Field Trip: Queen Elizabeth Park

A couple of weekends ago we went on a family field trip out to Queen Elizabeth Park just to the north of the city on the Kapiti Coast.  We went especially to let the kids have a horse ride.

The Stables on the Park have quite a few horse riding options and both of the Oh Waily kids    really enjoyed their time on horseback, as well as patting the small ponies in the barn beforehand and getting to brush down the small ponies afterwards.

Here is Master Oh Waily looking very swish with his riding hat and the smallest pony before heading out on his ride.

Poser

And here is Miss Oh Waily at the end of her trek, on her much larger pony.  She looked very comfortable up there and enjoyed herself immensely when she was given the ability to “steer” her horse for a short while.

Gentle ride

I think we will take them back in a wee while and let them have more time on horseback as they enjoyed it so much.

While at the park we also took the tram ride to the beach and back.  The tram museum was open so we had a quick look in there also.  As you can see, the tram was beautifully made in wood.

Tram ride

Orakei Korako

A few days after our visit to The Bath House and the Redwoods, I took the Oh Waily kids off to pick up their Nana from Matamata (aka Hobbiton).  Then we took to the highway and headed towards Taupo.

Just before the great lake we took a left turn, and another, then headed up into the hidden valley that ends at Orakei Korako.  It was a pretty misty and grey morning, and for most of the journey it rained on our outing.  When we made it to the end of the valley the rain faded away, but left us with a dull and overcast day.  Still, it didn’t deter us from our walk.

First stop, the boat that takes you across the water.  What a fabulous way to start an adventure.  With a buzzer to gain retrieval when your walk is through.
Next up, the walk through the geothermal area.  Lots of interesting things to see and a surprise for the kids, what with all the steam wafting around us. It also made photography a bit of a hit and miss affair, as I’m still figuring it all out.

Steamy Arrival
As we walked over the first boardwalk we began to see all of the colours of the terrace. Unfortunately the overcast conditions didn’t manage to do justice to the colours and this was the best I could do to capture them.
It was great fun looking at all the algae as we walked along, but I think the kids were just as interested in the boardwalk as they were in the colours.

Colourful Walk
Here they are, admiring the Golden Fleece Terrace. Or, at least, posing for another one of my photographs.

The Silica Terrace
After this it became a taniwha hunt as there was a story to be told and a rock to be found. Instead we found the Elephant Rock, and naturally Miss Oh’s constant companion (Lumpy) had to be compared and contrasted to the rock in question. Quite the family likeness, I’d say.

Elephant Rock
After this we were able to admire the view back down on to one of the rather amazing terraces.

The Pools from Above
We stopped and admired Ruatapu cave and then headed on for the rest of the walk around the grounds.  And what visit to a geothermal park is complete without the obligatory boiling mud pools?  So we were able to see a few of those too.  One being particularly extensive.

Mud pool
After all the steamy walking, then the sun coming out, we headed back to the jetty to find the boat had just arrived and was picking up a number of other passengers.  This was rather surprising because up until the last small part of the walk we had seen and heard pretty much no one.  Yet here were at least half a dozen people!

To finish off our trip we had snacks and drinks in their little cafe before heading homewards.  It was a really long, but nice day.  A huge thanks to Nana Oh Waily for being my second pair of hands in a potentially iffy outing location – small children and steaming hot water, what could go wrong?

I’m looking forward to our next trip north when I think we may take on another geothermal wonderland, either Waimangu Valley or Wai-O-Tapu, and hopefully expand the little people’s knowledge of the earth and it’s sciences.  All while having fun, of course.

The Bath House

Last month the Oh Waily kids and I went for a visit to their grandparents in Tauranga.  On this trip I finally decided that we would do some day trips while we visited instead of spending most of the time locally.

To that end we headed to Rotorua for the day.  We started with a gentle stroll along the lakefront, a run around in the lovely playground before refueling with morning tea in a local cafe.  We reinforced our recognition of the Scaup from our visit to Nga Manu as there was a huge number of them floating around the jetty.

We then drove around to The Bath House, which now houses Rotorua’s museum.  On the way we stopped and admired the beautiful waka on the lakefront.  You can’t help but love the prow, can you?

