Worms, ladybugs, butterflies and honeybees – we had a magical time with them all at our Family Fun Day last Saturday. We have so many photos and video that it will take a while to get through editing all of them, but I wanted to give you a flavor of the day and give details for how others can plan events here. This post will be a little longer than most, but it was a very action packed day.
We started our adventure with check-in, which included a bag to carry take home crafts and prizes and bug costumes (to help protect clothes from paint and dirt), with antennae to help create bug spirit. We started with a red plastic smock and added our black ladybug dots. All the children were adorable!
Our first learning station took us into the main garden to learn about aquaponics in the greenhouse. The age range of this particular group was pretty young, so instruction was limited, but they enjoyed seeing the Tilapia up close. They received a paper fish for their bag to take home.
You can buy tilapia to raise at alliedaqua
We moved out to the composting barrels to learn about dirt and different kinds of worms and how important worms are to help make good soil. Each child picked up earthworms from our worm container and placed them in our new raised bed to help the soil where beets and kale were growing. We also looked at small composting worms called red wigglers and talked about the size differences. The kids looked inside the composting barrel and we gave it a couple of turns to show how we mix the kitchen scraps we put in to make new dirt. Each child got to choose a rubber worm to take home with them. Worms are a wonderful garden friend.
You can buy composting worms here: red wigglers
The ladybug station was our next stop. There were plastic and paper ladybugs hidden all over the front yard, flower beds and garden. Kids had to hunt for them and turn them in to exchange for ladybug stickers. We made ladybug stamp paintings and set them aside to dry. The final activity at this station was our live ladybug release. Of course we talked about how helpful ladybugs are in our gardens by eating harmful pests that can damage plants. We passed out a cupful of live ladybugs to each child and let them walk around anywhere in the gardens and let them go. My favorite was watching the littlest babies delight in allowing ladybugs to crawl up their arms. These were precious experiences.
You can purchase ladybugs here: arbico-organics
We needed to transition into a new magical kingdom. Again, due to the younger age range, we didn’t go into great detail about metamorphosis. In fact, ladybugs and butterflies go through very similar life cycle stages. Here is a cute website to learn more. ladybug life cycle
Our transition included changing our red plastic smocks to orange. We walked through long orange and black streamers into the back yard that was prepared for our butterfly theme. (The painted lady butterflies we were going to learn about are orange and black, similar to a small monarch butterfly). After a brief instruction time of the life cycle of butterflies, the kids again went on a butterfly hunt for both plastic and solar hovering butterflies. They were able to keep the plastic ones to take home. We talked about the proboscis of the butterfly and each child was given a party blower to play with and take home to show how it can coil and uncoil, just like a proboscis. While the honeybee also has a proboscis, it works differently, but again that is information for an older group. We talked about how butterflies drink nectar from flowers and each child took home large tissue paper flower crafts (there were many “planted” around the yard already made, or they could take home a kit to make their own).
The magical moment had arrived to bring out the live butterflies and release them. I had nervously waited for them to emerge from their chrysalis in time for our Family Fun Day. I was also concerned about all the rain we had and the cooler temperatures. Everything seemed to come together perfectly and all but nine had emerged on time. We gently pulled out each butterfly on a small sponge soaked with sugar water. The butterflies sat nicely to take a drink as the kids held them, and then they gracefully took flight to start their new life. It was so cute to watch the little ones say goodbye just as they flew away. I’m not sure which was most magical, the butterflies or the looks on the faces of the kids. It was such a blessing to watch.
I had never raised butterflies before, so this was very new to me. I worked with a wonderful company called Carolina Biological Supply. I had purchased a variety of things from them as a classroom teacher and as a home-school mom. They were incredible to work with and patiently answered all my many questions (they even put me in contact with their specialists to help with new areas I wanted to explore). They were also very reassuring that the butterflies would in fact emerge in time. (I felt like a nervous mom waiting for delivery, and they were very comforting and kind). I would highly recommend them for any science needs.
You can purchase butterfly kits here: Carolina Biological Supply
We were ready for our last magical kingdom to learn about another wonderful garden friend – the honeybee. This also took a new costume change to a yellow plastic smock with black stripes. (I also was making costumes changes of my own at each station. That is a great part of the fun of teaching!) We touched on how the bright colors like red, orange or yellow can be warning colors for predators of insects that they can be toxic or dangerous.
We walked down a path through the woods to an area set up with two tables to learn about bees. Our neighbors, Bill and Tarey Shipley are the beekeepers here. They currently have a total of ten hives. This station started with me giving a short explanation of the life cycle of honeybees with hands on models of bees and honeycomb to pass around. I also briefly touched on the importance of pollination for our food supply and another great pollinator – the Mason bee. Crown Bees are a great resource for information and sent me a wonderful file to print. I bought this cute Mason Bee house here as well. Mason Bee House
Bill and Tarey had an observation frame of bees in glass to look at, as well as all the beekeeping gear and empty hive bodies for the kids to paint.
Tarey talked about how honeybees do a “bee dance” to communicate where they have found a large nectar location. I don’t know which dance was more fun to watch – Tarey or the kids.
Some of the younger kiddos were getting tired, so we put an end to the formal instruction. Each child had to run and find me a dandelion and bring it back to me in exchange for a honey stick. Most of them made several runs for more than one stick! Even the grown-ups were making the exchange. One of the older kids wanted to put on a bee keeper suit and go to the big hives and hold some bees. We had even had adults holding the bees with no special suit on. To end the day we found a black snake on the path and decided we also needed to experience a “snake release”. The oldest male student of the group held and carried the snake (his first experience at this) all the way back up to my garden to release it there. I have a terrible issue with voles (field mice) making damaging tunnels all through my garden flower beds. I wanted the snake there to help with pest control; another garden friend (unplanned, but very exciting!) Families were welcome to stay for a picnic lunch. We also had a box turtle we had kept in a large container that the kids could hold. We marked it with fingernail polish so we could identify it and released it for fun.
Why Do We Do This?
Part of the goal and purpose of WellStone Gardens is to educate and inspire others. This property offers wonderful educational options for families, homeschool groups and school field trips. This Family Fun Day was our opportunity to showcase what can be done here. We used it for fun, photos and videos for our Kids Korner section of the website.
With busy families and schedules, it is difficult for us to plan these types of events on a regular basis. If there are any groups interested in hands on science themes or living history experiences, we wanted to give information for how to book educational or recreational events here. We can work on the curriculum together.
For educational opportunities, the fees are $5.00 per child, plus supplies. We need to have a minimum of 10 children. (Supply costs vary depending on the subject matter and age of students). Each group is responsible to make sure there are at least 10 students present. Some examples could be learning about ants, praying mantis, gardening, composting, aquaponics, living history, more in depth honeybee or Mason bee information, local birds, etc.…. We have even hosted a bus load of kids and focused on an art theme. It was a great time!
For recreational activities we have had birthday parties, church picnics (see link here: church picnics), ladies luncheons, and obstacle course events. Fees are $15 per person plus supplies. We again need a minimum of 10 to book the schedule. Each group is responsible for their own food unless arrangements are made. (No alcohol is allowed for insurance purposes).
Let us help you create your own special fun filled event!
Call 816-738-1308 for available dates and added information.