Sunday, May 31, 2009

The first butterfly has arrived

First in the kitchen this morning, Henry was more than a little excited to find that his first butterfly has emerged from its chrysalis in the early hours.

After watching it intently, we decided to provide it with some food. Watermelon on hand we gave it a nice juicy bit...only for me to have to re think an hour later as it kept getting soggy in the watermelon juice that pooled around the fruit!!!

Anyway, as usual my inventiveness shined through! Emptying out the mesh basket with all the paints in (which are now just dumped on the floor) we gave our new butterfly a more satisfactory home. It even spent the afternoon outside in the fresh air in its new home!

On the last few occasions that we have visited a butterfly house, Henry has been scared of the butterflies as they fluttered past him. However today, his inquisitiveness got the better of him. I showed him how the butterfly walked onto my hand with no hesitation and described how it felt to him. Regardless of Henry's education, this was a new one for was FANTASTIC.

Shortly after, Henry had his hand down into the habitat and the butterfly climbed obligingly onto Henry. He was literally shaking with excitement and intrepidation. He was so excited by the experience though, it was amazing. It was all i could do all afternoon to keep him from making the butterfly a permanent attachment to him!

At bed time we read all the Caterpillar and butterfly books he has in his collection. With another butterfly expected tomorrow (with two of the other chrysalis's darkening) he went to bed a very happy boy.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Caterpillar update

A few days ago, some of our caterpillars made it to chrysalis stage. It took about 4 days for 5 caterpillars to make it to the top of the jar to create their cocoons. One of those making the top never cocooned.
It was with great excitement, and Henry very worried about disturbing them, on 26th May that we moved them into their new habitat, to hang as cocoons and hopefully come out as butterflies.

The chrysalis's are fascinating to look at. A silvery grey green colour, you can see the caterpillar inside, but also an area where i guess the wings are forming.
The caterpillar's spikes appear like a gold colour through the chrysalis.

So we will wait with patience and hope that at least one of these creatures will make it through the whole cycle so that Henry may experience this amazing natural wonder first hand.

We will keep you posted!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Spring Valley Nature Centre - Field trip

With my moms group, we take educational trips to Spring Valley Nature Centre each year - it is a fantastic location offering great programmes for all ages of kids.

For our group this time, the theme was "spring has sprung".

After watching a puppet show about fledglings, we ventured out to the greenhouse to plant sunflower seeds, and explore what it was that was going to make them grow.

On outside we went nest spotting in the entrance to the centre.

Out in the woodland the kids went on a great exploration. First they explored the bugs found under an old tree trunk.

Next they were given a small piece of card with 4 different textures on; rough, smooth, soft and hard. They then went touching leaves, bark, and dirt exploring what each thing felt. They were all totally into this, and its something I'd like to reproduce at home sometime.

Bugs often see different colours to our eyes, so with coloured paddles each of the kids viewed the world from a different colour perspective.

After our class we went for a walk to the working farm museum, where we saw a cow being milked, and the horse powering the corn grinder. Henry tried his hand at talking to the geese, then decided it was far more fun to try being a sheep dog herding the ducks!!!

Taking the train to the City

We have lived in the USA for over 2 years now, and this weekend was the first time Henry and i have ever taken the train into the city. With our departure back to the UK now in the near future, this was one of the "must do's" before we leave.

With Kevin's sister and cousin in town, a trip to the city was the ideal opportunity to take the train...surely four adults and 1 Henry could manage the trip!
Henry found the arrival of the train rather noisy!

We took the trip from our local station on the Metra. Only a 45 minute ride, we sat on the top floor and took in the views. Racing the cars and even a fire truck. Seeing who could spot the city first and laughing at all the cars stuck on the freeway in a jam.

Henry enjoyed the trip a lot, although did utter "are we there yet" a number of times on the way there, and counted down the stations on the way back. He repeated every station arrival announcement as well.

Once in the city we checked out the memorial day parade.

Spent some time in Millennium park and down at the yacht club enjoying the great weather.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Chicago Botanic Garden - Trip out

My most favourite place to visit around Chicago is the the Botanic Garden. No matter what time of year you go, you a get an amazing and varied view of the garden.

As a learning experience, every trip to the garden is full of exploration, colours, playing in the water, spotting animals and birds and getting a lot of fresh air. We spend at least 2 hours each time and never see everything we want to...still i am always happy to promise a return visit.

This week, Henry and I took a friend and her two children with us. The boys had a great time running around and getting soaked in the water.

Henry was captivated by the water falls that part as you place your hand into them. They are really cool and create a lot of opportunities for seeing what kind of shapes you can create with different body parts! Hands, feet, whole arms, and once he even stuck his head in!

The great thing about this garden is the signage and information. In the sensory garden we found Lambs ears, which the kids loved touching. The youngest in our trip exclaimed that the plant felt just like her favorite soft toy.

On our way round the garden we spotted huge fish, tiny tadpoles, lots of robins, and even dragon flies.

