Bend Animal Hospital :: Field Trip

My best friend is a veterinarian technician. She and her husband own an animal clinic and for years we’ve talked about taking a tour. Sadly, only now that we are about to move does it come to fruition.

We were greeted upon our arrival and we were first introduced to the receptionist.  Our tour was then underway.  We first visited the technician or lab room where we were shown the numerous instruments and tools that are used.

We were then able to watch a portion of an abscess surgery on a large boxer dog.  My little guy was very intrigued, the other munchkins kept their distance.  The veterinarian described how a small burr from cheat grass had most likely embedded into the skin of the dog and an infection ensued.  The cause of the infection was of particular interest as we have discussed the impacts of invasive species a great deal in our studies.
We then toured the other areas of the clinic, including the kennels and the stalls for the large animals. In the photo above, the kids talked quietly to a cat in recovery.  It was fascinating to see how they are equipped to service both large and small animals, though predominately in the clinic they see household pets, namely dogs and cats.

We were then able to watch in completion, a common surgery on a dog … castration. The kids were very interested … though not so much in the particulars of this specific surgery … just the process of surgery itself. It could have been any surgery.

We departed shortly after and enjoyed going out to lunch together.  Later that afternoon, Buddy expressed to me, “I might like to be a veterinarian when I grow up.”

Taxidermist :: Field Trip

While we were in Oslo, we visited the Natural History Museum – the kiddos first real experience at a natural history museum of this caliber.  They were fascinated by the exhibits and wildlife scenes from all over the world.  While perusing the exhibits, they asked, “Are the animals real?  How did they make them so life-like?  What do they use for the eyes?”  As I answered their questions to the best of my ability, I made a mental note to seek out a taxidermist upon our return home.

A few days after we returned, I stumbled upon an article in our paper about a local taxidermist and bells began to ring in my head.  Serendipity!!  I gave him a call and he was delighted to welcome us to his shop for a field trip.  Only one other family chose to join us for the outing … many stated their children were not interested in seeing “dead animals”.  I was in fact a little surprised, but certainly understood their hesitancy. 

Upon arrival, Tim McLagen greeted us and identified the mounts in the entrance of his business, including the well-known cougar and less familiar Jacob 4 horned sheep pictured above. From there, we entered the shop area where we were fortunate enough to see several projects in various stages of completion.

Grabbing the kids attention first, oddly enough, was the chemical process of creating the foam base onto which the mounts are displayed.  We watched as one of Tim’s employees poured the resin like substance onto a piece of plywood and then loosely wrapped a piece of plastic around it to prevent it from expanding too much.  The kids marveled at the chemical reaction that took place … and I took it upon myself to throw in a mini-chemistry lesson as we watched.

Buddy explains, “My favorite part was watching him make the foam rock. He mixed these two chemicals together and then poured them onto a board.  The two chemicals reacted with each other and made something new.  As the foam got bigger, it got hot. The heat was going out [exothermic reaction]. If the liquid stuff got on your hands when it was wet, it would stick on there for a long time.  If you put it under a car, it is strong enough to lift up the car in just a few minutes.  I got to keep some of the foam stuff.  It was really cool!” 

Tim then shared with us a number of animal hides that he had on hand awaiting mounting.  As we marveled at the soft fur, Tim was careful to point out the many adaptation the animals have that suit them for their way of life.  For example, the badger’s long claws it uses for digging, shown below.

MeiLi explains the mounting process, “I loved everything! It was fun!  I learned that the animal mounts have a Styrofoam core that they cover up with the fur.  Before they put the fur onto the mount, they get it wet so it will stretch better.  Then they sew it together.  They use glass for the eyes and plastic for the mouth (teeth, gums and tongue).  It takes about 1 day for him to do a bird and it takes him a few weeks for the larger animals. He doesn’t tan the hides, though.  He sends them to a tannery.  That is the part that takes the longest.  When the animal is ready, he places on the scenery.  That is his favorite part of his job.  He likes the art of it.  He can do whatever he wants to make it look more real.”

