This week we had two, consecutive, very different days at the Botanics. The first was spent with a large group of home ed friends. The weather was pretty erratic, swithering between still and sunny to cold rain with a fresh breeze. Luckily we had some tarpaulins to hand and the children set to erecting a shelter. They used the excellent willow structure in the Children’s Garden as their armature.
It was so nice to see everyone collaborating on a project which provided many opportunities for creative problem solving. A little bunting finished off the den perfectly and soon chairs were moved in, bags hung on natural ‘hooks’ and many games played within.
In another corner of the garden, a smaller den was being built with great attention to detail.
This second post served as the base of a type of crows’ nest over the park.
After a few hours, children started to wander away from the dens with some pottering around the playpark and others sliding down the ‘mud slide’ on the river embankment. Adults chatted and picnics were consumed. We battled with the wind to get the tarpaulins down and back in bags at the end of the day which was both hilarious and infuriating.
The next day was altogether sunnier. There were fewer of us and we met Louise, one of the plant experts working at the Botanics, for a guided tour of the large glasshouse. We began in the orchid house and saw a tiny flower called the monkey orchid that looked exactly like a small monkey. We also found out that the most precious orchids have to be kept in glass cases because, prior to that happening, they were often stolen.
Louise’s specialism is dessert plants so we spent a good deal of time learning about cacti and euphorbia.
The ridges in this euphorbia act as drainpipes directing rain water to the plant roots.
The fibrous material in the leaves of the Agave are used to make fishing nets.
The barbs on this cactus are used as fishing hooks in Mexico.
The rainforest was also exciting with its immense banana trees and a plant whose leaves look dead when young in order to fool animals into not eating them.
Straining to see the bananas way up high in the tree.
But everyone’s favourite by far was the visit to see the catshark in the pond.
Afterwards some children documented what they had seen and heard and then everybody spent many, many happy hours playing in the warm sun, which was a stark and much appreciated contrast to the weather just the day before.
If you home educating, or are thinking about it, and are interested in joining us at our meets please get in touch by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.