Sunday, July 27, 2014

Runge Nature Center

My friend and I took our boys to the Runge Nature Center in Jefferson City earlier this week. This amazing 100 acre area run by the Missouri Department of Conservation does an amazing job with their visitor's center and children's programs. When we first made the plans, we were going to do the "Ant - ics" presentation to learn all about ants, but apparently those classes fill up pretty quickly. I called to reserve our spots the day before our trip and it was already filled up with a waiting list. The lady I talked to suggested that we come do the "Forest Fun," which doesn't require a reservation. So that's what we did. As it turned out, we didn't even need to do that. There was PLENTY to do even without that.

 Here are the boys: Eli, Peyton, and Lex, ready for some nature fun!


 Inside the visitor's center, they had several tables/stations set up for kids to go through to learn about Missouri's nature. This one was where they could learn about the importance of trees. See the little toad in the box? And the spoons were so cool and carved by one of the Nature Center volunteers. I'm thinking I should take up whittling or carving or whatever it is that would produce such beautiful utensils.I could use some hand carved tools in my kitchen.

 This is an area with different levels of seating platforms where you can bird watch. There are several pair of binoculars that you can borrow for viewing.

 We saw some wild turkeys (didn't need binoculars for those!) and some cardinals. An older couple who was also viewing said that these turkeys had been hanging out all week. We see wild turkeys around our house quite a bit, but I don't think I've ever seen them so close!

This station was pretty cool because you could play with different tools that mimic animal sounds. Those bottle looking things on the right can be pushed down to emit a scent of something in nature. One was a skunk and one was a stink weed.

 There were a few rooms with aquariums of reptiles and fish. I wish I would have taken a picture of the other walls in this room. There was a floor to ceiling magnetic board mural of a water landscape. You could take these giant bug and animal magnets and move them all over the wall. Of course, our boys were more interested in the live animals than the magnetic ones.

 Here you can see some of the magnetic walls. Everything, everywhere was interactive, just like this log. There were little animal puppets inside of it.

 More aquariums.

 Fish viewing.

 Here's another interactive station where you could push the button and watch a video about the sea otters. These are pretty common on the Missouri River, but I've never seen one in real life. Maybe that should be on my bucket list next summer.

Learning about wetlands.

Turtle? ....or Dinosaur?

 We read about the different poisonous leaves in Missouri. My friend and I looked for them on our walk during the outdoor portion of our excursion.

 Here's a place to practice tying knots. The picture and instructions were very clear, but I have to say that I lost patience with this very quickly. I was not good at this.

 Horrible picture - but here's the point. After we walked all through the displays in the Visitor Center, there was a little video area where we sat and watched a little bit about owls. As it turned out, the boys were more interested in climbing at this point, so we headed outside.

 Here's the start of the half mile trail.

There was a station set up in the woods where the kids could try to catch some bugs. If they caught one, they could bring it back and put it in a container to view with a magnifier.

 We had fun looking, but didn't catch anything. My boys have had done their share of catching bugs this summer anyway, so I don't think they felt like they were missing out on anything.

We found this fallen tree on another part of the trail and it might as well have been begging for the boys to climb on it.

And so they did. 

And they even stopped for a picture.

This was funny because at first, Peyton and Lex were the only ones standing in front of the sign, but then Eli wanted to get in the picture. They told him it was okay, but that he couldn't stand in front of the pictures on the pole. So he stood behind it instead. Gotta love 3 year old logic.

So that ended our morning at the Nature Center. Completely free, and full of engaging, hands on activities for the kids. AND we even got some exercise. If you haven't visited a nature center around you, you should look into it. I remember visiting one as a kid when I was little and was thrilled to find this one here in Missouri. I highly recommend it. It's not just for kids!

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