As I wrote in my post about the Latvian holiday of Mārtiņi, it is expected that by this time every year all preparations for the winter are finished; luckily the temperatures here in the Upstate are far warmer than in Latvia, and I still have a few weeks to finish everything (or at least so I tell myself)! Of course the preparations nowadays are far different than those celebrated with the fall harvest celebrations - shutting off outdoor water spigots, replacing furnace filters and putting storm windows back in lieu of salting meat & fish, making preserves and storing the harvest). We opted to procrastinate another weekend on some of those modern preparations in exchange for learning about the fall harvest on the Living History Farm at Roper Mountain Science Center’s Second Saturday.
This autumn has seen no shortage of clear, crisp days ideal for outdoor play, and the day of the Fall Harvest Festival wasn't any different. We skipped the indoor labs and discovery rooms of the Harrison Hall of Natural Science to enjoy the sun and fall colors of the farm, while learning about trades and chores of the days of yore. Demonstrations of woodturning, basket and soap making (our friends from Red Clay Soap!), blacksmithing, weaving and pottery provided the boys plenty of opportunity to watch and learn, even having a chance to make a pinch-pot out of clay that is currently awaiting a coat of paint on a shelf in the living room.
|Grinding and husking corn, and a lesson in the one room schoolhouse|
Hands-on activities included corn husking and grinding (if only I could get Mikus to participate so enthusiastically in picking up toys!), draft horse plowing (we just watched) and pressing fresh apple cider. The experts at the woodturning station were producing little tops for the kids to color that are now being spun on the dining room table before and after most meals. We tried out various toys such as rolling hoops and stilts, and then engaged in some back and forth with the game of graces; equipped with a pair of wands we sent small hoops back and forth like little comets, colorful ribbons trailing behind.
|Watching the field being plowed|
Ducking into the woods on one of the many trails, we cut through to the butterfly garden, on our way passing the pond and one of the new tree houses. Four "ultimate cool green tree houses" have been built along the nature trails and were officially initiated during the center's Second Saturday on July 12, but we’ve only found two of them. The one overlooking the pond is “Treetop-Clinic” by Batson Associates and Triangle Construction Company. On the Rainwater Platform we learned about the water cycle through illustrations, and discussed the water collection and distribution feature. Meanwhile the Solar Deck demonstrates the sun’s path and provides a lesson on the solar cycle.
There were several chemistry-related activities taking place at the Symmes Hall of Science in honor of National Chemistry Week. Adhering to a theme of “the Sweet Side of Chemistry!” we experimented with Skittles and M&Ms in “Candy Chromatography,” made jello-type sweets, and discovered the chemistry of sour candy while learning about acids and bases. The boys were a little too young for many of the concepts explored and a little too hungry to watch all that candy being wasted on experiments, so we headed back towards the parking lot passing another tree house on the way.
This one is located between the butterfly garden and the loop road, but it is currently flagged with caution tape and off limits while the Science Center explores ways to make “Anatomy of a TREEHouse” a little safer for the public. Representing a tree with exposed concrete “roots” and a roof and rainwater collection system “canopy, the treehouse has an elevated deck complete with rope ladder, bucket pulley, fireman’s ladder, tunnel slide and actual tree growing through the “squirrel’s deck.” With a living roof irrigated by rainwater and constructed with salvaged and reclaimed materials, the result is something I want to play in – I hope the treehouse is opened to the public sooner than later.