Urban Wild Adventures – Trip Date: May 31 & June 2 2016

To know your city is to love your city, and Green Spiral has long known Saint Louis to be home to some of the most amazing parks and playgrounds in the country. As the world becomes a more hectic place, nature places and quiet oasis will play an increasing role in the identity of this Great City.

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We have many treasured parks in Saint Louis, but the crown jewel of parks is certainly Forest Park, recently named the #1 Best City Park in America: https://www.thrillist.com/travel/nation/the-15-best-city-parks-in-america.

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World class destinations like the Zoo, Art Museum, History Museum and Muny are easy to find in Forest Park, but for those of you looking to get off the beaten track, here’s a short loop we’re calling the “Crawdaddy Walk”.  It’s a two hour excursion at a very leisurely pace, suitable for all ages, including the stroller set.

2016-06 Forest Park Map

Park and meet your playgroup at the Inclusion Playground next to the Visitor Center, and be sure to pack your own water, unless you like paying $2 for bottled water.  Know that the playground is the first inclusion playground built in the city and there is a secret pollinator’s garden nearby.

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Call up Jean Turney, education coordinator at Forest Park Forever, and have her meet you at the blueberries growing right next to the building. Jean’s job is to help folks learn how to use the park for fun and educational purposes, and she organizes Teacher Academies in the Summer.  561-3287

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Begin your walk between the parking lot and the tennis courts and head for the Mary Orr MacCarthy Bridge, or the “Love Lock Bridge”. On your way, you can have kids pick clover; tie them together to make some clover crowns!  Know that there is a famous bridge in Paris, the Pont des Arts, which has grill-work laden with locks.  Lovers carve their initials into padlocks, affix the locks to the bridge, and throw the key into the river, thereby sealing their love forever.  Looks like we now have a “Love Lock Bridge” in Forest Park, so if you’re a lover, go ahead and affix your lock, it’s the “good kind of trouble” to get into.

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Continue walking along between the creek  and the Boathouse, an area we call “Cottonwood Corridor”.  If you travel through in June, the cotton puffs will be floating through the air like snow; see if kids can catch some cottonpuffs.

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Stop and sample the service berries growing on bushes to your right.  Service berries are important bird food, and edible for humans too.  The service berries ripen in early summer, and get their name from the “olden days” when the ground was too frozen to bury the dead.  When the service berries came ripe in late May, the ground was warm enough to excavate a deep hole, and a service could finally be performed. Thus the name” service-berry.  Thank you Bellefontaine Cemetery for the story!

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Continue following the path until you find the water-play area on your right.  This is a great area to play in the water.  Our creeks and waterways are in bad shape, and questionable for young children for a multiplicity of reasons including sewage and radioactive contamination. But because the River des Peres was long ago used as an open sewer and buried under the park in advance of the World’s Fair in 1904, the surface water in Forest Park today is pretty close to tap water, and the cleanest natural water-play area we can find for kids.  It’s kind of sad that we’ve contaminated so many waterways as a society; therefore, it’s important to educate yourself and thus join the fight to clean up and protect our waterways, if nothing but our own enjoyment. Technically, there is “no swimming” in Forest Park, but Green Spiral happens to know that the park rangers will turn a blind eye towards kids frolicking in the water.  If you do get in trouble, put big tears in your eyes, and say “…but I want my kids to touch a creek at least one time in their lives before they grow up,” and put on your best and most sad pouting face…  Back to the self-guided tour:

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“Crawdaddy Cove” is a great place to fish for crayfish.  Bring a paperclip on a string, and fix some cheese to the open “hook” of the paperclip.  Drop the paperclip in the water, and when a crawfish clamps on to it, hoist the little feller out of the water. We forgot our paper clips, but did find a dead crayfish. By the way, Missouri is a hot-spot for crayfish biodiversity, due to our plethora of magnificent spring-fed rivers.

