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Science Kids on the Loose

Science Kids on the Loose

Science Kids in the Wild

Those of you who listen to the Sid the Science Kid podcast might recall that Gerry and I decided to “unplug” for the Thanksgiving holiday and head up to Sequoia National Park with the boys. We are eager to start exploring the wonders the National Park Service has to offer. So we rented a cabin by a river and went out into the wild.
I knew that this trip would be full of opportunities for science learning, observing, and practicing science words. What I didn’t expect was the overwhelming sensation of trying to capture the science in the midst of all the nature. Oh, and nature is dangerous in my mom’s eye.
Exhibit A: Big Wet Rocks by a River.
The boys were so very excited to go bouldering by the river. I can’t think of many more activities that would appeal to Henry and Leo as much. Especially Henry, the boy with no boundaries. So, while I am trying to take in the scenery, the boys went scampering off. Soon they were out of site. Gerry and I had to drag our forty-something selves over the rocks to make sure they didn’t go splash into the moving river.
Science Lesson: We discussed the meaning of “current” and threw objects in the river to see how fast they disappeared downriver. Then we extrapolated to how fast a person would go. Henry seemed skeptical, feeling confident that he could swim it out. Uh oh.
Exhibit B: Giant Sequoia Trees
I was very eager to get up into the park and see the Giant Forest of Sequoias. As far as I am concerned, these lovely towering trees are heaven on earth. The boys, however, just saw them as lots and lots of big trees. In their defense, all trees are big to kids their size. I especially wanted to see Sherman, the oldest tree, most majestic tree. We walked with the kids into the grove and I felt a special kind of reverence for nature, while the boys explored lots of climbing opportunities. There were fences marking the pathways with NO CLIMBING signs all over. So, Gerry and I spent a lot of time pulling the boys off.
Science Lesson: I do think the boys were interested in some of the facts about Sherman. For instance, scientists calculate that the Sherman is 2,200 years old. We looked at the rings of a fallen tree and they were mightily impressed. We also got to spend some time looking at trail maps and talking about scale. Leo found a sequoia seed and reflected on how something so small could become a gigantic tree. Made my heart sing!
Exhibit C: Snow
Weather played a big role on our trip. When we left home it was 80 degrees. In the Three Rivers, outside the park, the temperature was in the 60s. As we drove in the park and made the climb up past 5000ft, the temps dropped into the low 40s and we found SNOW! The boys started to squeal when we first sighted snow in the Giant Forest. As we parked the car, we put on snow gear on in a frenzy so that boys could get out. They literally threw themselves in a pile of snow by the side of the road. I guess there is still a little New England in these California boys.
We managed to find a great sledding spot and spent a glorious sunny morning racing down a small hill. The whole family gave it a try as we blazed our own run down an untouched hill. We laughed and laughed. The boys had snow pants but I was soaking wet. And it wasn’t cold!
Science lesson: The weather and the temperatures gave us a chance to talk about altitude and temperature. The boys know the air has to be cold enough for snow and the connection to how high we were was interesting to them. While sledding we inadvertently learned about friction, speed, and “catching air.” I did have to talk with Henry about thin ice as he stepped into a stream and broke through the thin layer.
Exhibit D: We Saw a Bear.
As we drove out of the park on our last day, we saw brown bears by the side of the road.
Bears. Real live bears.
We couldn’t believe it. Several cars had pulled over and we all took pictures while the bears ambled about and did their thing. I know that the National Parks are famous for wildlife, but I really didn’t expect to experience it first hand. All four of us knew we witnessed something special.
Science Lesson: Natural science doesn’t get too much better than this. We chatted about habitats, food sources, and endangered animals. The boys asked questions about where the bears live while I explained that WE were visiting the bears’ home. I hope they never forget it.
We purchased a National Park Passport and inaugurated our book with the Sequoia Stamp. Henry and Leo are already asking when we can explore another park. It isn’t easy to head into the wild with young children, but I think it is worth it. The science opportunities were everywhere but it was also about the opportunities we had as family to learn together, grow together, and laugh together. I can’t wait to get back out there.

Produced by: Funding is provided by:
Jim Hensen Corporation logo CPB ViNCi MetLife The Rosehills Foundation S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation logo The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations logo

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