Outdoor Pond Studies: Getting Started with Aquatic Sciences

Aquatic sciences include the study of wetlands, freshwater and marine aquatic systems, and their boundaries. Though we had a particularly dry winter, March has brought the rains – Yippee!  We took advantage of the blue skies one morning to do a little aquatic science of our own and explore the vernal ponds.

Vernal ponds or ephemeral pools, are temporary pools of water that provide habitat for distinctive plants and animals. They are considered to be a distinctive type of wetland usually devoid of fish, which thereby allow the safe development of juvenile amphibian and insect species.

pond studies

Pond Studies – Let’s Get Wet

The kids were very excited to explore this ecosystem.  Upon arrival, they dropped their journals and immediately waded into the water in search of critters.  The dominant organism observed was without a doubt the tadpole.  All the kids exclaimed that they wanted to bring home a few tadpoles and fortunately I brought along containers for each family.

The kids enjoyed the freedom to explore for about an hour.  We then gathered our collection tubs together to take a closer look at what we found.  I had hand lenses and a microscope on hand for those who wanted to observe the critters in more detail.  I loved that my kiddos pulled out their journals and began to illustrate what most interested them.

In addition to the tadpoles, we also observed several aquatic insects:  backswimmer larvae, mosquito larvae, water striders, and water boatman. We are looking forward to observing our catch more closely at home when there are fewer distractions.  Setting up an aquarium at home provides us with the opportunity to observe the critters more closely and thereby further our pond studies at home.

Looking for aquatic critters has always been one of our favorite activities when the weather warms.  Take a peak at one of our earlier excursions, Aquatic Critters: Summer Nature Study, and download a free dichotomous key to aquatic insects.

pond study printablesTake it Further – Inquiry Science

Upon visiting a pond, collect critter samples to bring home for an aquarium for closer observations over time. Use pond water to fill your aquarium, not tap water, because it contains the microorganisms plankton eat.  Any tap water added to account for evaporation should be first left uncovered overnight to allow the chlorine to vaporize.

I’ve created a free printable you may wish to use to record your observations: Download the Pond Studies Printable here.

** Remember that backswimmers and giant water bugs bite with a stinging effect and large dragonfly nymphs may also bite.

How would you set up an experiment to answer these experimental questions? Make a list of needed materials and write down a hypothesis before you begin.

  • If given a choice between open water and water filled with submerged plants, which animals choose the open water?
  • Do more prey survive when plants are present?
  • Will predators eat less of one particular type of prey if other prey are present as well?
  • Do pond animals have any preference between light and dark?
  • Does darkness affect the ability of the predators to catch the prey?
  • Where will algae and snails survive best, in the dark or in the light?

More Outdoor Learning Ideas

Ecology Explorations Curriculum For more ideas for ecology studies, Ecology Explorations is a wonderful collection of hands-on lessons and inquiry projects designed with the middle school student in mind.

Though it is a 10-week unit, you can pick and choose activities to according to interest or to tie into another curriculum study.

While exploring the pond, the kids will undoubtedly enjoy the squishing mud between their fingers and toes – I know I do! Combine playing in mud, and nature study with another hands-on science activity – making seed bombs with this tutorial from Dachelle.

Looking for more outdoor learning activities to inspire your children this season? Check out Rachel’s compilation of 24 Outdoor Learning Ideas.

College Credit by Examination: Getting a Jump Start on College

It has become very common amongst high school graduates to earn college credit prior to official enrollment – getting a jump start on college. Many college bound students are taking advantage of opportunities through their high school to earn credit through dual enrollment courses or through examination.

What is College Credit by Examination?

Earning college credit through examination is more popular than ever. It provides students a shorter path to graduation while earning a degree from a reputable and accredited college or university.

The two most popular options are Advanced Placement® and the College Level Exam Program® – both of which are subject-specific credit-by-exam programs offered by The College Board. Exam content for both exam programs is developed by a panel of college professors, many who sit on both test development committees.

Advanced Placement (AP)

Advanced Placement courses and the corresponding exams were developed in the 1950’s to provide a way for high-achieving high school students to get a head start on college work. In recent decades, it has turned into a mass program that reaches more than a million students each year.

Offered and promoted through public schools, Advanced Placement receives more publicity and is more well-known than other testing programs. Advanced Placement courses help high schools raise their reputation and are suggested to high-achieving students as a way for them to demonstrate their academic ability.  –> I’ll be sharing details of our experience with the AP exam in a subsequent post soon.

