Monday, July 23, 2007

Geocaching 101

On Sunday, we attended a class at the Nature Center to learn about geocaching. We LOVED it! I think we found a new hobby that the whole family can do together!

We learned a little history about the GPS (Global Positioning System/or Satellite) unit, how it works, its uses, and how to operate it. We completed some practice "treasure hunts" and made one of our own.
After the class, we went in search of one of the caches at the Nature Center. (They have five total caches hidden in the Shawnee Prairie Preserve.) We used the GPS unit to find the cache, which was hidden inside a hollow log in the woods! We opened it up and signed the logbook to say that we found it. They had some small trade items for kids, but we didn't have anything to trade at the time so we did not take anything. The girls loved taking turns holding the GPS and leading the way. We will soon be getting a GPS for ourselves and plan on going on more hunts around the area. We will eventually make our own caches for other people to find!
At you can find the coordinates to caches all over the world! When we're on our next vacation, probably to Maine, we will take our GPS and do some geocaching!
There are other geocaching games other than finding a hidden container. The "Travel Bug" is a little dog tag type token that has a unique serial number. The person who finds the Travel Bug must hide it in a different location. One of the Darke County Parks' Travel Bug has made its way to California!! The serial number on the tag is how its location is tracked. After making a find, the information is updated on the geocaching web site. We think it would be fun to have a Travel Bug and see where it ends up!
Another geocaching game is a Virtual Cache. This is where you find the coordinates specified and after finding it observe the area. Once back on the web site you take a quiz to prove you were there.
If you are interested in finding out more about geocaching, I highly recommend checking out the web site to learn more. If you want to give it a try and see if you like it, the Darke County Nature Center (at Shawnee Prairie Preserve) does rent out GPS units for a few bucks. I believe they need to stay on the premises, though. (Remember, they have five caches there. Ask them for a printout of the coordinates, or find them yourself at by typing in the zip code in the search box)
(PS. No matter how many spaces I put between paragraphs, the published version of this blog post is always "smooshed" together. Sorry if it was hard to read. I'm not sure how to fix this. It didn't do this in the past, only for the last few posts or so. Hopefully it will correct itself, or I can figure out how to fix it.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Owls in the Night

On Saturday, July 14th, Georgia attended a nature class at the Shawnee Prairie Preserve titled, "Owls in the Night".

Georgia watched a slide show and lecture on owls, their anatomy, variety, diet, habitats, and life cycle, etc. Afterwards, her and her partner Athan got to dissect an owl pellet provided by the Ohio Division of Natural Resources (ODNR). The pellet is what the owl does not digest. It is fur, feathers, bones, and teeth that are wrapped in a neat little "fur ball" package and regurgitated. Georgia explained to me that they try to have all the bones and teeth in the inside so that it does not hurt the owl on the way up!

Georgia had learned about the various prey an owl may eat. In dissecting the owl pellet, she was able to match them up with a diagram of animal bones to determine what the owl ate. She found the skeletal remains of a rodent.

Afterwards, we all went on an owl hunt in the woods. The naturalist played an owl call and we heard some owls call back. We never got to see any owls, though, as time was running out and it was getting pretty late. We did see some bats, though!

The ODNR also supplied some owl booklets and an owl calls cd for the students to take home. Georgia listened to it and echoed the calls back. She does pretty good!

August's class is on stream studies and stream quality management.

The park's web site is

The ODNR's web site is They also have educational resources and kids' pages.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Sunwatch Indian Village and Archaeological Park

Last week we went to the Sunwatch Indian Village and Archaeological Park in Dayton. You can watch a video on the park here. (scroll down to find Sunwatch) It is a National (pre) Historic Landmark.

We watched a movie about the park's history and learned about the people that lived there 800 years ago. In the gallery, Georgia was especially interested in the diorama of the village.

Outside we walked around the reconstructed village and learned more about how the Fort Ancient people lived. We saw storage pits, a canoe, native garden and prairie typical of the time period, stockade, astronomical alignments in the center of the village, original tombstones, and five lath and daub structures with grass thatch roofs, which we were able to enter.
Inside we saw the table/beds lining the interior, the fire pit for cooking, furs, and dried food.
Georgia pretended to sleep on one of the prehistoric beds. (not too comfy)
On our way back through the prairie we spotted a bug that we did not recognize.
We still have not figured out what it is, so if you have an idea please let us know. It looks similar to an Ailanthus Webworm Moth (Atteva punctella), but its body appeared more like that of a caterpillar than of folded wings.
After our tour of Sunwatch, we visited the exhibit upstairs called EarthWorks: Virtual Explorations of the Ancient Ohio Valley. You can check out the link below for more information.