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“Crawdaddy Cove” is a great area for a family picnic, and you can almost always find frogs, turtles, minnows, green herons and egrets. This is the best place for spying wildlife with kids that we’ve found in Forest Park so far. Remember to bring your hand sanitizer and sun protection. This is a wonderful destination for a picnic dinner in the evening, thus avoiding the “witching hour” at home. On the official map, this place is really called the “Post Dispatch Lake Riffles”, but we think “Crawdaddy Cove” is more romantic.

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When you are ready to depart, walk towards the main road, and over the “Bridge of Swallows”, which has lots of swallow nesting under it.  Continue walking past the Dwight Davis Tennis Center, and ultimately back to your car.  This is about a two hour adventure, conducted at a leisurely pace. Many thanks to talented nature guide Angela Wildermuth for scouting and leading this adventure with her Spring series of adventures called “Urban Wild Adventures”, which takes families on nature hunts at parks and playgrounds all over the Saint Louis area.

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Now here’s your homework:

  1. Count how many creatures you can find on your walk and have the kids make a note in a journal you keep in the car.
  2. See if you can name any plants, or make a crown made of clover.  Simply tie them together as you would make a “daisy chain.”
  3. Come back to the Visitor Center someday and ask for the free ipod walking tour that teaches you about the history of Forest Park, and walks you past the Art Museum and Picnic Island. It’s very well done; many thanks to the Trio Foundation.
  4. Comment below with your observations and improvements on the map and adventure for the benefit of others.
  5. Love your City. Get out and get to know it. To know it, is to love it.
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TripDate: Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Use this Green Spiral Map

along with the blogpost from

“Becoming a Wild Family”

to explore Shaw Park

in Clayton.

2016 Shaw Park Map

This is part of the

Spring Series of

“Urban Wild Adventures”

featuring fabulous nature guide

Angela Wildermuth

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Becoming a Wild Family

We went on our weekly park tour today!

Kentucky has their horse derby 🏇and we have the leaf race 🍃…

… Read on to find out who won…. 😉

We began the tour of Shaw Park at the playground. It’s quite a fun park that tries to draw upon the aesthetics of nature!

Angela always engages the kids right away by telling them what the park has in store for them!  She quickly drew the kids’ attention to the Sensory Garden.


She passed around samples of the plants that could be found in the sensory garden and had everyone touch and smell the leaves and flowers.

She also had a scavenger hunt list for the kids to check off.

Simone was in charge of our family’s findings.

She took the hunt very seriously…

The boys listened and hunted but in a much less organized way.

Some of…

View original post 488 more words

This is Angela Wildermuth. She’s an amazing family nature guide.

Her last name means “wild spirit”.

2016 Angela Notepad

Angela is inspired to take families “into the wild” places at the edges of parks and playgrounds all over the Saint Louis area.  Green Spiral has now hosted two series of playground adventures that we are calling “Urban Wild Adventures”.

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In the wilds of Maplewood…

 

This blog debriefs “Winter Wild Adventures” in hopes of getting kids outside in all kinds of weather. You definitely need proper clothing, and friends, to help keep you warm, and overcome that indoor inertia.

If you can find REAL felt or alpaca foot inserts for kids (NOT polyester), and put them inside standard wellie-type rain boots, you’ve just created a pair of warm kid boots for a fraction of the cost of snow boots. Wear wool socks for extra measure.  Buy rain boots a size too big in fall, and as kids grow, take out the wool inserts for spring and summer.

Fit for a prince...

Fit for a prince…

The weather is not likely to settle down anytime in the near future, and families who follow Green Spiral know all about raising resilient kids.  Green Spiral field trips are not for everybody; they’re kind of like “Outdoor Leadership School” for toddlers, kids and families.  But for those who do follow the wild spirit into the woods, the magic and the misadventure makes every extra effort worthwhile.

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The colder the winter the sweeter the spring, and even rain feels nice compared to ice. Getting outside in cold weather is good for you — and here’s an introduction to the fairly new concept of “brown fat”.  Brown fat is abundant in hibernating animals and newborns, it’s function is to keep the body warm.  But “brown fat” has also recently been discovered in adults as a response to cold exposure.  Brown fat keeps you warm, and it also burns “white fat”.  In short, being outside in winter causes you to build brown fat, which eventually keeps you warmer, WHILE, it makes you thinner!