If you are a home-schooled student, you are preparing on your own, or you attend a school that does not offer AP, you can still take the exams by arranging to test at a participating school or authorized test center.

Possible AP Exams to Consider

  • English Literature
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Calculus
  • Computer Science
  • Art History
  • Music Theory
  • Macro and Microeconomics
  • US History
  • World History
  • World Languages (Chinese, French, Italian, Spanish)

With qualifying AP Exam scores, students can earn college credit, advanced placement, or both at the majority of colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. You decide which colleges (if any) receive your AP Exam scores.

College Level Exam Program (CLEP)

College Level Exam Program exams are viewed as a method to demonstrate mastery of material often taught in introductory college-level courses. Since they are not associated with a high school course or curriculum, these exams are not as well marketed or as well-known.

As independent learners, adults and homeschooled students are taking these exams at an ever increasing rate. As they continue to grow in popularity, the test providers have taken notice and are actively reaching out to the homeschool market.

Possible CLEP Exams to Consider

  • American and English Literature
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Natural Sciences
  • Calculus
  • College Algebra
  • Macro and Microeconomics
  • US History
  • World Languages (French, German, Spanish)

Which Test Should I Take? 

The most pronounced difference between the two is their availability: AP is offered only once each year in May whereas CLEP is offered year-round. The difference in cost is near negligible; the AP exam costs $93 whereas the CLEP is $80.

While some colleges will exclusively accept AP exams, it has become common for colleges to award credit for CLEP as well. What tests are accepted and the qualifying score required may also differ so it is important to inquire with your intended university well in advance.

Individual colleges and universities, not the College Board or the AP Program, grant course credit and placement. Inquire with your school(s) of choice and obtain their AP policy in writing. You may find that what is considered a passing score to differ between institutions.

Advantages to Placement Exams

While affordability, availability, and advancement are just a few reasons to consider earning college credit in your high school years. Obtaining credit through exam also benefits students in other ways.

►  Preparing for for these exams helps students develop the study skills and critical reasoning that prepare them for the transition to college.

►  They give students the confidence that they can successfully handle college-level work.

►  Successfully passing gives students a jump-start towards the completion of their degree.

Students entering college in the near future are encouraged to check the transfer policy of their desired institution to see which type and how many credits can be earned with credit-by-exam options.

Oregon Nature Quiz #4: Wildflowers Edition

What could be more beguiling — or more intrinsically American — than trails lined with wildflowers … trillium, foxgloves stretching to touch the sun, and tiger lily carpeting the woodland floor in early spring? The season for wildflowers is gloriously long in Oregon, typically starting in late March at lower elevations, lasting through to late July and into August in the higher reaches of the Cascade Mountains.

Oregon Nature Quiz #4: Wildflowers Edition

Our Venturing Crew recently completed our first 3-day backpacking outing on the North Umpqua Trail. Along the hike, we observed a variety of native wildflowers – some we were familiar with and others had us stumped until we returned home and were able to pull out our wildflower identification books.

Pictured below are five Oregon wildflowers that we observed. Can you identify each?

wild purple orchid

wetland flower with large single yellow petal and large green leaves

Hiking in spring and early summer is a treasure hunt of color as wildflowers bloom in the meadows and mountains of Oregon. Look for blossoms on these trails and others around the state.

flower with three green leaves and three white petals

blue flowers with five petals and stamens in distinct ring at centerpink flowers with five clustered petals one with dark pink streaks

Answers:

1. Deer Orchid (Calypso bulbosa) Also known as Calypso Fairyslipper or Hider-of-the-North

One of the most elusive flowers we observed was the Deer Orchid. This beautiful little native orchid is my favorite. Though the orchid is widespread in the western temperate forests of Oregon, it is rather illusive and often hard to find.

It is highly susceptible to even slight disturbances in its environment. Trampling and picking are the primary reasons for its rapid decline in some locations. Picking the flower inevitably kills the plant, because the delicate roots break at even the lightest pull on the stem.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources has listed it as a species vulnerable to extinction on a global scale. Transplanting or cultivating the plant is rarely successful because of its need for specific soil fungi that are not usually present on transplant sites or in controlled environments.

