A Special Gift for Earlybird*
A Christmas Corner Tour

Down the December Trail ...

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Last week, our Homeschool Nature Club met for a winter solstice program, and once again we had a great turnout! In past posts I've described the how's and why's of our group, so for today, I'm just going to plow on (a rather timely pun as you'll see) with the tale of our day. :) But I must mention that each month is organized by one mum (we are, roughly, a group of 15 families), and  December's meeting was led by my friend, Laura. She did a fabulous job, as you'll see! I hope you take away some ideas, or perhaps just some winter inspiration!

Since the forecast called for heavy snow, we bumped our meeting time up, and just after noontime our group had gathered at a local wildlife reservation, ready to observe some winter nature together.

It was an *extrememly* cold day, so I bundled up my boys (EB was home with Nana) ... and here they are, perched on their favorite rock and clutching their thermal cups of glogg. (Remember this was St. Lucia's Day, so we were already in a rather northerly mood):

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Our meeting began inside this roomy pavilion. We listened to a charming Danish folktale, The Evergreens, as read by Odds Bodkins on his Gentle Tales of Nature CD.

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As the kids listened, we passed around solstice cupcakes - golden representing the (returning) light and chocolate symbolizing the (retreating) dark:

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Laura spent time explaining the science of the winter solstice to our group. Here she has two helpers, one holding a globe, and the other a flashlight (aka the sun). This was an excellent demonstration of the way the seasons change! 

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Next we had a simple candle-lighting activity, and just as we gathered out in the open, the snow began to fall ...

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Each of us got our own little votive to light at home on the first day of winter (which is this coming Saturday). The precise moment the solstice will occur is 1:08 a.m. EST, so I'm thinking we'll light our candles when we wake up Saturday morning. ;)

Next, most of us headed out for our nature walk, while some folks headed home to get ahead of the storm. All along the path Laura had "planted" stations of information where the the children could stop and learn more about the winter season. We began our walk rather leisurely, but soon we were moving along at a good clip - the snow was falling fast and furious!

Along the way we found:

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Information about evergreens ...

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A lovely Nativity, speckled with snow ...

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Maps and excellent information ...

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Questions for the children to ponder ...

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A quick solstice experiment ...

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Winter spices, such as this wonderful frankincense ...

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A mistletoe pop quiz ...

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Information on America's Stonehenge (I had no idea!)

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And at the very end of the walk, Laura had sprigs of mistletoe for everyone to take home! She made sure to have the children wipe their hands after handling it due to its toxicity.

Because it was snowing hard, I hardly took any landscape pictures at all. Despite the weather, though, the day was informative and fun, a true winter welcome in every sense of the word!

And here's the last picture I took, just as we headed out of the park ...

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Technically, winter may not be due for another five days, but it has made itself right at home here in New England! The storm that set in this day landed us with nine inches by morning! (See my Snow Days photo album at left for more details.) We had another storm yesterday - a Nor'easter - which is infamous in these parts for snow/sleet/rain and driving winds. And I hear tell there's more snow on the way for later this week!

All this snow can only mean good news for our January Nature Club meeting, however ... next month we'll be observing Animal Tracks in the Snow! Speaking of which, the boys and I are eager to see what animal signs we can find in our own snowy backyard ... once it warms up just a tad, that is!

Have a happy week!

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