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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Discover Rock Creek Tree Planting

The Clackamas River just upstream from the Rock Creek confluence.
Tree planting is a perfect kind of volunteer activity to do with kids.  It's active, kids can see concretely what they've helped to accomplish, and there is the potential for them to return for years to come to see their trees grow.  SOLVE organizes many tree plantings, and their Discover Rock Creek event in Clackamas was special.  First, we learned about the extensive work that has been done there for salmon habitat restoration.  It has been noted that the land surrounding this watershed is rapidly being developed after decades of agricultural use, and haste is needed to protect the watershed. Studies revealed that at this point where Rock Creek flows into the Clackamas River, the river was relatively uniform in depth and speed, without much shade.  Salmon and their fry like cool, shady streams with a mixture of depths and flow rates.  They like logs, root balls and boulders in their habitat to provide places to rest and hide from predators.  Organizers pointed out to us that the landscape which to our eyes had looked perfectly natural, has actually been altered quite dramatically to make it salmon friendly with the installation of these natural features, all engineered to stay in place for as long as possible.  We heard from high school students who have done studies on the macroinvertebrate population and learned that the health of a stream is clearly indicated by their presence.  Some, which have short lifespans, can manage in more polluted and inhospitable watersheds.  Others that live for years in the streams really require a healthier environment.  Metro Naturalist and tracking expert Ashley Conley was also there, displaying animal pelts.  She showed us some amazing animal signs such as an osprey nest, kingfisher nest holes, and coyote scat that we had missed.  Then we got down to the business of planting 500 trees and shrubs, which will provide shade and erosion control.  Within less than an hour, volunteers had got the job done.  Wow!  
Male Chinook salmon and a female with eggs.
Some fascinating macroinvertebrates.
Logs carefully held together with rebar to create a lasting structure.
Fishing out macroinvertebrates.
Pelts, wings and branches chewed by beavers.
Kingfisher nest holes.
Jasper after planting his first Douglas fir.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Activities for Homeschoolers

Homeschoolers know that there are perhaps thousands of activities available for their kids.  Most are after school hours or on weekends.  But which ones take place during the school day and are specifically for homeschoolers?  Here's a list- see their websites to find what's currently available. Also be sure to check out local Facebook and Yahoo groups for homeschoolers where parents often coordinate activities.  If you find a class in what your children are most interested in learning, but it isn't offered as a homeschool class, it might be worthwhile to ask if the instructor can teach it if you help find other interested families to enroll.  I've also given this list its own page here for future reference.

Please comment if you know of others your kids have loved!

Homeschool Book Clubs at Fairview-Columbia and Sellwood-Moreland Libraries:
Ledding Library Homeschool Activities:
Mt. Scott Homeschool Skate:
Nerf War and Airsoft: (privately organized; see Hip List for announcements and RSVP info).
Oaks Park Homeschool Skate:
Skate Word Gresham Homeschool Skate:

East Portland Community Center:
Multnomah Arts Center:
Northwest Children's Theater:
Northwest Fencing:
Oregon Children's Theater:
Oregon Homeschool Science Club:
Peninsula Park Community Center:
Portland Child Art:
Revolution Parkour:
Saturday Academy:
SHARC Homeschool Swim Lessons
Vibe of Portland:
Village Free School:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Walking With Dinosaurs

Baby Tyrannosaurus and  mommy Tyrannosaurus.
Walking With Dinosaurs is on a North American tour again.  Hooray!  We've been waiting patiently for them to come back.  This was the third tour we've taken Jasper to see, beginning when he was only 2. We've always felt it was well worth the splurge. The intention is to create the illusion of really being in the arena with living and breathing dinosaurs.  The effect is both educational and really beautiful. Revisions are made every time to keep up with what scientists are learning about their appearances and behavior.  This tour included feathered dinosaurs.   

Plateosaurus hatchlings.
Liliensternus raids the nest.
Bracheosaurus and baby.
Torosauruses battle.
Baby Tyrannosaurus.
Baby Tyrannosaurus, Ankylosaurus. mommy Tyrannosaurus, and Torosaurus.
Baby Tyrannosaurus and  mommy Tyrannosaurus.
Baby Tyrannosaurus and  mommy Tyrannosaurus.
Baby Tyrannosaurus and  the Paleontologist take a bow.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Illumination #1

Part of a vibrant Chinatown.
Portland animator Rose Bond created a site-specific installation more than a decade ago for the Portland Seamen's Bethel Building on the northwest corner of NW 3rd Ave. and Davis St.  It's back again and we jumped at a chance to see it.  Jasper really loved it and wanted to watch it over and over.  Screens in the second floor windows on both sides of the building are used to project the animation in a 12 minute loop, so it looks as if you are seeing what is happening inside the building. Speakers bring viewers the sounds of the scenes they are watching.  Each scene depicts some aspect of 120 years of the history of this particular building, and with it the history of the city itself.  If you find yourself in Old Town between 6PM and 8PM tonight or December 19, 20, or 21, be sure to check it out!
A family reunion.
Fortune tellers.
The building was derelict.  Pigeons fly through the animation and roost inside.

Saturday, December 13, 2014


I've been on a mission lately to find interesting art to experience with Jasper.  He's well past the age when he'd likely just want to touch it, and into an age when he can contemplate it and notice. It's a rare and wonderful thing when I find a show that is sure to be unlike anything he's ever seen before and totally approachable.  We went to Lewis and Clark College to see Dana Lynn Louis' show "Clearing" and were delightfully surprised.  The artist does not attempt to tell you all her intentions and ideas, she simply lets you have your own experience and find your own meaning.  Light, translucence, transparency, shadow and reflection are all primary elements in the work. Shadows and reflections connect the pieces to each other. Mica, a mineral which forms in brittle, thin, translucent and fireproof sheets,  is used in many pieces.  One room contained a bowl with instructions to think about something you might like to clear, write it on a slip of paper, place it in an envelope and seal it.  Each envelope had a small window through which a round piece of mica inscribed with the word "clearing" could be seen.  In a special ceremony, she burned all the envelopes, leaving only the mica circles.  One piece hangs from the ceiling and incorporates many small brass bells.  Jasper was thrilled to discover that as visitors walk beside it, all the bells ring.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Tualatin River NWR

We visited the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge and found it pretty dry for this time of year. After the short walk to the observation platform, we found there was little to observe as there was no water around it.  Huge clouds of Canada geese periodically shifted from one area of the large pond to another for reasons best known to themselves.  One of the small ponds dries up completely in the summer, and we found it still completely dry.  In the other, a great blue heron strode serenely through the mud.  Was it looking for signs of the huge bullfrogs that must surely be buried underneath?  

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Castle Dübendorf

Every December for 43 years, the Benson Hotel has been commissioning some serious confectionary art in the form of gingerbread architecture.  This year's creation is the gorgeous "Castle Dübendorf" by chef David Diffendorfer, the hotel's pastry chef.  This year's creation boasts more than 150 pounds of house made gingerbread, 15 pounds of white and dark chocolate, 35 pounds of marzipan, buckets of royal icing, ice cream cone trees and stained glass windows made from melted Jolly Ranchers, and took 3 months to construct. It smells absolutely divine!  Jasper was completely captivated.  You can see it anytime in the Benson Hotel lobby through Christmas Day.