Jester Park’s Park Packs

We’ve been learning all about nocturnal animals lately, and so when I saw that Jester Park had a creatures of the night park pack, naturally we had to check it out. That very same day of course. 😉 

We were pretty delighted with our themed backpack, so I wanted to give my readers the whole scoop on our park pack experience.

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A Review of Jester Park's Park Packs

We were pretty excited to see what all came in a park pack after picking it up at the Jester Park Nature Center.

The pack came equipped in a sturdy and built-to-last backpack. Perfect for taking it on a hike, to a park, on a camping trip, or even just in your own backyard. 

The creatures of the night pack included 6 different picture books, perfect for preschool and elementary ages. There was also a fun bat puppet to go along with (such a hit with my preschooler and toddler). Featured in the pack was: 

  • Stellaluna – Such a sweet story about a bat who discovers her similarities and differences with a family of birds. This one will be joining our home library. 
  • Owl Moon – A classic story about a little girl going owling with her pops. Beautifully written. This one is also joining our home library! 
  • Night Creatures – This Scholastic book covers facts about owls and bats in a leisure reading way. The transparent pages are pretty darn neat. 
  • The Listening Walk – A great read to remind littles that they can discover so much in nature if they just slow down and use their listening ears. A good one to read before going owling or on a nature hike. 
  • Step Into the Night – This one really sparks the imagination as you explore what it would be like to be several different nighttime creatures. 
  • Fireflies – A great summer read for a firefly unit study. Beautiful photography in this living science book. 

The pack also included an easy-to-use stargazing guide to help you find common stars throughout all four seasons.

The Keepers of the Night book is an excellent resource guide for parents and teachers, as it is loaded with stories, activities, and guided learning. A great way to connect with the natural world and really appreciate it.

You’ll find some of the activities in this book included in the themed baggies below (printed off and laminated for easy access). 

The creatures of the night pack was also filled with eight different themed baggies. Most of these activities seemed to be geared towards older children, but you can definitely implement the tools to engage the little ones. 

Here’s what’s in the eight different packets: 

  1. Night Crawler Hunt: Easy guide for finding and identifying a variety of insects. 
  2. Cricket Thermometer: Figure out the temperature by counting cricket calls and using this simple formula. 
  3. Bat/Moth Echolocation: We had such a blast doing this activity as a family! It basically reminded me of Marco-Polo, but it’s such a fun way to explore how bats use echolocation to find moths and other insects to eat. Two blindfolds, an instruction sheet, and a bat fact sheet is included in the bag. There’s also some bat trivia and math problems for older children. 
  4. Moth Mash: A simple concoction recipe to attract moths and other insects to your backyard at night. Use the headlamp to help spot and identify the insects. 
  5. Firefly Flashers: This packet helps you discuss how fireflies create light from chemical reactions and that each species of firefly has a distinct pattern of light flashes, which mates use to find one another. Hand out an index card with a pattern code on it to your homeschoolers and have them flash their patterns and recognize their mates. Since this activity isn’t geared towards preschoolers, we just used the flashlights to make bats with our hands in the dark. The kiddos got a kick out of that. 
  6. Night Hike and Vision: Includes a pamphlet on night hiking in Iowa, which covers what animals you might see at night, fun facts about them, and tips for hiking at night. There’s also a list of night hiking spots for Polk county on the back. There was an instruction sheet for how to make nocturnal animal “eyes,” as well as an information sheet about cones and rods for vision. The packet stated that there should be 2 black cups included for the activity, but those appeared to be missing. However, you really just need some empty yogurt containers and black construction paper for the project. 
  7. Poetry in Your Ears: This packet encourages children to create their own poems that describe sounds of the night. There’s pencil and paper already in the packet for you as well. We really enjoyed reading what other kids had come up with. There’s also an info sheet with a nature spotlight on the Indiana bat, as well as instructions on how to make a bat mobile. 
  8. Frog/Toad Calls & Calling All Owls: This was definitely one of our favorite packets, as my kiddos loved listening to the calls of the barred owl and great horned owl. Inside the baggie you’ll find a CD with common bird songs, another CD with Iowa frog and toad calls, an information sheet on frogs and toads of Polk county, and some wildlife notes on owls (specifically the Great Horned Owl, Barred Owl, and Screech Owl). There’s also an activity where you have the kids listen to cricket calls and then use a comb and some marbles to create your own cricket chorus. 

In the very front pocket of the backpack, you’ll find 2 small collecting jars and a traveling nature journal, where your students can write down what they’ve learned using the pack and which activities they enjoyed most. 

The pack also includes a handy clipboard with some spare paper and a pack evaluation sheet for you to fill out before returning.  

How to Check Out a Park Pack

You can check out a park pack at the front desk of Jester Park’s Nature Center

You can also call ahead to see which ones are available and put one on reserve. The phone number for the front desk is (515)-323-5350. 

When you get to the Nature Center, you’ll need to fill out a quick form to check out your pack. It basically just asks for your name, address, and signature, stating that you’re liable for fees shall anything in the pack get lost or damaged. 

But the good news is is that checking one out is completely FREE. And, you get to keep it for up to 2 weeks

The nature center employees were super helpful and kind, so don’t be afraid to ask if you have any questions at all. 

Other Jester Park Park Packs

Jester Park has 11 nature themed backpacks to suite your homeschooling needs. Other themes include: 

  • Animals of Iowa
  • Birds
  • Geology Rocks
  • Insect Safari
  • Life in a Pond
  • Outdoor Skills
  • Prairies
  • Treeific 
  • Wildflowers and Plants 
  • Geocaching

You can read a short description of the different packs over on the nature center’s website

All in All...

All in all, I think the Jester Park park packs are perfect for any young naturalist. It’s such an easy, free, and fun resource for homeschool families

The creatures of the night pack covered a wide range of topics, including stargazing, echolocation, owls, crickets, and more. There’s also loads of activities geared towards a variety of ages and grades. 

We really enjoyed our park pack experience, and we can’t wait to check out some of the other ones. I can see this being one of our most utilized resources in the years to come! 

What About You?

Have you checked out any of the Jester Park Park Packs? Which ones have your homeschoolers enjoyed? Share your favorite packs and activities in the comments below and be sure to share this post with other Iowa homeschoolers.