5th Graders go for a Nature Scavenger Hunt

Guest Author:  Andrea Roach

 

On a cool spring day, 80 5th graders from Marble Falls visited Reveille Peak Ranch and were hosted by members of the UHLNC for the 5th year in a row.  The weather looked rainy but a cool front blew through, making it a nice day for the young naturalists.  One group of kids set off on a nature scavenger hunt around the lake and along the trails.  The others took a tour of Nature Hill to explore some of the interesting finds along those paths.
Scattering to start the scavenger hunt. (Courtesy of Alice Rheaume)
Scattering to start the scavenger hunt.
(Courtesy of Alice Rheaume)

On the Scavenger Hunt, kids worked in small groups with their parents and teachers to locate native plants (from cactus to wildflowers), signs of wildlife (from tracks to nests),  geological features (from quartz crystals to signs of erosion), and other interesting sights.
Hunting among the vernal pools for interesting critters. (Courtesy of Andrea Roach)
Hunting among the vernal pools for interesting critters and unusual plants.
(Courtesy of Andrea Roach)
The highlight was the signs of beaver activity near the bridge.  Beavers had chopped into large Ashe juniper trees and were dragging the logs along a trail through the fence and into the creek on the neighboring pasture.  The beaver slide (the sloping path the beavers use to enter deep water)  was very obvious and teachers were given small beaver logs to use in the classroom.
Signs that a beaver is active in the neighborhood.  (Courtesy of Andrea Roach)
Signs that a beaver is active in the neighborhood. (Courtesy of Andrea Roach)
Up on Nature Hill, the groups were discussing how animals protect themselves through camouflage, the signs of ancient people and how they lived, and how the history of the formation of the hill country can be found at your feet.
Phil Mitchell shares the wonders of animal camouflage with 5th graders from Marble Falls (Courtesy of Alice Rhueme)
Phil Mitchell shares the wonders of animal camouflage with 5th graders from Marble Falls. (Courtesy of Alice Rheaume)

First stop, animal camouflage.   The kids learned how animals use shapes, colors and even mimicry to fool their predators and even their prey.  The walking stick, our nature center mascot, uses it thin, branch like shape to make other animals think it’s just a stick.   The dappled coloring of a fawn blends in with the shadows under a tree.  A scorpion’s bland color let’s it blend into the background of a log or rock and to sneak up on an unsuspecting snack.  Queen butterflies mimic the coloration of monarchs which are well-known to taste horrible.   Can you think of other animals that rely on camouflage techniques?   Here’s a great camouflage example!

Who's hiding out in the hollow tree?  (Courtesy of Andrea Roach)
Who’s hiding out in the hollow tree? (Courtesy of Andrea Roach)
At the archaeology station, Billy Hutson talked about the recent discoveries in and around the nature center.
Billy Hutson unveils the recently discovered ancient hearth.   (Courtesy of Alice Rhueme)
Billy Hutson unveils the recently discovered ancient hearth.
(Courtesy of Alice Rheaume)
 On nature hill and in the surround area, the Llano Uplift Archeological Society found the remains of multiple campsites occupied by Native Americans in the prehistoric past.  This included chips of chert used to make arrow heads, an ancient hearth with mussel shells and a metate nearby, signs that native people hunted and lived in this area for an extended period of time.
Metate found in boulder near the site of the ancient hearth.  (Courtesy of Paula Richards)
Metate found in boulder near the site of the ancient hearth. (Courtesy of Paula Richards)

The metate was used to grind acorns and corn into meal to make mush or bread.  The size and placement of the metate, as well as the depth and size of the hearth, help the archaeologists date the site.  Nearby, a broken spear point was found that could date to 4500 years ago!  For such an important find, we even have an official archaeological site number:  41LL501.  Could you have lived in the hill country on just what you caught or found in the hills?

5th graders sitting on Billion year old rocks as Billy Hutson explains the uniqueness of hill country geology.  (Courtesy of Alice Rhueme)
5th graders sitting on Billion year old rocks as Billy Hutson explains the uniqueness of hill country geology. (Courtesy of Alice Rheaume)
The final stop on Nature Hill was at a geological wonder.  In the summer of 2007, the hill country around the nature center experienced an unusual tropical storm that dropped 18 inches of rain on the area in a matter of hours.  The flooding broke through the dam at Reveille Peak Ranch and exposed an amazing geological story.   It is one of the very few places on the entire planet where you can see so much of the geological forces that formed the earth laid bare.   After sitting on billion-plus year old rocks, 30 doesn’t seem so old to these 5th graders!
After a full morning, kids take a break by the lake. (Courtesy of Andrea Roach)
After a full morning, kids take a break by the lake.
(Courtesy of Andrea Roach)
 We love having the kids at Reveille Peak and at the Nature Center.  We look forward to working in collaboration with the other groups to bring more classes into the Highland Lakes area.
Those faces say it all! (Courtesy of Andrea Roach)
Those faces say it all!
(Courtesy of Andrea Roach)

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