Roadschooling

2017- Spring Roadschooling Trip to Phoenix, AZ

The Southwest was calling our name in the Spring of 2017.  In preparation for some desert adventures we researched the Desert biome, with a special interest in desert animals and plants.  We also studied caves (visiting some local Midwest sites) in order to appreciate the wonders of Kartchner Cavern. 


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Day One:
Itinerary:
Travel Day
Hiking South Mountain (Ahwatukee, AZ)

Studies:
Desert Botany
Digital Photography 
Hiking South Mountain
We were lucky enough to stay with some extended family in the Ahwautukee area of Phoenix, within walking distance of South Mountain Park.  After gearing up, we went for a hike to flex our botany skills in the desert.  It was exciting to identify desert plants and see evidence of animal activity. Each student also used their own digital camera to practice picking interesting subjects and successful framing. 
Day Two:
Itinerary:
Phoenix Zoo

Studies:
Biology (Desert Animals)
Phoenix Zoo
This zoo sprawls over 125 acres!  It was quite hot (by Minnesotan standards), so the kids started at the Desert Animal exhibit and did their roadschool assignment before taking a train ride to see the rest of the animals.  We got to watch the vultures have their breakfast before we helped feed the stingrays (decidedly NOT desert animals, but it was fun to interact with them).  We ended the day with a 4-D movie and air conditioning. Ahhhhh....
Day Three:
Itinerary:
Casa Grande National Monument

Studies:
Anthropology: Pueblo Indians
Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
After visiting Effigy Mounds National Monument, we decided it would be interesting to visit an ancient Southwestern Pueblo site and compare it to the Mound Builders of the Midwest.  Our ultimate destination was a camper cabin at Kartchner Caverns, so this was more or less on our way.

It was very interesting to see this huge ancient structure rise out of the desert.  The kids all commented on the energy/electric feel of the air.  We soon found out that Casa Grande was a very special spiritual site for the Ancient Pueblo.  As we walked around the building, we peered into openings and found a Great Horned Owl sheltering from the sun.  He looked a bit grumpy, so we wished him well and moved along so he could go back to napping.  
Day Four:
Itinerary:
Kartchner Caverns
Ostrich Ranch

Studies:
Earth Science: Caves
Zoology: Bats

Kartchner Caverns
We actually mismanaged our time somewhat and were late for our scheduled tour of the caverns the evening of Day Three.  Luckily, we were able to snatch up spaces for the first morning tour of Day Four.  It worked out really well because the kids were able to complete their cave study in the National Park exhibit space the night before the tour.

Kartchner Caverns has some of the most spectacular cave formations available for the general public to see.  We saw all kinds of magnificent spelotherms-  soda straws, huge columns and gorgeous cave bacon.  The tour culminates in a 'natural light show' that uses music and colored lights to spotlight the amazing great cavern formations.

After the tour, we headed back to Phoenix and were sucked into a roadside attraction-  RC's Ostrich Ranch!  I didn't quite know what to expect, except that it was a well-timed rest stop.  The kids had a BLAST feeding the different animals and even got to get up close and personal with some beautiful lorikeets.
Day Five:
Itinerary:
Legoland
The Heard Museum

Studies:
Art: Frida Kahlo


Legoland
We had a 'fun' morning (no worksheets required) at Legoland.  It was neat to see all the miniature creations, especially the Arizona-themed ones!
The Heard Museum
In anticipation of visiting the Heard Museum, we studied the life and works of Frida Kahlo.  The Heard was hosting the only North American stop of an exhibition featuring her works.  There were a few that were familiar to the students--  and a bunch that were new for all of us. They also had a collection of her clothing and a great kids' room with activities to bring the exhibit full circle.  
Day Six
Itinerary: 
Goldfield Ghost Town

Studies:
History (1800's Mining)

Goldfield Ghost Town
Friends recommended "Goldfield Ghost Town" as a fun 1800's experience.  There was a replica of the Goldfield mine, an 1800's steam engine, a town with all kinds of buildings, a cute saloon to have lunch in and a little "gold panning" set-up.  Completely kitschy.  Completely fun!
Day Seven
Itinerary:
OdySea Aquarium

Studies:
Biology: Penguins

OdySea Aquarium
For our last day in Phoenix, we visited an aquarium in the desert.... strange?  A little-- but the up-close personal encounter we got with the Black Footed Penguins was an incredible experience.  We attended a lecture about these wonderful aquatic birds, visited behind-the-scenes in their exhibit, and then got to play with four juvenile penguins in an enrichment room!