Wednesday, January 19, 2011

MN Zoo at the Homeschool Science Series

Today was the first of the Spring Homeschool Science Series presentations at a local library. We started going to these last year, and they were fun! They are free, a big bonus, and they provide another avenue for learning about science. They are only in the spring, which is great for our schedule, too!

Today the MN Zoo brought out a variety of animals. It is always fun to see some new animals, and there were some different ones there today. I am ever the diligent student at these things lately. One of the things I know about myself is that I retain more if I write it down while I am listening. It took me almost 2 years of homeschooling to remember (and admit) this. Incidentally, there is a scene in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone that drive me nuts--when Snape calls Harry out for not listening, but he is taking notes! Always has bugged me, but I digress. I take notes. I am probably the only one there who does, but I need to have something to spur my memory. Kiddo likes to ask me questions after we leave, and if I haven't written it down, well, I just don't remember. I know I can look some of it up later. Animals are easy to do that with. Historical sites? Not as easy. And science experiments? Not easy at all! So I take notes. Lots and lots of notes.

There were five animals today. Some we are familiar with (red-tailed hawks are often injured, and thus it seems every nature center has one!) and some were very new (chinchillas!). I was very proud of my kids today. Kiddo answered one of the questions correctly about what animals need to stay alive and healthy, and Kutey sat "criss-cross applesauce," as requested by the presenter even when every other kid around her was on their knees. They were also both very attentive.

The presenter was FANTASTIC. She was very engaging without being condescending. She connected with both the younger kids and the older kids. In fact she assessed the ages before she started-- a simple show of hands for grade, which is always fun in a homeschool crowd! And she managed to fill in gaps for the parents without anyone having to ask and interrupt. The 45 minutes really did fly by!

Here are the animals we saw and a few of the notes I took:

Red-tailed Hawk
-Sensitive eyesight
-Has a piece of skull that sticks out over their eyes to shield them from the sunlight
-Can fly at 120 mph to catch prey
-Weighs 2 pounds
-Can see a mouse from a football field away
This particular one is an imprint. He was raised by humans, so has no fear of them. He is 29 years old! Rather old for a hawk.

Mexican Red-kneed Tarantula
Mexican Red-Kneed Tarantula
-Has 8 legs, but appears to have 10. Two are pedipalps, which are more like arms used to hold and put food in mouth.
-Hair is used as protection. When threatened, they loosen their hair with their legs, then shake. The hair gets into the predators eyes, and the spider gets away.
Make webs on the ground
-Very fragile. Their bodies are as fragile as an egg.

Blue-tongued Skink
-From Australia, where they are sometimes mistaken as the venomous death adder snake.
-Short legs, so they don't move fast.
-When scared, they stick out their blue tongue (and it is BLUE!) which is unexpected and odd in color, thus startling a predator.
-Cold-blooded, so only as warm as the air and ground around it.
-The presenter mentioned that in Australia you can come out of your house in the morning and find 20 skinks on your driveway.

So cute!
-Very endangered--less than 3500 left in the wild
-Very thick fur--for each hair we have, they have 60.
-They live in a dry area where there is volcanic ash dust everywhere, they dust themselves in it.
-The presenter actually had a box with dust in it that she put the chinchilla in and we got to watch her dust herself. It was very fun to see!

Red-footed Tortoise
-Weighs 12 pounds
-Lives in the rain forest
-Backbone and hips are attached to their shell
Scute--the pieces of the shell. In this case, the yellow dots on the shell are newer, the darker around the edges is older, which makes it easier to see.
This particular tortoise was also very strong. The presenter held her in place while we touched her, but the tortoise really wanted to go explore! The presenter mentioned that the tortoise can pull a red wagon, a discovery made by accident, but a demonstration of how powerful she is!

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