Monday, October 20, 2014

Amicala Falls with Homeschooled Kids

We all hear about how excited parents can get when it's "Back to School" season. What you may not know is that many homeschool parents get excited around the same time of year. Not because we will again be shipping our kids off on yellow buses five days a week (which we won't be doing), but because, for some unknown reason probably related to "planning" the upcoming "unschool year," we all seem to get bit by the field trip bug and we all start planning field trips for our group. Unfortunately, many of them seem to end up clustered in the same couple of months in the fall, so some picking and choosing is necessary.

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
If have to say right off, the folks manning the post at this Park were very friendly and helpful. In our Tour of America four years ago I found that customer service was not always a priority for the Park rangers. Heather in particular, who was in charge of our group's hands-on program, was wonderful about working with us and the kids.

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
Heather passed around the turtles, and also some shells for everyone to look at. Another fun fact I did not know: In some species of turtles, their spines are actually attached to the top of their shell.

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 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

We won't go into how difficult it can be to get nice pictures of one's children.

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

In progress

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.

Old truck

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.

Last exchange

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