The trip we chose for this week was a visit to Amicalola Falls State Park. It was a bit of a drive for us (close to two hours), but it was good practice for Thomas--the longest distance he has driven so far.
|Map at Visitor's Center|
First up, we gathered behind the Visitor's Center in the Lower Amphitheater, and the kids all sat facing the wrong direction. Most of the moms were turned around, too. But, Heather just went with it and relocated to the back of the theater and got started.
|Ready for the program|
Heather talked about turtles, tortoises, and terrapins. She had a pair of box turtles (one of my favorites), a male and a female. Fun fact I did not know: Males have brighter orange or red eyes, and females have darker eyes.
|Heather and Lightning|
|Thomas with an empty turtle shell|
The female turtle, Speedbump, was brought to the Park after she was found injured (run over by a car...thus her name). She had a quite cleverly crafted repair job on her upper shell using some sort of industrial-strength adhesive. As with All Things Turtle, the healing of a shell can take a long, long, long time, and the adhesive keeps their shell together while the healing takes place.
|William--not quite sure he wants to hold it...it had just peed|
|Michael and Lightning|
One of the empty shells Heather passed around was not quite empty; it had a variety of turtle bones in it. Michael and Simon were particularly interested in identifying the different bones, and pointed out there were two heads but only one pelvis.
|Simon with a shell full of bones|
|Thomas and Friend|
As a nice surprise, Heather brought out a corn snake for everyone to hold, pet, and enjoy. Although there was some theatrical squealing from a few members of the front row when the snake was brought out of the bag (it wasn't exactly a surprise, since it was announced in advance), just about every squealer immediately jumped up to pet the snake.
|Corn Snake named Kellogg|
|Thomas and Kellogg|
While I was being a good homeschool mom and documenting our educational experience, I also managed to steal a few shots of some of our moms.
|Maria The Pediatric Nurse, and one of her Wild Goats (yes, that is what she calls her children)|
|Stacey The Math Expert|
|Christin The Writer, and Kellogg|
Once the turtles had been properly passed around and admired, Heather commenced the Turtle Races. Speedbump won every race, despite her damaged and repaired shell.
|Michael and Syd starting the turtle race|
The second half of our hands-on program was all about building emergency shelters. It was led by a very nice young man who had never led the shelter-building program before, so he was perfectly suited to facilitate (and not interfere with) a gaggle of kids who are all about gettin' in there and getting' it done. A few of the kids had built these types of shelters before, and since all of these kids have spend so much time together for so many years, working as a team was not a problem.
|Building an emergency shelter|
At some point, the younger kids realized there were kind of a lot of people involved in building just one shelter, and their contributions were shaking out to be more about gathering materials and less about building, so they decided to start their own shelter.
|The Youngers' shelter|
You have to admit, that's a whole lot of folks to build one two-person shelter. But, it went up really quickly. And came down even quicker (we had to return our materials to where they came from). Our facilitator was so impressed with the effort and results of our group, he took a picture to post on their FaceBook page.
|The Whole Gang and a completed shelter|
One of the things I love about our group is the lack of "stratifying" socialization. Thomas is fifteen, and a big, hulking teenager (way bigger than me now), and one of his best buddies is a petite little sweetie-pie who can (literally) perch on his shoulder.
|Thomas and his buddy, Em|
|William and friend trying out the shelter|
This is just a random photo because I liked the angle.
|Thomas on top|
So, yes, we did eventually hike down the trail to see the Falls. I always think it's somewhat counter-intuitive to hike *down* to see a waterfall, but that seems to be how these things are set up. It was an easy hike, and on the way we say this old truck interestingly perched on the hillside. Obviously it fell from the road above at some time in the past, and has been resting here ever since.
The Falls themselves, of course, were wonderful.
|William at the falls|
|Nick, Em, Thomas, and Hannah|
After hanging out at the main landing, we all went down a bit further to appreciate the view from another view.
|Another view from below|
And then back up the stairs...
|William, back up the stairs|
And, finally, a small group of us motored up the rest of the way to the top of the Falls. Very nice view.
|View from the top|
And a last gathering of friends at the Upper Amphitheatre.