to go! We took the same route, I said the same things, and it also worked out really well! That class (Caleb's class) had 13 kids go with us, and 2 extra parents. It was really fun!
We got back to church before pick-up time, which is at 12:30. Then I took the Rivendell kids over to the other church for the afternoon. I still had memory work and science left to teach! We got home about 5:15, and we had about 20 minutes before we all had to rush off to get Nathan and Luke over to their football practices. Whew! When we got home, Bob was home, and I made a quick dinner. The I sat on the couch and didn't move, LOL. It was a good day, but a long, tiring day. I was so thankful God kept it from raining!