Prow

Unfortunately I can’t show you any photographs of the wonderful inside of the Bath House building as you aren’t allowed to take any.  But I can recommend a visit.  It is a small museum, but it is very modern and very nicely presented.  It was especially fun to see the restored and excavated sections of the original bath house stalls.  It was even more fun when we got to walk under the building, hard hats and all, to see all the underground workings involved in “taking the cure”.
Then I took the kids to the top viewing platform, through the attic, looking out for the ghost all the way.  It was a very nice experience all around.

After this we headed out to the Redwoods on the outskirts of Rotorua, stopping for a late lunch on the way.  I’ve driven past this area so many times in the last three years and had no idea that this existed.  What a waste!
So, we started by getting the kiddie’s questionnaire to encourage them to observe their surroundings and then set off for the short walk, Redwood Memorial Grove track.  It’s two kilometres of mostly easy walking, and it takes you through some beautiful parts of the forest.  Here’s a couple of photographs I took along the way.

Redwood Path

Redwood Stand

And when we reached the end, we had to stop and say hello to the Redwood Family. Apparently one of them might have had a bit of a headache the day we visited. Maybe they’d spent all day trailing around after small people?

Oh my Head!

If you are visiting the central North Island, or just passing through, I can recommend visiting both the Bath House and the Redwoods.  By the time we had visited these two spots we were pretty done for the day, with an hour and a bit drive each way from the Oh Waily grandparents’ house to bookend our day.

Following on from our successful trip to Rotorua, we headed out on one more day trip a little later in our stay, this time to a hidden valley just outside Taupo.

Nga Manu Nature Reserve

Back in July I took the two Oh Waily kids for a drive up the coast to Kapiti and the    Nga Manu Nature Reserve.  We went mid-morning in order to join the feed out tour, in which visitors get to meet some of the birds up close and help feed them.

On arrival we were met by some friendly locals.  Perhaps they look a little familiar.

Pukeko

Once we headed off on the tour with our lovely guide, we were able to enter enclosures and offer food to a variety of native bird species.  Robyn was very patient with my fidgety pair and explained about each of the birds as we met them.  By the time we had visited the first two enclosures I knew I wasn’t going to be able to take photographs, corral children, feed birds and listen to Robyn.  So the photography was ditched.  The only native that I got a shot of before realising this was a kaka.  It was fabulous getting to see them all up close for the first time.

Kaka

Along with the kaka, there were kereru, morepork, kiwi, swans, ducks of all stripes including a group of scaup, and the world famous kea.  Who really are just as cheeky and smart as their reputation suggests.

We got to watch the whirlpool effect of the scaup’s webbed feet as they dove for food, and saw the kiwi snuggled up in their nesting box.  We learned that pukeko are the worst predators of other native birds and that the resident head kea has a rather understandable penchant for creamed rice and will try to sneak it at every opportunity.

After we had made our way around the feeding route we then headed off to explore the lovely bush walk.

Bush Walk

And enjoyed the bright undergrowth that was fallen and aged ferns.  It was rather spectacularly bright and cheery.  And unexpected.

Bright ferns

And then there was the view from the tower.

The View

Very well worth the couple or so hours we spent there. The only thing I would do different next time is to take a second pair of hands to wrangle the kids on the feeding tour. They needed to be lifted to reach many of the birds so were ever so slightly too young to get full value out of it.

If you just wanted to see the birds and have a nice picnic and walk in an easy setting then this is a great option for a few hours.

Art Detectives

Today’s Thursday Adventure Club* outing was to Te Papa Tongarewa, known simply as Te Papa.

I had let my fingers do the walking and found an interesting link on their site, at the bottom of the What’s on for kids page.  The Family Trails.
I mean, who could pass up he chance of becoming an Art Detective?  Not us.

So this rather soggy Wellington morning saw us in town bright and early.  We headed to the Information Desk and were kitted out with our Art Detective bag and gear.  What did we get?

  • a deerstalker hat (what self-respecting detective goes without one?)
  • a matching cape
  • a pair of Harry Potter-style spectacles
  • a magnifying glass
  • some pipe cleaners
  • a foldable box
  • pencils
  • the Art Detective guide

Once we were all dressed for the occasion, Detective G and Detective M and their guide (me) headed off to Level 5 to work our way through the different galleries and the tasks set out in the AD guide book.

Do they look cute, or do they look cute?

