Friday, February 8, 2008

Tacoma Nature Center

If you live locally but have never been to the Tacoma Nature Center, it's worth checking out. On a whim, I decided to stop by after swimming class yesterday; it just happens to be on the way home from the YMCA. We've been by there once before and haven't stopped in since. I'm glad I took the time for a short visit yesterday.

The Tacoma Nature Center has much more to offer than I originally thought. There are three basic areas of interest: the inside of the building, the trail, and the various classes/events that they sponser. I'd like to tell you just the little bit that I know about each.

Yesterday, we visited just the inside exhibits. Once you enter the building, head to the left. This small space is fun for the younger set but not overwhelming. To me it feels like there's so little there that it isn't worth the time but I learned that my perception wasn't correct. My kids happily engaged themselves for over an hour. They explored the various live critters they have living in the center which included fish, a couple of different types of turtles, lizards, snakes, and an small ant farm.
Josh is checking out one of the habitats...this one had fish.

There's a few cool statues of animals and a few real, stuffed animals. They also found a few learning activities and costumes to try on.

Mika was excited to find this Stellers Jay costume. As I was looking around, I heard, "Mom, they have a Steller's Jay costume!" That was exciting for me to hear because I would have expected to hear a generic, "They have a bird costume!" Just this tiny difference in word choice tells me that she's learned something about birds and has some enthusiasm for it.

Sammy opted to be a bat sleeping in its cave.

They ended their exploration in the store section of the center. There was a variety of fun things to chose from, all of which enhance learning about nature. We found kid binoculars that you can borrow so the kids took a couple out to the exhibit area and checked out the chickadees feeding at the bird feeder that was strategically placed outside a large window. Also inside this store area, I found videos and DVDs that can be checked out for up to two weeks ($25 deposit). The collection included some Bill Nye DVDs; we brought the bird one home. When the weather clears up, we want to go back and borrow one of two exploration backpacks they offer ($25 deposit also). There is a bird watching themed backpack and a nature exploration themed backpack.

The Tacoma Nature Center also offers a variety of classes and trips. Last year, we went on a nature walk at the Morse Wildlife Preserve with a friend. The kids enjoyed the trip. You can sign up for those through the center. There are audubon activities to be found through the center as well. On a more regular basis, the center offers homeschool science classes for a variety of age groups. They are extremely popular. A science fair is also hosted each year.

Finally, outside you'll find a trail that starts and ends at the parking lot. I've been on the trail before; it was easy enough for my then 4 year old to handle. During that hike, we saw ducks, turtles sunning themselves on logs, squirrels, and other small birds. Along the trail, you can see several very large formica ant hills, including one believed to be over 100 years old. If you letterbox, there are 7 new ones (the "Looney Tounes" series) hidden along the trail. Find their clues at Atlas Quest.

We had a fun visit that ended up fitting in well with our current study on birds. The kids didn't want to leave and are looking forward to our next visit.

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Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing. I'm going to check it out!

Michelle Olsen Sasak said...

I've never been there. It sounds great!

Shadowfur said...

It IS great!

PS Mommy, look at my new nickname!