Friday, February 1, 2008 ;
5:26 AM
Jan 28
10am to 4pm

Ogden Nature Center

I had signed both boys up for this preschool program at the Center sometime ago, for this session on "Starry Starry Night" -- all about outer space, constellations and so on.

They have many such sessions and we had wanted to go for a long time, but never had the time to do so, so this time I thought we better just go ahead and sign up.

Sigh, that morning, when I woke up, I looked out of the window and saw perhaps the worst storm ever. Ok, maybe not, but really, this year has seen a lot more snowfall than usual. I also read in the news that China and Jordan saw unexpected snowfall as well, catching people unaware and causing many flights to be delayed or cancelled. Friends were stuck at the Shanghai airport.

Dh and our Spore friend Ruoyi, had also experienced their worst scares on the road so far, lasrt week, due to icy road conditions. Both of them had the cars spin out of control. Dh was driving at 4.30am in the morning, when it was still dark and the plows have not done the roads yet. He was on the freeway I-15, almost reaching the factory in Murray area, driving slowly in the right most lane (slowest lane). However, the car hit some ice which could not be shaken off, and the car just spun out of control. It fishtailed and started skidding from the rightmost lane right over to the left most (fastest lane), zig zagging all the way. Dh said nothing he did could make it stop. The car had a mind of its own. No friction what. When it finally slowed down was when dh could steer it and brake lightly to get it to "listen" again. So again, thank God the car did not hit anything, nor were there any cars behind that crashed into him while the car was on its own joyride.
Also very glad that nothing happened to Ruoyi and her daughter. They were on their way to her daughter's ballet class. That was late morning, so fortunately it wasn't as bad, and she spun towards the road shoulder instead of the left lanes.

Bearing that in mind, I was seriously considering calling off the outing. But the kids were disappointed, and I had to face calling the center to cancel their names. There also weren't many other days we could go to the Nature Center anymore. So... in the end, we set off.

I drove very slowly, and this was what greeted me, just 3 min after leaving the house.

First, everything was covered with snow. Visibility was poor.
Flakes kept falling on my mirrors and back windows and I had no wipers for them.

Above right: I was on the ramp up onto the freeway and a massive jam had already started from there. I haven't even reached the I-15! Yet we were stuck on the ramp at least 10min.

The short distance from my place to the Nature Center took 1hr! Why?
1. Bad weather, poor visibility, everyone drove slower.

2. 3 accidents along the way. With the worst being this semi (huge truck) that crashed into the side of the freeway, but being so long, it blocked 2 lanes.

Since I was stuck on the road, not moving and had nothing to do, I took pics. Both boys were singing to the Little Einsteins CD (which I am sick and tired of hearing already).

The Nature Center had 3 sessions, 9.30am, 11am and 1pm. I called them to say I would probably be very late and to be safe, shifted the boys to the 1pm session.

Finally we reached at 11.15am. But now we had a lot of time to kill.

First, we walked around the outside. The park was huge. From spring to autumn it would be lovely and lots of wildlife can be seen here, ranging from deer to rare bird species.

Above left: ds2 playing with snow and walking amongst the bird feeders.
Above right: ds1, helping me carry a bag and trudging towards a pond (Beaver Pond? can't rem the name)

Above left: ds1 checking out the different bird feathers and trying to match them to the correct bird species. They also have egg and bird matching.

Above right: the surrounding ponds and trees of the Nature Center.

Above left: We then explored the Visitor's Center and gift shop. There were many exhibits there, showing spiders, various birds, amphibians and repltiles. Kids looking at a kingsnake here.

Above right: The Visitor's Center from the outside.

Above left: kids looking at an owl. They were mesmerised by its eyes, so huge and glazed.

Above right: skulls, dentition and skeleton of various mammals and birds.

There were also exhibits of different kinds of nests. The visitor's center had full length glass windows, so we stood there, enjoying the warmth of the interior, yet being able to observe all the wildlife so active on the outside. Mainly they were birds. Many different species were fluttering around. There was even a huge turkey that came gobbling by, right beside the window! It looked like it was shivering, the poor big bird. It was still snowing heavily.

After we were done with the Visitor's Center, we reluctantly stepped out and braved the weather to another building, the Peery Education Building. That was where the preschool program will be held. However, it was only 12pm. We had another hour to kill. The traffic jam messed up my plans. Cos even though ds2 was also signed up for the session, I doubt he can even keep awake by 1pm.

This building was rather fun, and the friendly staff allowed us free access to explore everything.

We made animal prints using rubber stamps and matched them to the correct animal names. Ds2 just made animal tracks all over his paper for fun.

Above right: Then it was whiteboard free play time. Both drew all the things they liked.

Next, they had many books in a corner and I read them a Dr Seuss one on Maps. Good book. Lots to learn, plus it rhymes very well.

After the map book, we set out to complete a jigsaw puzzle of the world map. (related to the book, good! It's like I am doing a thematic session with them too, haha.) It had velcro strips and was mounted on the fabric wall. Very easy for the kids to play with.