2. Skunk Cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) – Sometimes referred to as Swamp Lantern

This distinctive plant is found in swamps and wetlands, along streams and in other wet areas of the Pacific Northwest, where it is one of the few native species in the arum family. It emits a “skunky” odor that when it blooms.

Surprisingly, the stench is quite beneficial to the plant’s survival. It discourages animals from nipping at its leaves and disturbing the soft, muddy wetland habitat it prefers. The smell (most often described as rotting flesh) also attracts bees and flies that act as its pollinators by moving pollen from males to the waiting stigmata of females.

3. Trillium (Trillium albidum) – Also called Giant Wake Robin or White Toad Shade

The three leaves and three-petal flowers of Trillium are so distinctive, even children can tell them from other plants. This is a blessing as well as a curse because it seems few can refrain from picking the flowers which retards their bloom because it prevents the corm (storage area within the stem) from receiving the nutrients they require for next year’s bloom.

Trillium flowers are stalkless, being borne directly on the ruff of leaves that extend under them. There is no pedicel between the base of the leaves and the base of the flower and it is hence a sessile species.

Test your skill with previous editions of the Oregon Nature Quiz here: Winter Wonderland Edition, Boy Scout Rank Wildlife Edition, and the First Summer Edition.

4. Forget Me Not (Myosotis sp.)

There are both native and non-native species in the Pacific Northwest. Those that are non-native most likely escaped from gardens and found suitable habitat. Unfortunately, I do not know the specific species of the one pictured here.

The genus name, Myosotis, means mouse ear, which eludes to the size and shape of the petal.  Perennial M. scorpiodes generally remains under a foot high but reaches 2 feet or more across, spreading by creeping roots. The blue springtime flowers typically have a yellow eye, though white-and pink-eyed forms exist.

5. Rhododendron (Rhododendron macrophyllum)

In springtime large clumps of pink and purple flowers begin showing off in yards and woodlands throughout the Pacific Northwest.With a native habitat ranging from 19,000′ alpine meadows in Nepal to tropical regions in Northern Australia and the wind-swept coast of Scotland, the rhododendron exhibits a wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes.

Rhododendron thrives in disturbed habitats such as roadside embankments and recently deforested wild lands. They can also live up in the mountains. Oregon’s mix of moisture, mild weather, and acidic soil, make it a Rhododendron paradise.

Wildflowers in the PNW

This is an excellent field guide featuring more than 1240 stunning color photographs. It describes and illustrates thousands of commonly encountered species, both native and nonnative, including perennials, annuals, and shrubs. Written by Mark Turner and Phyllis Gustafson, Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest, is a must for your nature center.

Encompassing the Pacific Northwest from southern British Columbia to northern California, from the coast to the mountains and high desert, this handy book is perfect for hikers, naturalists, native plant enthusiasts, and anyone wishing to learn about the amazingly diverse wildflowers of the region. Organized by flower color and shape, and including a range map for each flower described, it is as user-friendly as it is informative.

Journaling Reflections

Years ago when we first started homeschooling, nature study was a major part of our science curriculum. Our weekly nature walks prompted a wealth of questions from the kids with which I incorporated short, mindful lessons that I sprinkled throughout the following week.

Often, we would use Barb’s Outdoor Hour Challenges as a focal point to get us started. Here’s a post I wrote following our wildflower hike in the summer of 2010. What a joy to reflect back on their early nature studies and journaling experiences.

simple graphic image of tree with text The Nature Book Club

Welcome to the The Nature Book Club Monthly Link Up. Devoted to connecting children to nature, the monthly link up will begin on the 20th day of each month.

We welcome your nature book and activity related links. Read on for more details and for a giveaway!

See all the great posts from The Nature Book Club’s co-hosts in May:

The Nature Book Club is brought to you by these nature loving bloggers which are your co-hosts. Are you following them? If you don’t want to miss anything, be sure to follow each one.