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Nature doesn’t hibernate in winter, and there is plenty to do. The first three “Urban Wild Adventures”, to the Webster Sculpture Garden, Memorial Park and Tower Grove Park were cold, cold, cold. Kids have less body mass than adults, and thus get dangerously cold faster, so bundle little ones up well, wrap babies close to the body, and bring warm drinks in a thermos for when you get back to the car.  As the old saying goes, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”

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Memorial Park in Brentwood (near the YMCA), is a fabulous destination for a short cold weather hike, as the secret paths are easier to find in winter, mulched with recycled Christmas trees.  Be careful not to fall into the creek when crossing the stepping stones, and make your way to the bridge with the arch.  Keep your eye on the creek — we had a magical moment when we spotted a great blue heron! It’s nice to have a tour guide who carries along bird books, and that nature guide could be you.

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Along with a moment of magic, every trip has a misadventure; the misadventure on this trip was the sad realization that trash along creeks is highly visible in winter.  On a positive note, mothers can’t stop themselves from cleaning up this pretty planet:  the moms found a lost garbage bag, spontaneously started cleaning up the place, and the kids jumped right in. The nice thing about winter hiking is that you don’t have to wash hands, just mittens! Panera would be your closest cozy stop, across the street in the same shopping center as Whole Foods.

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Here’s your map should you want to catch up with Green Spiral Tours, or simply organize your own playgroup adventure.

2016-01-25 map Memorial Park

 

The Tower Grove Park trip was even colder, with one or two misadventures. But know that Tower Grove has a secret natural playground, and Angela took us there. Our destination was these “gnarly knee trees” underneath a bald cypress tree.  This type of natural wonder cannot be landscaped – they’re very old and only grow in the wettest ground.

BUT! it snowed, covering up the gnarly knee destination! And, sadly, one of the cars got broken into —  so always remember “Adventure School Rules #3” – remain aware, and always lock valuables away and out of sight.

2016 Adventure School Rules

HOWEVER! Tower Grove has a pony! Who knew? AND, it was early February, so we saw the earliest sign of spring: witch hazel in bloom.

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Tower Grove is a known birding destination along the “Mississippi Flyway”, so you might want to  return around Mother’s Day, with a picnic, when the songbirds pass through. We learned that a bird sanctuary is planned to be installed in Tower Grove Park soon. By the way, Hartford Coffee is a nice place to warm up, with quality coffee or hot chocolate.

 

Mr. Cypress Tree

Blackburn Park in Webster Groves is an amazing park to explore, and Angela & the families ventured forth in the rain, which seemed like  fun after the first three cold trips. Blackburn is famous for it’s sinkholes, and the kids had a blast jumping in and out of them; but be careful, what happens if the sinkhole doesn’t let you out? Remember, these are true off-the-beaten adventures and not sanitized, canned experiences, so you have to stop and assess the risks and hazards.  Fortunately, most kids have highly developed survival skills, and in this world, they need to be encouraged to take more risks, not fewer.  As always, use your own judgement.

Sink into the goodness...

Sink into the goodness…

By the way, ponchos are better for kids than umbrellas, because ponchos are cheaper and last longer than umbrellas, plus, nobody gets poked in the eye! Here’s a darling blog by a “Wild Mom” which tells you all about the adventure to Blackburn Park, and how to become a “Wild Family”. Imho, wild families have more fun, AND they are going to save this beautiful earth:

Becoming a Wild Family

The trip to Lindberg Park in Maplewood resulted in a great horned owl sighting as well as the welcome sight of wild purple crocus flowers — the first wink of spring! Also found: rabbit fur from owl hunting, as well as multiple groundhog burrows.  Teach kids to look up, down, and all around.

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Kids don’t learn about nature by osmosis or by magic; they must be taught directly how to pick up trash and put on wool socks.  Schools are not particularly set up to teach kids about nature, so the amazing nature teacher in your life is likely to be you. Hopefully this blog inspires you to get outside and shake off the winter doldrums.  As a tip to future trip leaders, it works well to meet your playgroup at the playground, to get the ya-ya’s out, so when the nature hike begins, everyone is in a calm mood of ready awareness.