An absolutely fantastic trip. Somewhere I can highly recommend.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Thank you cards

With the end of Henry's first year at school almost upon us, there was a flurry of activity in the last week making cards for friends and teachers.
Despite Henry's insistence at school that art is not for him...he can be very creative when he puts his mind to it.

Early planning and preparation ensured that Henry's teachers cards were created with enthusiasm and no nagging on my part! I suggested he should draw two different flowers and left the rest to him.

He very carefully drew flowers with petals, stems and leaves. Prepared on water colour paper he then got to work painting his masterpieces - each one a complete Henry original.

With the end of school, Henry also prepared good bye cards for his friends.

I wrote each individuals name in oil pastel (white), then suggested he used water colours to find which invisible name of his school friends was written on the card .

We used colour mixing; red and yellow, blue and yellow, and red and blue. And he was intrigued by the way the colours mixed on the card.

13 Henry original note cards...I'm going to use this idea for thank you cards in the future, as i was surprised how great they came out.

Pirate treasure fun

With the sun making a warm appearance today, we got out in the garden to play. Pirate treasure was the theme.

First things first Henry needed to think he was a pirate - out came the bandanna....and two socks tied together for an eye patch...a scary pirate don't you think?

We then got busy preparing the treasure chests for our first activity. Henry coloured them in and then cut them out. While he was doing that i was busy burying the treasure; Lego's to you or I....golden nuggets, ruby stones, emeralds and diamonds to Henry!

We then got digging with desert spoons for the treasure, which was a lot of fun.

Covered in sand, the treasure then needed a wash! The empty liquid soap bottle i was just about to throw away, suddenly became the best thing ever to wash the Lego's with...not to mention feet, the dog and the patio.

With clean treasure, Henry then sorted it into the right treasure chest by colour.

We then counted our pieces of treasure and graphed our findings

Out in the back garden Henry had a lot of fun pretending to be a pirate, and our poor dog was dragged in to be deckhand!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The caterpillars have arrived!

After much anticipation, our caterpillars arrived today.

We have one of my friend's; Melissa, to thank for the idea and the provision of these tiny creatures.

We have seven small caterpillars of the painted Lady butterfly, living in a jar in our kitchen now for the next few weeks!

Henry saw a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis when we were in New Zealand, and ever since he has been intrigued by caterpillars and the process by which they become butterflies. Hopefully we will have some success with these creepy crawlies and he will experience first hand, how caterpillars transform themselves.

We are going to create a caterpillar calendar, by which to keep an eye on these small black lines (which are about 2cm long today), to ensure we check regularly their progress.

I'll update the blogs as changes occur.

Today, Henry created his first journal page - drawing and describing the caterpillars.

The Outdoor Hour - Squirrels

Today we took a nature walk around our neighbourhood to check out our local squirrels for the Outdoor Hour Challenge #45 - Squirrels

Now, it may be that we had our dog with us, or it maybe that they had all got a little scared and were having a sleep in after the storm last night......whatever the reason we did not see one squirrel!

However, we did spot what we think are two different squirrel nests.

We discussed everything about squirrels as we walked around....where we were likely to see them, where they lived, what they ate, what colour they were, how many feet, what their tail
was used for. So despite not seeing one on our walk, Henry was in squirrel mode for the walk!

On return home, i threw out a load of bread onto the back lawn, and within 10 minutes we had two squirrels in the back garden, which Henry watched, as they chased each other across the lawn, along the fence and up and down the trees.

Henry did a drawing of a squirrel, in oil pastels and water colours after we looked carefully at a photo i took recently in our garden. We also made a journal entry about squirrels.

We then read two squirrel books:
Nuts to You - By Lois Ehlert - a simple book with unusual illustrations about a squirrel who comes to someones house to get food.

A Squirrel's Tale - By Richard Fowler - An interactive book, where you move a small squirrel through flaps in the book on his hunt for his nuts. This has been a favorite of Henry's for some time and he knows the words off by heart!

Monday, May 11, 2009

The latest on our sunflowers.....

This is an update to my earlier post on growing sunflowers, which we started as part of the Outdoor Hour - Challenge #16 - Growing sunflowers

Much to my amazement, Henry's sunflowers are all going pretty strong. I guess they do have 6-8 foot to grow in a couple of months, but since our first entry on 29th April, when the seeds were planted, the plants have grown to a stunning 19cm to date!

Henry and I are measuring them every couple of days and recording on a bar chart their growth. We have chosen his school sunflowers to follow closely, so these are the stars of his blog.......must give them names!

We are also creating a journal entry, every time something new happens to the plants.

So here are our journal entries, and a few photos to go with them.

Henry's school sunflowers on 6th May - seven days after planting the seeds.

Some still had their seeds holding the leaves shut, whilst other seeds had popped off to show 2 leaves.

Some of the other 50 sunflowers we have planted!

Today, Henry's followed sunflower had produced two new small leaves. So wemade a journal page for this.

We potted on his school sunflowers at the weekend out of the cramped starter pot. Examining the roots as we went.