Miss Rumphius Mixed Media Art from Emily at Table Life Blog

Wildflower Walk and Pressing Flowers from Barbara at Handbook of Nature Study

Wildflowers Nature Study from Jenny at Faith and Good Works

Oregon Nature Study Quiz: Wildflower Edition from Eva at Eva Varga

Wildflower Fairy Poetry & Art Activity from Melanie at Wind in a Letterbox

Flower Fairy Peg Dolls from Cassidy at Freshly Planted

Fletcher and the Springtime Blossoms Online Book Club from Dachelle at Hide the Chocolate

Wildflowers Unit Study & Lapbook from Tina at Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus

Fingerprint Painting on Canvas Activity from Katrina at Rule This Roost

DIY Flower Press from Thaleia at Something 2 Offer

Dandelion Life Cycle Learning Activities from Karyn at Teach Beside Me

image of a stack of books in the grass with text overlay listing monthly themeParty Rules

  • Choose an engaging nature book, do a craft or activity, and add your post to our monthly link up.
  • The link up party goes live at 9:00 a.m. EST on the 20th of each month and stays open until 11:59 p.m. EST on the last day of the month. Hurry to add your links!
  • You can link up to 3 posts. Please do not link up advertising posts, advertise other link up parties, your store, or non-related blog posts. They will be removed.
  • By linking up with us, you agree for us to share your images and give you credit of course if we feature your posts.That’s it!
  • Let’s party.


A Mermaid’s Purse: A Surprise Discovery Within

Recently, as I was volunteering at a local marine life center, a pair of fishermen brought in a large mermaid’s purse as they called it – offering it to the center for educational purposes. Of course, the staff and volunteers jumped at the chance to showcase this animal in our aquaria.

I’m delighted that this recent discovery aligns with the current Nature Book Club theme – learn more about this monthly link-up below.

image of a mermaid's purse or egg case from a big skate

A mermaid’s purse is an egg case or capsule of oviparous (egg laying) sharks, skates, and chimaeras. The egg cases are purse-shaped with long tendrils at the corners that serve to anchor them to structures on the sea floor.

The size of egg cases vary, depending on species. Most contain a single embryo but egg cases of larger species, like the big skate, can contain seven. As it happens, the mermaid’s purse that was brought to us was that of the big skate, Raja binoculata.

Though I had previously observed skates and rays at larger aquaria (most notable Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Aquarium of the Pacific – both in California), I had yet to observe them in the wild. The director was eager to provide the students, volunteers, and many visitors the opportunity to observe the development of the embryos up close.

Skates & Rays

This recent experience has inspired me to learn more about the skates and rays. I immediately went to our local library and checked out a couple books to get me started – even as an adult, I often go to the children’s section to find non-fiction books on topics of interest. I love the way authors bring it down to their level and the two highlighted here do just that.

Raja binoculata photo by Scott Stevenson – visit his site for more amazing photographs

There are over 500 species of skates and rays in the world and are easily distinguished from other fish by their disc-shaped, dorso-ventrally (i.e. from top to bottom) flattened bodies and expanded pectoral fins which attach to the sides of the head.

Their basic body shape allows them to live on or very close to the bottom of the ocean, where they bury themselves in mud or sand to ambush prey and avoid predators. Along with their basic body shape, they are characterized by ventral gill openings, eyes and spiracles located on the top of the head, pavement-like teeth, and lack of an anal fin.

Skates and Rays is a great book for children to introduce them to the subject. Any beachcomber who finds a “mermaid’s purse,” an egg case from a skate, must wonder what sort of creature can emerge from such a curiously shaped item. This book, part of the “Living Ocean” series, explores the world of rays and skates, of which there are more than 150 species.

Closely related to sharks, these animals make up a subclass of cartilaginous fish. Instead of having skeletons made of bone, elasmobranchs have skeletons made of soft, pliable cartilage. Like rays, skates are usually flat, with a long tail.

This book examines the behavior, habitats, and anatomy of these intriguing swimmers, describing how they catch prey, why they are important to oceans, and why many are in danger.

Another good choice is The Nature Company Guide to Sharks & Rays. This book has real photographs of sharks on every page, and rays are featured more prevalently than in most other books on the same topic. The species is clearly identified and portrayed in the field guide chapters, and following that are details about choice diving locales around the world.

It will be especially useful to the teen reader or marine naturalist/hobbyist. The information is well organized, detailed, and scientifically accurate. For someone less familiar with scientific terms, it could be a bit heavier, as it tends to use many terms, such as pelagic and elasmobranch, with only a brief definition provided.

A Mermaid’s Purse

Egg cases are made of collagen protein strands and most would describe the exterior texture as rough and leathery. Some egg cases have a fibrous material covering the outside of the egg case, thought to aid in attachment to substrate.