Think on these things?

Think on these things?

In short, Winter Urban Wild Adventures, are good for you, good for kids, and good for Saint Louis. Be inspired to launch your own trips with the maps provided, or follow Angela Wildermuth on future “Urban Wild” adventures, by watching for future Green Spiral emails or following the Green Spiral Facebook Page.

Now here’s your homework:

  1. Go to your favorite park and get off the beaten track.  Look along the edges, where the wild things might be.  Look up, look down.  Collect nature items as you go, and arrange them in an interesting way at the end of your explorations.  Take a picture of it, along with the kids, for your photo journal.  Mark it with the date and location. This is a “Goldsworthy”; following in the footsteps of famous artist Andy Goldsworthy.
  2. Buy wool socks, rain boots & ponchos, and train your family to get outside in all kinds of weather.  Get your friends to come with you. Tell yourselves how resilient and awesome you are becoming with each passing day.
  3. Create a winter terrarium by collecting a small sample of soil, plus a small patch of frozen moss.  Put it inside a pretty jar with a lid, spritz it with water and set it on the kitchen table.  Prepare to be amazed at the tiny creatures and ferns that unfurl as the terrarium warms. Toss the soil and moss into the compost pile when the tiny riot of life has played itself out.
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TripDate: 1-Nov-2015

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We often get into trouble with Green Spiral Tours, and our trip to Bellefontaine  Cemetery was no exception; the trick in life is to figure out the right kind of trouble to get into.  Visiting a cemetery with kids is the right kind of trouble.

We got in trouble for bringing too many kids.

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Kids weren’t always banished from cemeteries. During the Victorian age, newer thinking moved cemeteries from churchyards & family plots into landscaped gardens, which also served as children’s playgrounds. Families would spread out a picnic blanket after church, near their deceased loved ones, and the children would play hide and seek among the grave stones.

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Bellefontaine (pronounced Belle Fountain) Cemetery is a wonderful destination for families longing to stretch their legs under a wide open sky. It’s not only a cemetery, it’s also an arboretum and haven for wildlife. Keep it in mind for when you need a quiet place to go, and just “be”.   We ventured forth with several families on the day after Halloween, as a cure for our “Halloween Hangover”.

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Start your trip at the Welcome Center by picking up maps and bottled water. Beautiful restroom facilities are on your left.  If you rendezvous with more than 8 people, keep it on the quiet, or notify Dan in advance at 314-381-0750.

Bellefontaine Cemetery is historic, culturally dense and rich with art and nature; they offer lots of interesting tours of all kinds (but none for children), which you can see here:  Bellefontaine Guided Tours

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Use your maps or simply turn right when you enter, and find your way to the lakes and the Columbarium, a beautiful column fountain and final resting place for cremated remains. Obviously, children will need to be respectful, but a little skipping and hopping between the rocks is part of the quiet celebration of life, not unlike the lilies, dragon flies and butterflies that frequent the same place.

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Drop kids off at the top, at Cypress Lake, and let them hop and skip their way past the Columbarium, all the way down to Cascade Lake. Stay and play for a while.

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Enjoy.

Here’s a Green Spiral Adventure Map for you to download and use as a guide. Put it on a clipboard and let the kids color it in as you invent your own adventure.  Switch between the Arboretum, Cemetery Tour and Green Spiral map as you explore the cemetery.

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2015-11-01 Beer Baron Tour logo SQ SmWhen you’ve had enough time at the lake, jump back in the car and drive along the rolling hills of the cemetery.  Be sure to see the Wainwright Tomb, and look for a variety of “Beer Baron” tombs.  Come back (without kids) in October for the “Beer Baron Tour,” complete with local food, trolley tours and local beer tasting. It’s fabulous!

Be sure to find your way to the oldest part of the cemetery, down the ravine near #18 and on your way to William Clark’s resting place at #16, and marvel at all the really old mossy gravestones.

Know that “Evergreen Meadow” on your map is one of the few resting places in the country that offers a green burial option.

