Yesterday was a fun, fact packed Wildlife and Wetlands Trust Wednesday. Turns out home ed is as much about making happy memories as it is about learning.
It was another relaxed start by us all. Breakfast blended into craft but I eventually managed to pull Jenson and Wren away and bundle them into the car for our trip to welly boot land as they call it.
On arrival we received a great home ed discount. As the home educator I was free so the total entry price was just £6 rather than the standard £20. We purchased an extra bag of bird food by way of celebration!
We needed it too as the kids took great joy in feeding the huge variety of swans, geese, ducks and other birds. However, way before all that was our first of two educational talks at the Otter pool and so we hot footed it over there for the 11.30am start.
Flo, Minnie and Haha were the stars of the show and delighted in showing us their acrobatics in the water. We learnt that their favourite food is fish and that today they were being fed Roche. Jenson asked why they didn't wear goggles under water and apparently it's because they have an extra eye lid that protects their eyeball from dirt and other debris. What was particularly fascinating is that they have a delayed gestation, which basically means they can put their pregnancy on pause and come back to it at a more convenient time. If only we all had such a luxury!
The talk moved onto conservation and why otters were not that long ago on the brink of extinction. There were three main contributing factors all of which were sadly caused by humans. The first biggest killer was the use of pesticides, which polluted otter's habitats and food sources. Second was our love of fur and all things fashion, this plummeted otter numbers further and third, competition. Many years ago humans felt otters were eating too many fish so we shot them all. Not a great example of sharing. Thankfully things have improved a lot in recent years, which is due to to a massive conservation effort. Otter numbers are on the up and it looks like otters will be around for future generations to enjoy.
After getting overly excited about otters next we became fantastically fascinated by the flamingos! Jenson loved these colourful and very noisy birds! The ones below are Greater Flamingos but at Slimbridge they have six different varieties including Lesser, Andean, James', Chilean and Caribbean.
We spent a decent amount of time at Flamingo Island as Jenson watched a video and learnt lots of fun facts! We discovered that flamingos live in Africa, South America, South East Asia and the Middle East, they stand on one leg when they are resting, they spend 30% of their day preening themselves and are very social birds. The children measured themselves against a flamingo height chart and we all tried to see if we could stand on one leg for two minutes like flamingos can, (we couldn't!!)
The flamingos below with the black tips on their tails are Andeans.
After an hour or so of bird business the children wanted to get down to the serious business of play! I gave the map to Jenson and together we set off in search of a play area. It was a good lesson in map reading, leadership and geography.
On our travels we came across this emperor goose who Jenson said looked like his friend Farid from school!
The kids weren't getting along that well for some reason, preferring to wind each other up rather than play together. However, as chief map reader Jenson did try and help point out the way to Wren, which was very sweet of him.
Play quickly got underway once we eventually found the playground and I enjoyed a peaceful lunch as the children pretended to spy on me and I pretended not to notice them!
After a while I suggested we move on to find something else to do. The kids were keen to find welly boot land, their favourite part of Slimbridge. A little more map reading was encouraged and after they started to squabble over the little freebie map we had been given on arrival we found a large board map with plenty of room for little fingers!
On our travels we stumbled across some very pretty stepping stones. We've been to Slimbridge quite a few times and always find something new that we haven't done before. This was one of those things.
A little more walking and eventually we arrived at Welly Boot Land, though not before the children enjoyed posing for the picture below!
Once again, Jenson showed his hardy spirit as he whipped his shoes and socks off and jumped into the freezing cold water! I know it was freezing because, seeing my son embracing the cold so whole heartedly, I felt obliged to join him! Wren didn't, after dipping her naked toes in she apparently felt quite content in wellies and socks!
It actually felt really mild as the Winter sun shone down on us. As usual, we got a few raised eye brows but I love how Jenson in particular shows no care for the time of year. He instead decides what to wear based on how hot or cold he feels and not how hot or cold it actually feels.
Jenson suggested we play a game of beavers. He mentioned beavers to me the other day and told me about how they slap their tails to talk to each other. I asked him how he knew this interesting fact. I always brace myself for that dreaded word, (school) but no, it was in actual fact Paw Patrol! Good for Paw Patrol I thought. And so beavers commenced. It basically involved finding sticks and making a nest on the little rock below. As you can see, the game didn't last that long but it was fun while it did last!
Beavers gave way to the playground before we made a slow stroll back to the visitor centre for our 2.15pm talk on amphibians.
I'm pleased we left plenty of time to get back to the visitor centre as we all became very distracted by the incredibly hungry birds! We were told they don't get fed as much at this time of the year as they do in the popular Summer months; they might mind, but we didn't!
After attempting to hand feed a few of these Hawaiian geese and getting pecked quite hard for his trouble, Jenson showed good initiative by simply holding out the bag for them to feed straight out of. It was lovely to watch. He absolutely loved getting up close with these beautiful birds. I hope that by doing activities like this often enough it might instil in him a love and appreciation for the natural world and a desire to look after it and treat it with respect.
We eventually made it to Toad Hall for the amphibian talk. There are many advantages to home schooling and one of the biggest is being able to visit places like this during term time; you basically have the place to yourself. There were only two other people at the talk, both adults, so Jenson and Wren could get up really close to the animals being discussed. The other adults left fairly quickly so it was just the three of us and Jenson was able to hold each animal two or three times over. Had this been a school trip with thirty other children to fight his way through, I doubt Jenson would have even held one of these wonderful animals let alone hold each one three times. Instead, he can take away happy memories of handling a Californian newt, fire salamander and common toad. His favourite was the fire salamander, I think because it had the word fire in its name!
The talk was relatively short so we went up the Observatory Tower afterwards, which was a first for us! There are seventy steps to the top or you can take the lift. We walked. It was a good exercise in counting. It was good exercise full stop! The views from the top were spectacular. Again, we were the only ones up there so indulged in the 360 degree panoramic views that stretched for miles.
When we came back down it was getting on for 3pm but the kids were keen to buy more bags of bird food and so we headed back outside. Jenson had a very close encounter with one particular swan, who was so hungry that it took the bird food right out of his hand, almost taking his fingers with it! It made us all jump. I'm sure swans never used to be that big - they were enourmous! It was more a swan off at times, not a stand off!
They are very beautiful birds though as I got a little carried away with my camera!
These white-fronted geese caught my eye too, with all four heads turned upwards hopeful for food.
As we made our way back into the visitor centre we encountered a stand off with this black brant. A curious little goose with a great character.
Finally, there was just enough time for some fun in the soft play area where Jenson and Wren met another little boy who they quickly adopted as their play mate. I still can't get over Jenson's new found social self. He was pleasant, friendly, kind and considerate - a far cry from the Jenson of old, who was consumed by angry mood swings and sudden outbursts of violence that usually resulted in any child within ten feet of him ending up crying.
We didn't get in until until nearly 6pm and after all that walking, running and playing, today we have had a far more restful day. I tried to get them up to the Bath road but we only made it as far as the dry cleaners before their legs ached. So we returned home and have done a few puzzles, a little bit of craft and watched TV. I tried them with Jurassic Park but apparently real life looking dinosaurs are way too scary!
I don't know what the plan is for tomorrow. We shall see where the wind blows us.