Egg cases without a fibrous outer layer can be striated, bumpy, or smooth and glossy. Egg cases are typically rectangular in shape with projections, called horns, at each corner. Depending on the species, egg cases may have one or more tendrils.

The mermaid’s purse that was brought into the learning center was prepared by one of the graduate student volunteers from the university. He carefully cut a hole into the flat side of the egg case and adhered a clear plastic covering. This provided a window by which we can watch the development of the embryos within as you can see from the video above.

Raja binoculata

The big skate is the largest species of skate (family Rajidae) in the waters off North America. They are found all along the Pacific coast from Alaska to Baja California, typically from the intertidal zone to a depth of 120 m (390 ft).

These impressive animals feed on benthic invertebrates and small fishes. As I stated previously, they are unusual among skates in that their egg cases may contain up to seven eggs each. This species is one of the most commercially important skates off California and is sold for food, though compared to other commercial fisheries, it is of only minor importance.

Typically caught as a by-catch of trawlers, fisheries have begun to market it more as a result of higher market value. Unfortunately, the big skates’ slow reproductive rate gives cause for some concern but population data is limited.

simple graphic image of tree with text The Nature Book Club

Welcome to the The Nature Book Club Monthly Link Up. Devoted to connecting children to nature, the monthly link up will begin on the 20th day of each month.

We welcome your nature book and activity related links. Read on for more details and for a giveaway!

See all the great posts from The Nature Book Club’s co-hosts in April:

The Nature Book Club is brought to you by these nature loving bloggers which are your co-hosts. Are you following them? If you don’t want to miss anything, be sure to follow each one.

Bird Nest/Eggs nature study pages from Barb at Handbook of Nature Study

Eggs: Nature’s Perfect Package from Erin Dean at the Usual Mayhem

Getting Started with Citizen Science – Nest Watch from Eva Varga

From Egg to Sea Turtle Unit Study & Lapbook from Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus

Eggs Nature Study Free Printable Word Search from Faith and Good Works

Egg Scavenger Hunt with Egg Carton from Katrina at Rule This Roost

Felt Bag Handicraft from Melanie at Wind in a Letterbox

Clay Eggs Project from Emily at Table Life Blog

Online Book Club from Dachelle at Hide the Chocolate

Egg Identification Nature Bingo {Free Printable} from Cassidy at Freshly Planted

image of a stack of books in the grass with text overlay listing monthly themeParty Rules

  • Choose an engaging nature book, do a craft or activity, and add your post to our monthly link up.
  • The link up party goes live at 9:00 a.m. EST on the 20th of each month and stays open until 11:59 p.m. EST on the last day of the month. Hurry to add your links!
  • You can link up to 3 posts. Please do not link up advertising posts, advertise other link up parties, your store, or non-related blog posts. They will be removed.
  • By linking up with us, you agree for us to share your images and give you credit of course if we feature your posts.That’s it!
  • Let’s party.


Using Film to Teach Animal Conservation: Elephant Poaching

My children and I have long been advocates for animals, the community, and the environment. When the kids were younger we were actively involved in Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots programs – undertaking a variety of animal conservation projects. Now as teens, we have turned our attention to scouting but the emphasis on conservation is still a major focus of our activities.

image of an adult African elephant on the savanna with text Using Film to Teach Animal Conservation: Elephant Poaching @EvaVarga.net

I was given an opportunity to preview this film for free before it’s release date and am being compensated for my time in preparing this post.
As always, all opinions are my own. This post may contain affiliate advertisement links to 3rd party sites.

As a family, travel is also very important to us. We have traveled to China, Peru, Ecuador, the Galápagos islands, and several countries in Europe.  Through each of these experiences, sustainable agriculture and trade practices are discussed. Presently, we are preparing for a holiday in Thailand later this year and we are carefully reviewing the numerous companies that cater to tourists – of particular concern are companies that advertise elephant rides or shows. Bafflingly, the nation has yet to implement laws to protect its captive elephant population. It is a complex issue.

There are thought to be fewer than 5000 elephants left in Thailand, yet a whopping 4000 of them are captive. Following Thailand’s 1989 ban on using elephants for logging, many mahouts claim that without charging tourists for rides and shows, they and their animals would starve – elephants cost a minimum of 1000B per day to feed properly.