Detective GDetective M

The amount of double takes and smiles the costumes generated was worth it alone.  But, in the process of following the art trail they were exposed to a range of artists and artistic styles.

We started off in the Artist In Focus gallery where they did a bit of counting, writing and creating with their pipe cleaners.  Then we moved through to the Arts Studio, which we will try to visit again when there isn’t a school class in the galleries, where I helped them make their own small cardboard waka huia to store their treasures in.  Then in the same area they had to find and then work out how to use a mystery box to help them with one of the following clues.
Then it was off to the Maori & Pacific Encounters gallery to look at and answer questions about a painting done by John Webber 200 years ago while sailing with James Cook.

Next we headed to the Framing the  View gallery where we used the descriptions noted from the Mystery Box to find an art work.  We did some more counting here and also a bit of geometry.   Miss Oh Waily took over the writing duties from here on.  She also drew the geometrical shapes that were used in the art work.
We stayed here and using a set of three clues supplied in our detective bag we had to work out which painting they represented.  And Miss Oh then had to make up a story to go with that particular piece of art.  I was her secretary here or we would have struggled for space and time.

From here we headed into the gallery Emblems of Identity where we got to see a number of Rita Angus portraits including Rutu which was the subject of this section of the trail.  We learned about symbols in art – in this case a white lotus – and made one of our own for our waka huia.  Then we did several word clues to identify the next artworks including McCahon’s The Valley of Dry Bones and then the kids got to draw their version of some Angus portraits and added speech bubbles to them.  Then we moved on to the Being Modern gallery into the Modern Maori Art gallery where there was more writing and drawing to be done.

Finally we made our way through the Art & Change and Contemporary galleries.  This latter one was a bit of a toughie.  It houses a couple of interesting works by Ralph Hotere which were the subject of another project in the book.  But by this stage they were getting to the end of their attention span (almost an hour and a half of detecting by this time) and the glossy attractions of Michael Parekowhai’s amazing piano was proving a bit much for Detective G.  Clearly she is a tactile person (and curious with it) so I had a bit of trouble keeping her hands off it.

We whizzed through the remaining gallery and we were done.  A fluffy and biscuit were their rewards for being so good at detecting and keeping on the trail for almost the entire time.  They did fabulously well.  And I am most definitely going to keep an eye on the Family Trails section for any new options elsewhere in the museum.  It’s a great way to make kids this little stop and actually look at art in galleries.  It makes it interactive and fun, but not laborious.

A complete Pukeko Patch thumbs up for this activity.

But be aware that they only had four or five detective bags at the information desk.  I’d suggest going early on a weekday in order to ensure your little detectives are able to enjoy themselves.  Oh, and you do have to be interactive throughout the process (not just reading the guide book) so that they get the most out of it.  But well worth it in my opinion.


* My arbitrary name for our family field trips.  Makes it sound flashy for the small ones.

Integrated Learning

I am about a third of the way through creating our first exemption application and it has been going well.  That is to say, it is going well now that I have managed to overcome a rather large dose of writer’s block.
Part of the issue is how to explain that, from our perspective, most of our learning is done in an integrated way.  Certainly we use single focus resources like Reading Eggs or My Pals Are Here! for learning to read and for guidance on age-appropriate maths skills, but for the most part opportunities for learning do not come pre-packaged in a ‘subject-specific’ way.  Take for example our walk yesterday.

We walked along a part of the Hutt River Trail.  On this part we walked from a little inlet by the river, along the stopbank, through a golf club and almost right to the river mouth.  In this two hour walk (we stopped for fluffies at the halfway point) and play we were able to learn and do a whole bunch of stuff.

Physical education
– the kids got a decent walk and a run in the playground.

Culture
– talking about the different aspects of golf including terminology used in the game and the environment it is played in.  (Also chatting to a couple of golfers.)

Reading
– I pre-prepared a checklist of things to find or look for on the walk.
(Miss Oh Waily has discovered a liking for the tick mark.)

Nature (Science)
– we saw a total of seven different sorts of non-garden birds including mallards, white-faced herons, little shag, yellowhammer, chaffinch, southern black backed gulls (adults & juveniles), and canada geese.

Technology (and Research skills)
– to ensure that we identified the different birds correctly we used an online encyclopaedia of New Zealand birds to help us.  We used the photographs that I took while we walked to do so.  When Miss Oh is a little older I may *gasp* even let her use my new camera when we walk, since she asks to do so regularly.
For the record, the site we used is New Zealand Birds Online.

