Early Explorers Natural Wonders

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Welcome to our second journey with our Little Explorer subscription! Each month we receive a new topic to learn about. Now that Travis understands the learning journey we’re on, I set the stage for him…Max and Mia’s letter was waiting in his mini mailbox! He loved discovering their letter, and diving right in.

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Our Natural Wonders kit contained the standard items that were now familiar from our Oceans pack – a luggage tag, a postcard, an activity booklet, and stickers for our wall map. Thanks to our stickers this month, we learned about the Chocolate Hills, Northern Lights, Paradise Harbor, and Glowworm Caves.

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Instantly we needed to find YouTube clips of these strange-sounding wonders! The Glowworm caves were a huge hit.

Natural Wonders Craft:

The suggested craft this month was to make our own glowworm cave, using string and glow-in-the-dark paint. The craft ought to have been easy, but we really struggled with this because I only had thick twine on hand – whoops! If you paint very thin string, and you’ll likely have better luck.

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It took three coats of glow-in-the-dark paint before we were satisfied.

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Then we glued the “worms” (which are actually beetles, who knew?!) to the lid of a mason jar. Again, we had lots of trouble because our strings were so stiff. I wrestled our glowworms onto the lid with the help of lots of glue and lots of tape. Then it was time to see them glow.

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Wonder indeed!

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Natural Wonders Science:

This month’s booklet did not include a science project, but Little Passport’s blog contained a timely post. We could make our own geode, and it would be edible! The craft was so intricate and neat that I devoted a separate blog post to it.

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I was thrilled when we happened upon this geode at a local exhibit purely by happenstance, and Travis could view a real world comparison.

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Natural Wonders Keepsake:

The little present tucked into our kit this month was a big hit – his very own pyrite rock. As a parent, I loved seeing Travis with his first “fool’s gold” since I remember proudly having one in my rock collection as a child.

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We later found a store where Travis could select his next wonder!

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Natural Wonders Field Trip:

A natural history museum was the obvious suggestion, of course. The one closest to us unfortunately didn’t have the big “wonders” I was hoping for – no collection of geodes or different habitats – but it did have great exhibits on our local ecosystem.

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It was a reminder that even the most ordinary-looking trees can be full of wonder, as Travis discovered in a “lift a flap” tree full of bugs and animals.

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Natural Wonders Further Activities:

As we were quick to learn, Little Explorers mailing is intended as just the beginning; there is lots more to explore as parent and child, and the only limit is how much time you want to devote to each kit! I found myself disappointed as we worked our way through some of the items below; we don’t live near any of the great “wonders” Max and Mia talked about in their pictures, and I wanted Travis to experience something grand. But I was soon reminded instead that wonders come in all shapes and sizes…and Travis wasn’t feeling disappointed in the slightest!

Rocks, of course, are everywhere, and sometimes as marvelous to behold as grand formations. A trip to a local park is all you need for some exploration! We might not have found any fool’s gold, but we did have fun looking through a magnifying glass…

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Finding neat shapes (a perfect triangle!)…

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And pondering the difference between rocks that were stuck in the ground versus those that were loose for Travis to pull out.

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The next suggestion was to pick any natural wonder near you and visit. This doesn’t need to be anything fancy; a lake, river, or waterfall counts. We live near plenty of coastline, but surprisingly few lovely ponds, so that is where Travis and I headed.

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We spotted lots of other wonders as we walked – lichen on trees:

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An incredible old stump:

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And leaves that floated downriver in a gentle current:

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Okay, so the stream was no Victoria Falls, but we loved watching our little red leaf disappear under the bridge and then pop out on the other side!

Finally, we went off in search of the tallest tree in our local area. A newspaper article tipped us off that this 167-foot-tall specimen was only 30 minutes away, so we set off to the swamp preserve to locate it.

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I’m actually not sure we found the exact right tree, but Travis marveled as we looked up at the canopy! Plus we found this:

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We finished off all this tromping with some armchair exploration, looking up Max and Mia’s suggested wonders online and learning neat facts. For example did you know Old Faithful has erupted more than a million times, since it became a National Park in 1872?

In sum, the lessons in this month’s kit were kind of advanced for Travis, but opened up a realm of curiosity and exploration, and served as a reminder that wonders are around every corner if you look for them.

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Banana-Split Popcorn

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We love this salty/sweet popcorn mix, perfect for snacking on during a family movie, or as an afternoon treat. I like to divide the mixture ahead of time into snack-bag size portions, so we can grab one for the road in a pinch.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups plain popped popcorn
  • 1/2 cup banana chips
  • 1/4 cup vegan chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons freeze-dried raspberries
  • 1/4 cup toasted walnuts
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl, tossing to combine. Serve!

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Baked Pita Pizzas

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These pizzas require only four ingredients and they bake in 6 minutes – need I say more? This one is perfect for your most hectic weeknights.

Ingredients:

  • 4 (6-inch) whole wheat pitas
  • 4 tablespoons marinara sauce
  • 1/2 cup shredded Daiya mozzarella
  • 12 meatless meatballs
  1. Spread 1 tablespoon sauce on each of the pitas, and sprinkle each with about 2 tablespoons mozzarella.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the meatballs according to package directions. Cut into slices, and divide evenly among the pitas.
  3. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees F for 6 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

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Starfish Friend

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If clay is fun, then sand + clay is infinitely more so! You can find colored sand at craft stores, and use whatever color you like best for this project.

After a recent trip to a natural history museum’s touch tank, Travis was in love with the feel of sea animals, so we decided to make our own starfish at home. The project was great for using clay in multiple ways. First we rolled it flat.

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Then we needed to cut out our starfish. A big star-shaped cookie cutter would have worked great, but I couldn’t find ours, so a plastic knife did in a pinch.

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Now it was time for the extra special sand bit. It was amazing how much more fun this made clay play. Travis loved the way it made the clay look, so we couldn’t stop there – he began adding other denizens to our “touch tank” including “snails” and “crabs,” which all needed to be sprinkled in sand of course.

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These were “snail eggs.”

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Meanwhile, use googly eyes or buttons for the eyes to finish your starfish friend; we chose the latter, after which Travis loved pressing buttons into additional pieces of clay.

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For the final touch, we left our clay to air-dry slightly curved on a piece of newspaper; this gave it that real starfish look once it had dried!

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