Above right: last piece! yay!

Above: both of them trying to figure out where Spore is, then where Utah is, and then they also asked about China and Japan. Looks like they're quite mentally prepared for the move. Japan is cos of Ultraman. Ds1 keeps saying he wants to go to the Ultraman Theme Park there. Apparently, an Ultraman Land also opened in Thailand!

After that, we had some snacks. I packed a lunchbox: muesli bar for myself. 2 milk packets, one each for them. Some cookies, Goldfish (baked whole grain cheese crackers), Xiao Mantou (from Asian Mart), cereal. Hadn't expected to really need to have lunch there, so didn't pack sandwiches and fruits. Fortunately I am always very kiasu and bring a huge bag out. Otherwise we would have starved, cos there was no food for sale there, and we had to wait till after the session to eat, which turned out to be 3.30pm.

After the snacks, ds2 ran around with a ball, and both of them had fun in a "bear's den". That section teaches kids that bears make dens for themselves, usually big enough for just one bear, unless it is a mother bear with cubs, then the cubs snuggle with the mom. Both boys cuddled together instead, and ds1 was even kissing ds2 all over. Above right: he was kissing his hand.

Then they just lay inside, hugging each other! haha. So cosy huh!

The session only started at about 1.15pm, cos there was a group who signed up together and due to the storm, some of them were late.

There were 3 facilitators. The guy had a backpacker's guitar (lighter and different shape), and he strummed and sang songs with the kids during circle time first. They sang songs related to stars (Twinkle Twinkle, what else?), :-).

Then they split up into 3 groups, each following one facilitator, to do the different stations.

Our group stayed with the guy and they had stories about the constellations, planets and galaxies read to them. Ds2 was falling asleep. They had snacks though, orange juice and Nilla wafers, so ds2 did keep awake for that.

After that, it was our group's turn to do the "walk". Walk round the universe to search for stars and planets. The stars and planets were pictures pasted around the building. I had to carry ds2, cos he didn't want to walk, by then.

The kids found the planets in order of the proximity to the sun. Ds1 was able to read out all the planets' names correctly! Ok, I don't think he really was able to sound out all of the words, like Mercury and Jupiter. It was coupled with the picture, and the fact that he knew all the planets' names, so he just needed to look at the first letter of each planet word to guess correctly. I assumed this because he almost said Mercury was Mars, so I know he was only looking at the first letter. Interestingly, the girls in his group were not very interested in the planets, only in the stars. Only ds1 and the other boy were. I really don't like to believe in stereotypes but I think girls and boys really do have very differing interests.

After that, the kids sat down to do a craft about constellations. They learnt about the Big Dipper, Leo, and the Hunter I think. Wasn't able to pay too much attention cos ds2 was cranky by this time. Then they made glow-in-the-dark constellations and hung them around their necks.

Then everyone got together and played a solar system game. The Sun is the ball, in the center of the universe. The kids walked around the sun in their orbits. Music is played and once the music stopped, the kids had to run to find themselves a star to stand on. Stars are marked with duct tape on the floor. The kids had a lot of fun.

That marked the end of the session.

By the way, the other kids had some self-printed tees that said "I'm a smarty-pants kid". Am wondering if they are a homeschool group. Homeschooling is very big in Utah, as in common and they have a lot of resources and support. A lot of organisations, like this Nature Center, have sessions for homeschooled kids, to come together, socialise and learn more about science or nature that is not as easy to learn at home.

Like if you are a homeschooling mom and you can possibly buy every science experiment kit in the Carolina catalog, you can go to a science center or similar organisation and sign your kids up for such sessions. That way, they don't lose out. The other day, the newspaper carried an article on a girl who was homeschooled throughout her life, and she gained admission to one of the Ivy League Universities, can't remember if it was Harvard or Yale or MIT.

Homeschooling is getting more popular in Spore now, but it is not on such a scale as here, definitely. There needs to be more such support from organisations, before more moms would do that.

Having been a teacher, and having had teaching practice and relief teaching in primary school, secondary school and JC (bascially taught all levels before), I can see the pros and cons of homeschooling very clearly. If there were such resources and support networks in Spore, many of the "cons" of homeschooling would be nullified, then it would actually work for all levels. Now, many parents in Spore only homeschool up to certain level in Primary School and after that they'd enter the public school system.

Back to the day's events. It was around 2.45pm when we got back to our car in the parking lot. Oh my! It was totally buried under snow. (see below)

Forgot to leave the scraper in the car, so used my gloves to get all the snow and ice off the windows, rear, front, side, and mirrors. So much ice was stuck on the wipers and windshield though. The kids were told to get into the car but they insisted on "helping". They thought it was real fun to keep sweeping large heaps of snow onto the ground.

However, I suspect that was when ds2's cold started.

After we got home, he started coughing a little. The next day (Tues), he had cough plus runny nose and on Wed, he had fever, and a full blown cold. Sigh.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

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