So as you can see a good chunk of our learning experiences are integrated.  How can you possibly timetable that out, which is one of the apparent* pushes for more information from applicants?  We walked for two hours, how much of that do I apportion to the various aspects of our learning experience?  It is a puzzle.

Anyway, I shall continue on with the exemption writing.  I’m hoping to have the first draft all wrapped up this weekend, quiet time and kids willing.  But today I shall leave you with some images of our native fauna from yesterday’s walk.
Click through for bigger images – the small birds will need you to since they don’t like it when we get too close.


Chaffinch

Yellowhammer

White-faced herons

Duck Squad

On the Stopbank II

On the Stopbank


* please note:  I have had no contact with the local MoE office, so this is simply what I am hearing of other people’s experiences and may not be a complete reflection of the situation.

Family Field Trip: Castlepoint

Back at the end of February, while the weather was still stunning, I took the kids for a long field trip up into the Wairarapa.  I’ve rather taken to heading up State Highway 2 this year, and with good cause.  The countryside is beautiful, even if exceedingly brown due to this year’s drought, and there are some very picturesque spots along the coast to visit if you make the effort.  Cape Palliser being one of those areas.  Castlepoint being another.

It seems like all my trips lately require a lighthouse at the end. And yes, this trip was no different so expect a few gratuitous photographs of it throughout this post.  Starting with this one from the beachfront as you enter Castlepoint

Castlepoint Lighthouse

Rather nice, isn’t it, up there on it’s own?

This was my first visit to Castlepoint and with the help of the stunningly gorgeous day, I was completely blown away by the beauty of the place.  The sand, the dunes, the outcrops and the fantastic area that is Deliverance Cove.  I kid you not, I walked around open mouthed and gob-smacked like some foreign tourist seeing for the first time that the scenery in Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit really isn’t CGI.

So the walk to the lighthouse is ridiculously easy up a long path.  You can go on past the lighthouse and up on to the outcrop, which has a viewing platform built on it.  The views are lovely and the geology of the place exposed and really interesting.  Unfortunately for me, Master Oh decided he wanted to panic on the walk down the other side and then sulked after being carried down so he doesn’t appear in any photographs up on the headland.  But the lighthouse, and Miss Oh Waily do.

Castlepoint Lighthouse

Yep, she’s a nice lighthouse and it was a brilliant blue sky. And Miss Oh was happy to pose as we walked back up from the seaward side of the promontory.

Castlepoint Lighthouse

After making our way down from the lighthouse the kids had some time playing in the dunes and making sandcastles.

Walking in the sand dunes

Making sandcastles

See that tiny twig on top of the mound – that’d be the sandcastle’s lighthouse. There’s nothing quite like digging in the sand is there?

Between this section below the lighthouse and Deliverance Cove there was a rather large parking area for seagoing vessels. Here is an industrial sized boat trailer if there ever was one.

How to launch a boat

Once you walk (or drive, the sand is hard enough to do this) past the parking lot, you come to the most beautiful little inlet of water and the sheltered harbour area of Deliverance Cove. And here are the kids making their way down to the inlet area.

Deliverance Cove & Castlepoint

Which looked like this when you got up close. Yes, a vibrant green through blue.

Deliverance Cove

And could not be overlooked for a good wading.

Deliverance Cove

It was so beautiful that we had to go back, and we have. I arranged to take the whole family back on the first nice weekend after Mr Oh Waily returned home from his gallivanting around Europe. I’ll show and tell you about that day trip a little later, as we didn’t (gasp) visit the lighthouse but explored another part of Deliverance Cove instead.

For me the day just reinforced what an amazing and beautiful country we are so darned lucky to live in. I hope our family can keep on enjoying such trips and seeing such wonderful places.

What about you? Have you been anywhere lately that’s blown your socks off? I’d love to know about it, so I can put it in my Bucket List. Happy travels everyone.

Family Field Trip: Fiji

So it has been mighty quiet around these parts.  Is that tumbleweed I spy in the corner, or perhaps just a giant dust bunny?

Either way, it’s time for the blog to come out of hibernation.  Today I will be redirecting you to my t’other blog to see one of the things that the Oh Waily family has been up to in their absence.  The others will appear here in due course.