From William Clark’s grave, refer to your Arboretum Map or your Green Spiral Map to find your way to the giant red mulberry tree, which we have named “Mother Mulberry.”  She makes a great climbing tree.  This is a nice place to spread out a blanket and have a little nap or a snack.

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Calvary Cemetery is across the street, and SLU is studying the bees in that cemetery.  Turns out, Calvary Cemetery hosts the greatest bee biodiversity in the region; and by the way, city bees are healthier than rural bees because city folks use fewer pesticides than the farmers do.  Kinda scary, huh?

Rock hopping, a winding drive and a picnic at Mother Mulberry will probably use up all your time, so be sure to use the restrooms on the way out, recycle your maps and make a plan for your return visit. Best of all, a visit to Bellefontaine Cemetery is free! Saint Louis is rich with free destinations for kids.  Let’s keep it that way.

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Now, here’s your homework:

2013 The Dead Bird

While uncomfortable at times,  death, like sex, is something that children are curious about, and families are learning how to normalize conversations about these difficult topics, from a young age.

Find age-appropriate books for your personal library, for that inevitable moment when someone, or something, dies. The author of “GoodNight Moon” wrote a classic titled, “We Found a Dead Bird.” I’m Jessie, and I used this book quite a lot while teaching, as we would often find dead birds on the playground. There are lots more contemporary books on the market. Post your favorites, and the ones that have helped you, or your family, in the comment section, below:

 

 

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Seed Bombs are clay balls embedded with seeds,

in this case, milkweed for monarchs!

Milkweed = Baby Food for Monarch Butterflies

Milkweed = Baby Food for Monarch Butterflies

Artists, Activists and Kids love seed bombs,

and here’s how to make your own:

Step One:

Step One

Step One

Step Two:

Naughty or Nice?

Naughty or Nice?

Step Three:

Harvest milkweed seeds from a real

milkweed plant, OR, buy locally,

from,  Seed Geeks, who you can find

at the Tower Grove Market.

Go Local

Seed Geeks

Mix the clay with water, and a few seeds,

until you get the consistency of cookie dough.

Play with mud

Play with mud

Step Four:

Mix into mud, adding more clay, water or seeds

as needed.  You can also add some compost from your garden.

Mix Well

Mix Well

Step Five:

Roll into balls, allow to dry, and harden (which may take a few days).

Bombs Away!

Bombs Away!

Then go bomb a vacant lot.

Next spring,

Milkweed and Monarchs show up!

And that’s how to make a Seed Bomb.

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2014-08 Know Your Farmer

It’s getting harder and harder to find family farms to visit, but it can be done, and here’s one way to do it. You can visit Windcrest Dairy, the only makers of homestead yogurt in our area, conveniently located just 40 minutes east of the Arch, in Illinois.

Here’s the link to the farm, along with a map, and here’s the address to the farm:

Windcrest Dairy

14898 Old Trenton Road; Trenton, IL 62293

 

(Be careful with your GPS device, as it seems to want to divert to Wing Crest)

2014-07-17 Windcrest cows in the barn

Here’s Farmer Kurt, third generation farmer, with a broken rib.  Thank goodness farmers don’t stop farming just because they have broken ribs, or because it’s frightfully cold, or because it’s blisteringly hot outside — because we love to eat!  Call up Farmer Kurt anytime, and organize a field trip; afternoons are best.  Here’s his phone number: 618-910-346four.

Do you know this farmer?

Do you know this farmer?

Farming is hard work, and harder still due to economies of scale and “Get Big or Get Out” farm policies.  Milk is a commodity, so bigger producers have a competitive advantage over the little family farm, yet Windcrest Dairy has found a way to stay in business by making yogurt. 

 

When you go, ask them what “homestead” yogurt means.  Small farms are little businesses, and thus they need to be very entrepreneurial; making yogurt is known as a “value added product”, and has made a big difference for this family-owned farm operation.