He enters many of his mounts in competitions.  His most unusual project was a Bengal tiger.  Most often he does birds and deer or elk.  The busiest time of the year is in the fall during hunting season.  He presently does about 400-500 mounts a year but before the economy declined, he was doing closer to 900.

Tim then led us into his apartment behind his shop which showcased many more animals and from there, the kids were intrigued by what they assumed were chickens in the backyard.  We were encouraged to go out and upon a closer look, discovered that the birds we had observed from afar were in fact tumbler and rocker pigeons.  He described to us how he brings them to shows and how he often leaves a small door open for the birds, allowing them to come and go as they please.

The kiddos agree that this was their favorite field trip we’ve ever taken.  They hope to go back in the fall, when McLagen’s is busier as they would both like to see “the messy side”.  Looks as though animal physiology may be a part of our future curriculum.

Arbor Day Tree Planting

When I was a little girl, I vividly recall going to Beaver Hill with my classmates to plant trees with the forest service. It was one of my most memorable field trips … not because of the distance we traveled but because of the impact I we made. I knew we were planting trees that would grow and mature in our lifetime. Each time I drive south on Hwy 101, I look out the window and recall that day.

When I saw the advertisement for a similar opportunity here with Parks & Rec, I knew immediately that this was a perfect project for our Roots & Shoots group. I thereby invited the other families and made plans to spend the morning at the park planting trees. They shared my enthusiasm and most interesting, one mom had grown up in the area and could recall the fire that burned through the area in the early 90s that we were now replanting.

We drove out to the park and met with the Parks & Rec coordinator, Eric.  Along the way, he talked and provided us with a little history of the area.  We were surprised to learn that a train trellis had actually been built through here at the height of the logging industry in the area.

We got started right away and everyone had a good time.  The weather wasn’t ideal (moments of gropple, rain, wind and even glorious sun), however, and a few of our young workers got quite cold.  They thereby planted about a dozen or so trees and then opted to head back home.  I remained with the 3 diehards and we continued to work another 2 hours.  In the end, our group planted close to 100 trees and put protective tubes around many of the previous planted trees (the previous group had run out of the tubes).

These two energetic young men (pictured below) also spent a good deal of time digging a trench … all the while talking about the advantage a trench was during war.  Where they came up with this, I have no idea … but it kept them engaged for a good hour.  I asked them how many trees they thought they might have been able to plant had they not spent so much time digging their trench but they paid me no mind.  They were having a good time … they were outside getting dirty … that was all that mattered.

When we returned home, we were treated to a wonderful bowl of chicken soup … homemade by one of the moms.  The kiddos played a while and the moms chatted.  It was a delightful day … despite the weather.

Quercus kelloggi :: Outdoor Hour Challenge

I am ashamed to admit that we haven’t really been doing formal nature study lessons for longer than I can remember. My kiddos can identify nearly all the native plants in our area and Sweetie can list a few medicinal / food uses for several – but otherwise, our knowledge is rather superficial. Though I haven’t been participating, I have been lurking and reading the posts regularly at Barb’s Handbook of Nature Study. I love what she does and I always come away feeling so inspired… I keep telling myself, “I need to do more!”

We recently spent a few days in Yosemite National Park. One of the trees that fascinated me while we were there was the black oak, Quercus kelloggii. When I discovered upon our return that one of Barb’s autumn series challenges focused on oaks and acorns… I vowed to jump back in to the challenges. So without further ado…

Quercus kelloggii: black oak. A deciduous tree typically under 75 feet tall with smooth grey young bark that becomes deeply furrowed and dark brown to black as it matures. Leaves: blade 3-7 inches long, deeply lobed with soft bristles adorning the lobe ends. Acorns: mature in 2 years with a rounded tip (ignoring the little spine on the end). The acorn cap is generally as deep as it is wide, often covering most of the acorn shell, with scales and little to no hair.Black acorns were a substantial part of the diet of California Indian people. When stored properly, acorns will keep indefinitely, so an effective storage house was developed. The granaries were raised above the ground on a stump or large rock, and consisted of a nest-like container made from grapevines and buckbrush built between four upright poles. The cavity was lined with wormwood and then filled with acorns. The entire granary was then shingled with conifer boughs and capped at the top with layers of more boughs, cedar bark, and after the coming of non-Indians, canvas.
Acorn granaries were common until the turn of the century, but their use had died out by the 1920s. Today, Native American people store acorns in gunny sacks or boxes which are kept in their homes, garages or outbuildings.