In addition to the ban on elephant logging, the trade of ivory from elephant tusks has also been banned since 1989. However, the demand continues in many countries. Since a third of the elephant’s tusk is embedded in its head, poachers kill the animals in order to harvest the ivory. Unfortunately, studies have shown that many consumers do not realize this. Raising awareness is a huge step to help combat poaching and to ensure the survival of elephants.

Natural History of Elephants

Elephants have been part of human culture for thousands of years and are similar to us in many ways. They live in large, complex social families who communicate and interact daily. They are intelligent, having the largest brain of all terrestrial animals today.

Elephants benefit their ecosystem by fertilizing the soil with their dung, digging water holes which benefit themselves and other wildlife, and by creating paths through the landscape as they travel. As elephant and human populations grown, conflict for resources is on the rise. People will need to make important conservation decisions about elephants to ensure their future.

One of the major concerns of the ivory trade is the alarming changes in the behavior of African elephants. Those on the front lines studying elephant behavior witness the alarming effect poaching has had on the elephants that survive – scientists agree that survivors of poaching are stressed.

Their fears can disrupt the elephants’ complex matriarchal social structure, reduce their success in breeding, and increase their antagonism toward humans. Elephants mourn their deceased companions, demonstrating rituals that include touching the remains and carrying the deceased elephant’s bones or tusks with them.

movie poster for Phoenix Wilder: And the Great Elephant AdventureAnimal Conservation Lessons

Teaching children about threats to wildlife and animal conservation is not easy. Thought must be given to the age of the child as well as their individual disposition.

To introduce young children to poaching, you can start with a family movie night to teach about elephant poaching. Phoenix Wilder: and The Great Elephant Adventure is an excellent place to start as it is aimed at young children, introducing the subject in a gentle manner.

The film stars Sam Ash Arnold as Phoenix and Elizabeth Hurley as Aunt Sarah. It was written, directed, and produced by Emmy-nominated producer, director, and writer Richard Boddington (of Against the Wilds films).

My children and I enjoyed watching the film recently and it provided a great tie-in to our upcoming holiday. We particularly enjoyed the cinematography of the film and interview at the end with Dr. Richard Leakey, the second of the three sons of the archaeologists Louis Leakey (Jane Goodall’s mentor) and Mary Leakey.

Get Involved

After a family discussion, lessons and activities can be introduced to broaden the child’s understanding of elephant poaching. Young children can create a Venn diagram to compare and contrast Asian and African elephants and create posters to teach others about the ecological importance of elephants. Older students can debate poaching and wildlife conservation laws and create advocacy posters to raise awareness.

  • Instead of gifts, ask guests to donate to the International Elephant Foundation for the holidays or your birthday.
  • “Adopt” and elephant through an conservation organization or your local accredited zoo where your funds help protect elephants and their homes worldwide
  • Choose jewelry or souvenirs made from the Tagua nut – a great alternative – instead of ivory.
  • Write a letter to elected officials urging them to support animal conservation and a ban on ivory.
  • Have a sustainable palm-oil free bake sale to raise awareness and donate funds to a conservation group.

Seek out curriculum and materials in conservation biology, ecology, and natural resource management to further your study of elephants and animal conservation issues. Here are a few links I have gathered with free resources to help you get started:

Watch Phoenix Wilder: And the Great Elephant Adventure

Phoenix Wilder, And The Great Elephant Adventure will be released in theaters nationwide on April 16,  2018, at 6 p.m. local time, which also happens to be World Elephant Day.

To find out which theater nearest you will have the film, enter your zip code at this website. Then, pre-order your tickets for easy  film-going.

Phoenix Wilder: And The Great Elephant Adventure Trailer from Richard DC Boddington on Vimeo.

Win 5 Tickets for Your Family 

Enter to win 5 tickets to see Phoenix Wilder: And the Great Elephant Adventure on April 16th, 2018 in a theater near you. 20 winners will get 5 passes to see the movie at closest theater to them. The giveaway begins 03/11/2018 10:00 pm and ends 03/28/2018 03:00 am. Follow the instructions on the widget below to enter for your chance to win.

Our Oregon: Reminiscing on Past Experiences in Our Beloved State

I am a native Oregonian. I was born here and though I have lived in California for a few years, I have spent the majority of my life in the Beaver State.

image of a tug boat and old dock pilings morning sunrise with text Our Oregon at EvaVarga.netI have also homeschooled my children from the beginning and have thereby relished in the opportunity to explore our beautiful state through field trips and hands-on experiences that otherwise may not be possible.