Fiji Sunset 1
We went on holiday.  Yes.  A real, live holiday.  To our favourite spot. Fiji.

I put together a post of photographs over at the home of the Oh Wailys.
Take a stroll over and read about how Refreshed I now feel.

Oh Waily kids

You would be forgiven for thinking that we had disappeared for the entire last part of summer.  Mr Oh Waily is away for work and I have correspondingly less time for things like blogging.  It’s another two weeks before he is home again so the blogging is unlikely to be picking up any time soon.

In the meantime here’s a few up to date photographs of the Oh Waily kids, with apologies to those who have already seen them.

This is my first attempt to try out black & white photography with my Christmas present.
Boy in B&W

And last week I took the kids for a drive up the coast to a playground that has a splash pad. I decided that it would be more fun if they went for it in their normal clothes rather than have them turn up in swim suits. (With a full change waiting for them in the car after, of course.) Here are some photographs of them in action.

Wet behind the Ears

Take a drink

Kersplash...

Soaked

As I’m sure you can tell they loved it. I think we might even do it again this week if the weather holds.  And, although the photographs suggest otherwise, they did enjoy playing on some of the other regular playground features like the flying fox and basket swing.  But the water is the big drawcard.  It is very clever.

Family Field Trip: Cape Palliser


Once we came down from the lighthouse, we made our way back to the beach below.  Locals were heading in to the rocky outcrop at the end and were clearly bringing up shellfish, probably paua.  The beach was mainly a variety of large or small rocks, but hiding amongst the larger parts were a few other natives.  (Just a word of caution, this is going to be a seally gratuitous photoblog today.)

Beach Seal

He would have been about 20 metres away, give or take.  There was at least one more a bit further down the beach, but I couldn’t get a good photograph of him as he was partly hiding on the seaward side of a rocky outcrop, and I wasn’t game enough to get any closer than I did.

After Miss Oh and I walked down the beach away from the rocky area, and she had some time to get her feet wet in the sea, we headed back to the rocks where Mr and Master Oh had been fossicking in the rockpools.  We decided to head back along the road to a nice, photogenic outcrop of rocks and let me have a bit of a fiddle with the new camera.  The bonus being yet more natives.

The Outcrop:

Rocky outcrop

The Local’s Bathing & Snoozing Spot:

Seal sunbathing spot

A Native:

Sleeping Seal

He was across a water gap and the photo was taken with my longer lens, but he would also have not been more than 20 metres away.
As it turned out, you had to be very careful of this bathing spot.  Just where it was easiest to get down on to it there was a nice little rock “cave” inside which yet another local was avoiding the sun and trying to take a nap.  Gave me the fright of my life when he raised his head and took a good look at me.  Anyway, he just looked (all of a few metres away from me) and I duly scampered back a few metres and let him settle back down.

After taking some more photographs of my little outcrop and the seaweed, I turned to snap one more of the sleepy friend above when I heard something that was slightly cough-like.  I was on the outcrop on my own, so it wasn’t any of the Oh Wailys.  I turned around and just about broke the sound barrier with the speed at which I launched myself up the rocks leading to the road.  Unbeknownst to me, while my back was turned, another native who had been frolicking in the water decided that the flat sunbathing spot was where he wanted to be.

Seal

Again, he would have been less than 20 metres away when this was taken, and a darn sight nearer before I realised he was there.   In hindsight, I needn’t have worried, he showed absolutely no interest in me at all.  But isn’t he wonderfully shiny?

So Cape Palliser was a very nice drive from town, and had the added advantage of the lighthouse at the end and the seals just below.  A very nice day trip.  Next time I head out here I plan to have a trek to the Dimholt Road, but that will need to be child free as our recce visit showed me that it is just a little too far and a little too steep and a little too rocky for little legs.

And to finish off our trip home, we had to stop in Ngawi and take some photographs of the grader/tractor fleet – and I mean fleet.

Tractors

This barely scratches the surface, there were loads of them, absolutely loads !!  And some of them were very humorous, eh, Tinky-Winky?

So if you’re in the neighbourhood and you want a fairly pleasant drive with a beautiful bay to take plenty of photographs of, a lighthouse to climb to and some native animals to admire, then you could do very well to take a trip out here.

Have you been on a Field Trip lately?  Let me know, I’d love to visit.