One of the most important plant foods was acorn mush. Black oak acorns were preferred over other oaks by Miwok, Mono Lake Paiute and Western Mono peoples. Black oaks don’t consistenly produce good crops of acorns; in good years, each family might collect and store about 2000 pounds of acorn for use over the next several years.

Acorns were gathered in autumn, dried, and stored until needed. Before they were eaten, the nuts were cracked, the peanut-like skin removed, and they were pounded to a fine flour. To remove bitter tannins, the flour was leached, placed carefully in a sand basin, and water poured over it for several hours. The leached flour was then mixed with water in a watertight cooking basket. Special, red-hot stones were placed in the basket, stirred constantly, and after about 20 minutes, the acorn mush boiled, thickened, and was fully cooked.

Submitted to Barb’s Outdoor Hour Challenge Autumn Series: Oaks & Acorns at Handbook of Nature Study .

Being Open-minded and Accepting of Others

As most of you know, I am passionate about sharing my love of science with others and truly enjoy coordinating activities for my children and their friends. Doing so actually helps me ‘charge my batteries’ – though I must admit I do find myself fatigued when the activities come to a close.

A few months ago, a homeschooling mom and friend of mine asked me to teach a science class to her twin daughters and a number of their friends. All of the girls in this class and their families are devote Christians while I am very secular. We talked over our respective visions for the course and as I was planning to begin with a unit on Geology, parents wanted to know how evolution would be addressed.

I assured them that I would not teach continental drift. I would not introduce lessons on evolution or even elude to timelines. My focus for the class was simple… What causes an earthquake? How do volcanoes erupt? What kind of rock is this?

As our 4 week unit on geology came to a close, I extended an invitation to the girls and their families to join my Roots & Shoots club for a field trip to Newberry National Volcanic Monument. In short, I planned one field trip for two distinct age groups.

Upon arrival, I was delighted to discover that many families chose to bring siblings and friends. They had all asked in advance and I assured them, “The more, the merrier.” In the end, there were nearly 30 kids! My efforts were certainly not wasted this time. 😀

Unfortunately, the staff was unprepared – despite the fact that I had contacted them nearly 2 months in advance and had spoken with the education coordinator at least 3x by telephone to coordinate details. Thus, as they rapidly vacuumed the floor to open the visitor center and did a few things to prepare for us… I took my group on an impromptu nature walk on the grounds. I talked about the flora and fauna of the area – discussing many of the medicinal values of our native shrubs. Everyone was delighted and remarked how much they enjoyed the walk.

We then moved into the visitor center and seated ourselves comfortably for a brief talk by the staff coordinator and a volunteer followed by a short video on lava and lava tubes. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Jim, our Naturalist Team Leader at the museum, was our volunteer. His daughter homeschools and he has always been very accepting of the kiddos and I have become more involved in leading nature walks.

Prior to the video, Jim shared that the cinder cone (Lava Butte) at Lava Lands erupted 7,000 years ago and covered over nine square miles with lava. To help the kids visualize how long ago this was, he talked very briefly about the geologic timescale. As he did so, one mom turned around to me with a look of dismay and astonishment. I immediately felt awkward and wished I had given him a ‘heads-up’.

After the movie, the kids were divided into two groups: youngers and olders. The youngers started with a guided walk along the lava flow with Jim while the olders remained in the visitor center for a scavenger hunt to find information on the placards and displays. I went with the younger group – as to best keep an eye on my little guy. We enjoyed our walk (though we didn’t go to the top of the butte) and we all learned a little something about the geology and flora.

