Thursday, June 7, 2012

Maryland/West Virginia Field Trips, continued

I'm finally finding a few minutes to finish telling you about our field trips while we were visiting my parents last month. You can see this post for the first several field trips of our trip.

Monday was a rainy day, so we decided to do a couple of shorter, indoor field trips.  First we headed to the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore. My parents have a membership that's about to expire, and all 3 girls love it, so we wanted to visit one more time before the membership expires.

By far, the favorite thing at this museum for all 3 girls, is the caboose that you can go inside. They love "playing house" in there, pretending to cook on the small cookstove, etc.

Little Bit is finally big enough to climb up to the upper seats all by herself, so she had great fun climbing up and down over and over and over.

The big girls, my dad, and I enjoyed a steam engine tour that explained how steam engines worked, while Little Bit and Mama played in the toddler area, which would have been more fun if someone hadn't walked off with all but one of the trains at the Thomas Train train table. Oh well, Little Bit's pretty good at creating her own entertainment LOL.

After we left the railroad museum, we head to Brookside Gardens and their annual "Wings of Fancy" live butterfly display.  We've visited this display most years since the twins were a couple months old (somewhere I have pictures of mom and I sitting on a bench holding 2 sleeping babies). This year we hit the PERFECT weather! It was warm enough that the butterflies were super active, but overcast, which made it not so unbearably hot for us warm-blooded types.

Little Bit was napping when we got there, so I stayed in the car with her while Mama & Papa took the big girls in. When Little Bit woke up and we went on in, we discovered this gorgeous blue butterfly had landed on MiniMe, so I managed to snap a picture before it flew off. What's cool is that we've wanted a picture of this particular type of butterfly with it's wings open for YEARS, but never managed to get one. The butterfly is a boring brown when it's wings are closed, so it's fun to finally have a picture of that brilliant blue!

Sassy wanted in the WORST way for a butterfly to land on HER, but for some reason, MiniMe was the butterfly magnet this year.

Finally, dad found a hurt butterfly that he was able to carefully pick up and put on her shoulder, so we at least got a picture of her with a butterfly LOL.

Little Bit was SOOOO excited to see all the butterflies flying around when we went in. She actually tried (for about 2 seconds) to sit still so a butterfly would land on her, needless to say, it didn't work LOL.

Little Bit was interested in the "touch table" where they have some of the dead butterflies for the kids to touch and look at with a magnifying glass and such.

So Monday was a busy, but fun day for all of us.

Our plan was to just stay home on Tuesday and recuperate from all the running around. But then when we looked at weather reports, we decided that it made more sense to go to Harpers Ferry on Tuesday morning, and stay home on Wednesday.

So, Tuesday we headed over to Harpers Ferry. John Brown's raid isn't something we've ever really learned about, but usually the Junior Ranger programs are designed such that they do a good job of "teaching" about the events surrounding a site all on their own.  Unfortunately, that's not the case with the Harpers Ferry one.

One thing we REALLY liked about the Harpers Ferry Junior Ranger program is that, instead of being age-specific, it allows everyone to earn up to THREE badges, depending how much they're willing to do. If you do all of one color's activities in the book, you get the Apprenticeship badge, if you add the next color, you get Journeyman, and if you finish off the entire book, you get Master. More badges is always a good thing.

Things I wasn't so fond of: (1) a growing trend seems to be to require the children to do ALL of the activities in the book. This really frustrates me because it means that we have to waste spend a good portion of our time at the park doing things that I consider "busy work".  I'd much rather they be doing scavenger hunts or asking rangers questions than doing a word search or even a cross-word puzzle (at least a cross-word puzzle DOES require them to learn about the topic, but it's not ideal for their learning style).  That is really why we ended up not learning much of anything about John Brown's raid  after spending several hours in Historic Harpers Ferry, they spent most of the time we were there sitting on a bench filling in "workbook pages".  (2) another time consuming thing that I felt didn't add to their learning about Harpers Ferry was an activity that required us to go to the C&O Canal. We LOVE the canal, HOWEVER, we already HAVE the C&O Canal Junior Ranger badge. The wording led me to believe that we only had to do that one IF we were planning to go to the canal anyway, which, of course, contradicted the wording at the beginning of the book that said to do ALL activities. When I asked the volunteer at the ranger desk, about it, he said "oh the canal's right on the edge of town, it won't take long." Ummm . . . perhaps if it was just me, by myself, on a mission to get the thing done immediately, that would be true. However, "right on the edge of town" was actually across a walking bridge spanning the Potomac river (not the Mississippi, but not a stream either) and down a ton of steps at the other side of the river and then, of course, find all the things the bingo thing required us to find, and draw the picture it required us to draw (that's what Sassy's doing in this picture) it's pointless to do any of this if we don't actually ENJOY it, and they're KIDS, so they wanted to explore things, and really, once we hiked all the way over there, we might as well explore things so we probably spent close to an hour of our time at Harpers Ferry fulfilling that ONE Junior Ranger requirement that had NOTHING to do with historic Harpers Ferry! (yes, I was rather annoyed by that).

So anyway, the girls had a good time, and earned two badges, so I guess the day was a success. And we're getting ready to learn about the Civil War on our own, and Harpers Ferry is pretty close to my parents' house so we can go back. So the plan is to learn about the raid, and THEN go back to Harpers Ferry and finish up the 3rd badge, and make sure we actually learn about the history of Harpers Ferry even if the Junior Ranger doesn't "teach" us.

It will work out fine for us, but if you don't live in the area and only have one shot at visiting Harpers Ferry I would highly recommend either skipping the Junior Ranger altogether, or make sure the children know the basic history of the town before you go and then plan to just earn the Apprentice level badge and spend the rest of your time actually visiting the museum and such that we never even got inside. (and if it were me, unless you WANT to see the canal, I'd argue pretty strongly for NOT wasting the time to do that requirement if you have limited time, but I tend to be abit argumentative at times).

And that was our week of field trips. We were exhausted (and, in fact, when the weather ended up looking better on Wednesday and Dad asked about going to Mount Vernon (which had originally been one of our planned trips, but we abandoned it because of the rain), Sassy said no, PLEASE, let's just STAY HOME! LOL. Proof that even my extroverted, super energetic kids can hit a limit on how much "fun" they can handle LOL.

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