I am super excited about the new Travel Oregon video, Only Slightly Exaggerated. Not only is the animation and musical score amazing – it highlights many of Oregon’s most beloved attractions.

Written and produced by Wieden+Kennedy
Animation by Psyop & Sun Creature Studio
Music by Oregon Symphony

Our Oregon

I shared this animation with my children and they were both impressed. My son enjoys creating short videos in iMovie and my daughter loves art. As we watched, inspiration came over me. If they were to create their own video – what locations would they feature? We began to reflect on some of our more cherished memories. I have gathered a few of them here for you:

Waterfalls

When people think of waterfalls in Oregon, they visualize the amazing waterfalls of the Columbia River Gorge, and for good reason. The 620-foot Multnomah Falls is Oregon’s tallest waterfall and its most-visited attraction, seeing over 2.5 million visitors each year. Though the gorge should not be overlooked, there are certainly more waterfalls throughout the state that are just as impressive.

image of teen girl sketching next to a waterfall with text Our Oregon at EvaVarga.netMagic Coast
We now live on the coast and can smell the salt air with each breath. We enjoy the bounty of nature’s blessings with regular clam digging and crabbing excursions. While these activities are also popular with visitors, there are many others. Geocaching, letterboxing, painted rocks, and Oregon Coast Quests are all popular family pastimes.

A great book to read with children – to learn more about the coast and cartography (the art of map making) – is The Coast Mappers by Taylor Morrison.

Along the Oregon Coast, there are four distinct ecosystems – each with its own unique flora and fauna. A visit to each of these makes a fun field trip for families.

Crater Lake

The Cascade Range is a major mountain range of western North America, extending from southern British Columbia through Washington and Oregon to Northern California. The crowning glories of the Cascades are the major volcanic centers – Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson, the Three Sisters, and Crater Lake, which sits in the caldera created by the eruption of Mount Mazama.

The Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway brings visitors from around the world to these majestic areas. From high atop the rim of Crater Lake, you can see what a wonder the world really is. A hike down to the water reveals new wonders.

Forest Trails for Hiking and Biking

We always been avid hikers, though in the past we have focused solely on day hikes. In 2016, for example, we aimed to hike 52 hikes in the year. While the goal was lofty, we just missed it by eight.

We are now training to complete a 50 mile backpacking excursion in summer 2018. In preparation, we will be undertaking several overnight excursions. Backpacking with Teens provides many benefits – most notably connecting with nature and family.

image of teen boy ocean kayaking and harbor seal in background with text Our Oregon at EvaVarga.net

Wild & Scenic Rivers

Oregon’s Rogue River was one of the original eight rivers designated in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Known for its salmon runs and rugged beauty, the Rogue River was designated October 2, 1968. Aside from breathtaking views, Wild and Scenic rivers provide many benefits for wildlife and humans.

There are approximately 110,994 miles of river in Oregon, of which 1,916.7 miles are designated as Wild & Scenic.

In 1988, Pacific Rivers (then Oregon Rivers Council) took the unprecedented step of crafting the nation’s first large federal river protection act, the landmark Oregon Omnibus National Wild and Scenic River Act. To this day, it remains the largest river protection legislation in the nation’s history. It added 40 outstanding rivers totaling 1500 river miles to the National Wild and Scenic River system in Oregon.

When the children were younger, camping at Indian Mary near Grants Pass was an annual tradition (sadly, the tradition came to an end when we moved to California). These summer days along the Rogue River provided many of our fondest memories and greatest lessons on aquatic critters.

Whale Watching

People come from all over the world to learn about the gray whales that travel along the Oregon coast each year. Whales are visible from Oregon’s shores all year long although some months are better than others.

The Whale Watching Spoken Here program places volunteers at great whale watching sites during the two official watch weeks. The Spring 2018 Whale Watch Week will be March 24th – 31st.

Oregon is not only a great place for whale watching, but visitors also flock to our coastal cities to watch the winter storms.

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As you can see, Oregon is known for its diverse landscape of forests, mountains, farms and beaches. Yet, there is so much more. I’ve lived here nearly my entire life and there are still corners and hidden gems I have yet to see.

How about you? What attractions would you feature in a video animation of your state?