When we returned to the patio, the olders had finished their scavenger hunt and were heading out on their walk as well. One mom delayed briefly to check on her daughter whom had stayed with me while mom and brother went with the olders. She thereby began the walk with Jim though the other ‘olders’ had gone ahead. Apparently, one of the other moms felt compelled to come back to Jim and say something in the likes of, “We’ve decided to go on ahead without you. We didn’t care for what you said about the timeline and the history of the earth. We’re Christians.”

Jim’s reply was, “So am I.” He didn’t get a chance to explain that his daughter homeschools as well… “Perhaps you know her?” He could have added. The mom had turned to catch up with the others in her group.

Jim thereafter said, “This is why there are problems in the Middle East.” Though I wasn’t there to hear him – it was relayed back to me by the mom who had stayed with him… his comment really touched me. As we drove to Taekwondo a few hours later, I inquired with each of my kiddos about what part of the day had they enjoyed the most. (The cave!) What was one thing that they learned or that stood out to them?

As we talked they asked me the same questions. I described the above scenario to them as best I could and explained that I had been thinking about it all afternoon. I told them I felt sad for the other moms because they might have missed out on something interesting. Would these moms be able to identify the wildflowers that were growing in the lava? (Penstiman) Or understand why the northside of the butte was vibrant with trees and shrubs while the southside was barren?

I stated that we are entitled to our opinions but that does not preclude us from learning from others who may think differently. I was impressed by Sweetie’s level of understanding. She even said, “We don’t all have to agree. That is what makes it more interesting. When we like different things.”

I understand that many people choose to homeschool for religious reasons. I chose this path for a different reason. To allow my children to develop the conviction in themselves and their beliefs to listen and learn from others… knowing others are opposed. To be courageous and not bend or conform to how others believe you should.

Administrator Note:
It is not my intention to put anyone down by describing this experience. As I wasn’t there – I can’t be certain of what exactly was said. I don’t know the reasons the olders chose to go on ahead. I just wanted to share because it provided me with a teachable moment for my children.

Lava Butte & Benham Falls

This past weekend, with our friends in town for the holiday weekend, we took advantage of the sunny skies to enjoy several outdoor adventures. For the kiddos and I, this was particularly educational as our excursions tied in very nicely to our current geology unit. We started with a short stop at Lava Butte whereby we drove to the scenic overlook atop the butte. We opted not to go into the visitor center as we actually have a Roots & Shoots and GEMS field trip planned there in June.

Lava Butte rises 500 feet above the surrounding area. The crater is 150 feet deep and was the site of fountains of molten rock erupting 6,160 years ago. The lava flow which breached the south side of the butte flowed west and north covering 6,100 acres of land. The flow blocked sections of the Deschutes River, forming Benham Falls, Dillon Falls, and Lava Island Falls.
On the cone’s high side, the prevailing southwest winds deposited more cinders. There is more vegetation on this side because the snow stays longer on the north side and the finer cinders hold moisture longer for plant life. More than 400 cinder cones and fissure vents have been identified on the flanks of Newberry Volcano. Most of the cinder cones are well preserved owing to their high porosity and consequent absorption rather than runoff of water.
Of the three major waterfalls on the Deschutes River near Bend, Benham Falls is the only one easily and readily visible to visitors. Here, the Deschutes stairsteps over a series of small ledges as it flumes through a gorge. Unlike nearby Lava Island and Dillon Falls, Benham Falls isn’t surrounded by lava flows, but rather long-needle pine forest, which give it a much different feel than the two found farther downstream. Benham has been cited as being the largest waterfall on the Deschutes River – a claim that may or may not stand up to testing. There are claims stating the falls drop 95 vertical feet in half of a linear mile, but the majority of this change in elevation is a long series of rapids. Approximately 25 feet of that drop constitute the legitimate cascading waterfall.
The hike along the Deschutes River to the falls is less than a mile and easy for children. We did not get started until nearly noon, so we opted not to continue farther to Dillon Falls. Ideally, we would like to return with our bikes to venture farther.