On Thursday we spent a fun and educational morning at the Walter B Jacobs Memorial Nature Park, just west of Shreveport. The 160 acre nature park is geared towards preservation of, and recreation in, the local pine-oak-hickory forest, and is recognized for the outreach and programs they do on outdoor interpretation.
There aren’t a lot of websites/info out there on the Walter B Jacobs MNP that we could find before we went, so it was a bit of a mystery to us. We checked out their Facebook page, and noticed that they offered a lot of educational talks/events, including quite a few during the weekdays that are geared directly towards homeschoolers (and students in general during the weekends and summer)! We signed up for one of the talks, geared towards younger kids, that was going to be happening while we were in the Shreveport area. The talks are posted on FB, and the park asks that you call the number provided to reserve a spot (or 11 😉 ), so we did that.
We visited the park this past Thursday am; it was chilly and drizzling out, and we ended up being the only ones to brave the weather. We were greeted at the door by park naturalist Hulya, and given a tour of the visitor’s center.
There were all sorts of animal mounts, a touch table, and different hands-on activities for the kids (mine were all over the extensive wild animal puppets!).
There is a reptile room – filled with enclosures of live reptiles (and a tarantula).
After our tour, Hulya ushered us into the classroom; there were chairs lining the wall, and little benches set in a half circle on the floor. She instructed the littles to sit on the benches, then told us what she had planned for our time there. She then read the kids a cute little book about a green snake. (Do I dare admit here that my kids have never been to ‘story time’ at a library? (I can’t stomach our library back home.)) The littles thought story-time it was fun!
Then Hulya had them sit on the floor and use their benches as tables while they made a snake-related craft. Naturalist Hulya was great! Since we were the only ones there, after she got the littles working on their craft, she gave the bigs a talk about venomous vs. non-venomous snakes!
(Peanut wasn’t too sure about all this venomous snake stuff!)
While my tribe knew most of the signs, Hulya told and showed them a few new ones, including the difference in pattern on the underneath end of a snake’s tail. For instance, if you find a snake skin in your yard, and wonder if you should worry about having a venomous snake around or not, look at the bottom of the tail, underneath, and if the lines (that look like big scales) continue to be straight across without a break in the middle, then it is a non-venomous snake. If the pattern changes, and there is a break down the middle to where it looks like two sets of ‘scales’, then it is the shed of a venomous snake (and unless you are looking at a snake skin, this probably makes no sense! LOL!).
Course, now we want to find a snake skin in the wild to see for ourselves.
Hulya passed around all sorts of skins, and then she brought out a Speckled Kingsnake and let the kids touch it.
Her program was very interesting to all of us. The littles didn’t get their craft finished very timely because they were so busy listening to the talk, and taking in the touchy stuff!
After we were schooled on venomous southern snakes (which was a perfect topic for our tribe!!!), Hulya took us into the animal room where all the live reptiles were.
She told the kids about each one (mostly Louisiana snakes, but a few turtles, a baby alligator, and a tarantula too – everything in the park is local nature), and then she fed some of them so the kids could watch. The soft-shelled turtle was my favorite – they are so unique (thankfully 😉 LOL!), and he was such an oinker when it came to eating; he was fun to watch. Caleb liked the Alligator Snapping Turtle…
The park has extensive hiking/nature trails, including a path that is handicap accessible, and there is a pavilion (with restrooms) that is available for rental. Near the parking lot, there is an outdoor enclosure that has several large birds in it, and there is a deer pen.
Unfortunately, we were not able to do any of the outside activities due to the weather and time constraints, but the park is a popular place for nature walks.
The Walter B Jacobs Memorial Nature Park is free to the public (they do have a donation box if you wish to contribute to their costs), and is open 7 days a week. It is an excellent place to visit to get out in a little ‘Louisiana wild’, and to learn about the area and its flora and fauna.
The tribe recommends that you give this stop at least an hour, and, if possible go during weather nice enough that you’ll want to get outside and take one of those walks (vary from a short walk around the visitor’s center to several
miles long) – but, even if the weather isn’t cooperating, stop by to check out the visitor’s center. Also, don’t forget to check out the Walter B Jacobs MNP FB page, and scroll through the upcoming events/programs to see if any of them interest you!
The park also offers to setup programs for groups/fams, with a little notice/appointment.
Located just 12 miles northwest of Shreveport, it’s a great stop when you’re in the area!