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You can buy Windcrest Dairy yogurt at Schnucks, Straubs, and local foodie establishments; Wash U uses Windcrest Dairy yogurt in their yogurt parfaits.  It’s nice to “Know Your Farmer”, and it’s important know where your food comes from. Heck, do you think a factory farm would let us visit their operation with little girls in tutus?

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If you visit the farm at 4:30, you get to see the cows get milked at 5 pm.  Otherwise, there are lots of cows, pigs, ducks, geese, donkeys and miniature horses to pet or maybe feed.  Depending on the composition of your group, ask to milk a cow!

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Of course, the stars of the show somehow turn out to be the barn cats. And sometimes toads.

2014-07-17 Windcrest Barncat

A bit of mischief and misadventure always seems to present itself on Green Spiral field trips, as these are true adventures and not sanitized experiences; thus we were surprised, but not surprised, when a big goat jumped up on our yogurt tasting table.

 

Don’t park under the shade trees, as tempting as it might be, unless you want a goat on the back of your car, reaching for the tasty leaves.  Needless to say, goat hooves are not kind to car paint, and I feel badly about that.  Hey, it’s a farm!  What else can we say about that?

2014-08-06 Windcrest Sally and the goat

Green Spiral brought about 34 people, which was just about the right number, although a bit crowded in the yogurt making room.  A better number might be around 24.  Be sure to ask what makes Greek Yogurt different.  One answer is that it has more protein, which makes it a “superfood” for growing kids. 

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Sharing food builds community. We all got to sample different flavors of yogurt. Here’s a yellow cucumber from Schlafly Gardenwork seeds, along with a simple recipe to inspire a cool summer treat made with greek yogurt and mint:

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You can also just show up at Windcrest by yourself or with a small family group, as dairies are always open, and cows still need to milked, twice a day, even on holidays. There is a “store” where you can buy yogurt, and even buy frozen yogurt not available at your local grocer.  Remember to bring your cool pack or cooler for transport.  An indoor restroom facility is available on site.

2014-07-17 Windcrest windmill and horse

This is a fabulous field trip for any age and you can pretty much wear anything you want, including a tutu. Every adventure teaches us something new, and from here on out, everyone is encouraged to wear batman capes and tutus to future Green Spiral field trips!

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You’ve been on the field trip, and now here’s your homework!  It’s important to take time to reflect on your experiences and integrate what you have learned into your framework of understanding. You can respond in the comment section below.

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Homework: 

  • Got milk? Do you have a basic understanding of how milk gets to your table? Does it matter?  What if you lived in China? Would it matter then?
  • Patronize your local farmer’s market and help grow the local food ecosystem (every dollar makes a difference!)
  • Share recipes and food to help build community. (Remember, the best place to store food is in other people’s bellies!)
  • Ask your own special magic question.  You will know you have found the magic question when you just have to find out the answer!
  • Inventory books in your personal, school and public libraries.  Do they include The Omnivore’s Dilemna by Michael Pollan or Animal, Vegetable, Mineral by Barbara Kingsolver?  Do your children’s books present an accurate picture of how food gets from farm to table?
  • Ask children where milk comes from.  Then ask them what cows eat.  Write down funny answers for later.
  • Know your farmer!  Visit a local farm, or better yet, lead a field trip to a local farm! Take kids.
  • Buy Windcrest Dairy yogurt, if you live in the Saint Louis area.
  • Blog! or use social media to show what you know.  Here’s a blog called Magpie at Heart which has particularly nice photos from our field trip: http://www.magpieatheart.com/dairy-farm-adventure/
  • Vote! Amendment One is a constitutional amendment that gives the courts, not the voters, the authority to decide about future farm practice disputes. In general, this is probably a long term win for those with deep pockets, such as  puppy mills and factory farms. For more, here’s a non-partisan link to Ballotpedia.
Chain of Rocks Bridge

Chain of Rocks Bridge

Okay, this was more of a scouting mission than a field trip, but here’s the scoop on eagle watching at the Chain of Rocks Bridge during the annual Eagle Days celebration:  basically, if you want to see eagles, wait until it’s really cold outside, cold enough to make the rivers freeze, so that the eagles are forced to small pockets of open water, in this case the chain of rocks in the water that parallels the bridge for easy viewing.  Bundle up, pack some hot chocolate in a thermos, bring your own high powered binoculars or spotting scope, come early in the morning and watch the eagles fish.

