Friday, February 25, 2011

School at the Creek at Oak Canyon Nature Center

Our home school group explored a new nature center this week.
Nature centers can be hit and miss.  Sometimes they are so "conscientiously" staffed that no room is allowed for the kids to explore.
This one was different.  
We were nearly the only ones there and the kids explored to their hearts content.
This place is now high on our list of return to sites.
If you live in the Orange Country area, it is a must visit.
Here is the link with all the info:  Oak Canyon Nature Center in Anaheim Hills.

The nature center has over 50 acres and lots of trails.
The first one we went on led straight up hill.
It quickly became all steps and therefore was not stroller friendly.
But the kids were so excited when they reached the top.

"Mom!" James shouted down to the huffing and puffing me.  
"You have to come up here.  It's beautiful!"
(One of my most favorite moments of the day.)
It was indeed beautiful.  
Clear blue skies and snow covered mountains in the distance.
Although there are houses on the hills around the nature center, once you are further into the nature center, you don't see them and you feel miles from the rest of the world.
Just like we like it!

After our workout on the steep hill, the kids returned back to the real draw of the day.
The creek.

It's not every place that has a real, running creek in Southern California.
This one was home to some amazingly beautiful ducks.
(I couldn't get a picture so a friend shared this one from her phone)
 But for the kids, the best part of the creek was experiencing it from every angle.
(again, not always possible at most nature centers)
They watched it.

Crossed it.

Climbed alongside it.

 Forded it.

 Explored it on, and mostly off, the trail.

Discovered its hidden treasures.

They waded, got wet, looked for frogs, climbed waterfalls and had a gloriously good time.
Is there anything better than playing in a creek?

Besides creek play, there were other things to do.
Like climb trees.
This is our friend Emmerly.  Around our house she is known as Emmerly-the-girl-who-likes-bugs.
She stands in high regard with my boys.

There were also plenty of sticks for collecting.

And making into forts.

It is days like this that make me very grateful that I can offer this kind of education to my kids.  
Sure it requires sacrifice.  Don't think that I don't sometimes dream of having whole mornings to myself.
I'd have 1 kid in elementary school and 2 in pre-school.  
There are times when that doesn't sound too bad.
And we are a single income family.  Aaron works very hard to support our, soon to be, family of 6.
But he and I decided long ago that this is what we would do.
And watching my kids spend a day exploring, experiencing, and learning from the world in a hands on way, instead of sitting at their desk, well, it makes the sacrifices well worth it.
It's not for everyone, but it works for us.

Beyond the learning that takes place when we are having "school at the creek" I am so happy about the love for nature and the outdoors that is growing in my children.
That my son would shout, "you have to see this.  It's beautiful!" about a view makes my heart swell.
To hear Emmerly, age 6, round the bend of the creek, see a waterfall and exclaim, "AWESOME!" gives me an incredible feeling of happiness.
You want to raise kids who care about the earth?
Don't teach them about recycling.  Let them hike and play in a creek all day.
They will develop a love for creation that will never leave them.
Daily I am discovering how much bigger learning can be when we simply have school outside.

If you live in the Southern California area and would like to see more of the hikes, nature centers and other places we have explored, check out the  Hikes and Nature Trails category of this blog.
If you don't live around here, I encourage you to find hiking trails, nature center, and wilderness parks in your area.  The library and Google are fantastic resources for finding these places.

Go on!  Get out into the Great Outdoors!
Happy exploring.
Love from,

PS.  If you are worried about us allowing our kids off the trail, please allow me to calm your nerves.  A big part of spending a lot of time out in nature is teaching our kids to respect it.  They know there are places where they can't or should not go off the trail.  
They know to look for plants or animals that they can hurt or destroy.  They know to watch out for poison oak or snakes.  
At the same time, we feel pretty strongly that there are places where getting off the trail and exploring further should be encouraged.  If we always say, "don't touch" then they will miss out on an awful lot.


The Melvin Fam said...

Amen! Beautiful - my sentiments exactly. And this is definitely a favorite location - we MUST go back! Bummed that we left before fort-building!!

mygirl said...

so bummed we missed this one. looks like such a great place. can't wait to go to school again!