Where eagles dare to fish

Where eagles dare to fish

If you want to enjoy Eagle Days, on the other hand, pick a nice warm January afternoon, consider it a pleasant walk in the sunshine, and enjoy the festivities.  You will see one or two eagles in the far distance, but the fun will be had at the re-enactment camp, at the live eagle tent, and with all the happy people enjoying a cheerful walk along the bridge.  Even if it is a relatively warm day, take care to bundle up, as the bridge is exposed, and the wind chill will get to your bones.  Remember, children have smaller body masses and get into thermal trouble very quickly.

Take a walk on the wild side

Take a walk on the wild side

Eagle Days is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation, and happens around MLK weekend each year. It’s growing in popularity, so you can’t count on prime $5 parking.

Plan to be funneled into one of the free satellite parking lots, and instead of waiting for the shuttle bus, just start walking along the bike path because you will beat the shuttle bus which sometimes has a 40 minute wait.  It’s about a 20 minute walk, which is nothing for a stroller, but probably too far for a toddler or small child.

Walk, don't ride

Walk, don’t ride

To get to the parking areas from Saint Louis, approach from 270 heading east to Illinois and get off at the last exit (Riverview Drive) before you go over the bridge into Illinois.  Turn right after you exit the highway, and the parking lot will quickly appear on your left, very visible and well marked.

Bring your own snacks, as the food offerings run along the lines of what I would call “carnival food”.  Restroom facilities are porta-potty style.

Funnel cakes for everyone!

Funnel cakes for everyone!

The walk will be your major activity, punctuated by chances to peer into the spotting scopes set up by the rangers along the bridge.  One lone defunct firetruck served as a popular jungle gym, for obvious reasons.  Kids like to climb things.

Climbable Sculpture?

Climbable Sculpture?

The Lewis and Clark re-enactment camps are always fun and interesting, but there is not much for kids to actually do, really, except look and learn. The giant eagle nest photo opportunity is nice, but even better, encourage kids to construct their own giant “eagle nests” in your own backyard upon return.  Obviously, for liability reasons, the MDC can’t have a bunch of kids running around with giant sticks, trying to build eagle nests.

Lewis? or Clark?

Lewis? or Clark?

Scoping out the scoop

Scoping out the scoop

Missouri is one of the best spots in the country to view bald eagles, and the story of the returning bald eagle is a positive message that should be purposefully transmitted to future generations.

Recall that Rachel Carson, the “grandmother” of the environmental movement, first sent up the alarm about the dangers of DDT in her landmark book “Silent Spring” in 1962.

Along with hunting, DDT was responsible for decimating the eagle population, which put eagles on the endangered species list with only 3,000 nesting pairs left in the wild during the 1960/1970s.

Since then, due mostly to public pressure and awareness, eagle numbers have grown to over 10,000 nesting pairs in the lower 48 states, and our national symbol is no longer on the endangered species list.  It’s important to keep building awareness, and keep bringing kids out to see the eagles.

Success stories lend courage to the environmental movement, so share the eagle story freely, (along with closing the ozone hole), because painting a positive vision of the future is our primary responsibility as parents and teachers actively cultivating future stewards of the earth.

Teaching children to love and honor our wild creatures is a cultural value that must be directly taught by adults, (usually parents); the kids won’t get it by osmosis, or necessarily from school or friends.  Books, field trips and videos can help, but nothing beats a field trip or the chance to see a real live eagle up-close and personal.  Send me your photo of the live eagle in the interpretive tent and I’ll upload it here: _______

As a note, I’ve also had good luck watching eagles at Riverlands, or simply by driving along the Great River Road near Grafton, where you can see the spectacular free-fall dance of courtship that eagles do in the air.

In vain search of the courting dance, I found this cool video called “aerial ballet” that shows multitudes of eagles along the Mississippi River in Illinois if you don’t want to burn the carbon to get out near the river this year: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-n8myR1uXf4