Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The end of a great semester!

Since we are attached to the university, our world takes place in semesters and this is the last week of the fall 2009 semester!

We capped off the last few months with our annual Holiday Nature Crafts program. This year's crafting event was a huge success; we had over 40 kids show up to make beautiful masterpieces. Some of the crafts included tree cookie ornaments, pinecone elf figurines, and coffee ground fossils. My personal favorite was artwork using sun print paper - something I remember doing as a child. In addition to crafting we snacked, colored, and played in the snow.

Things will be super slow around here through the rest of December and the beginning of January. Our staff will be enjoying their winter breaks! I'll be off to Virginia, but will be back in the New Year to fill you in on all things nature!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Are we sure it is not Winter yet?

Winter does not officially start for another couple of weeks, but Father Frost has arrived early! Man, is it cold out there! I was out at the Nature Center yesterday afternoon and all of the geese and ducks had their heads wrapped under their wings! Brrrrrr.

This past weekend, 10 volunteers braved the cold to help us out on Service Saturday. We are currently remodeling the inside of the nature center and these kind folks helped us repaint. Thanks so much! We appreciate your dedication!

We'll be staying warm this weekend during Holiday Nature Crafts. We still have some room left in this program, so don't forget to RSVP. We'll be crafting, playing games, and snacking out at the Colorado Welcome Center. Give us a call (491-1661) for more information!

In nature news, staff member, Ally, spotted two bald eagles and a golden eagle on our property last week. The Great-Horned Owl has also been making regular appearances right by the nature center. Our furry friends are harder to spot these days, but plenty of rabbits can be spotted roaming the fields in the early morning. If you are looking for something to do outside, I highly suggest bundling up and taking a walk after the sun has set (you don't have to go far, your neighborhood will do) ; you'll be amazed at what you find. After the first snow of the season a friend and I walked through campus around midnight and spotted a couple of foxes and tons of tiny mice jumping in the snow. It was really amazing!

That's it for this week. I'll be back next week with tales of nature crafts!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Our final GSE of the year and Holiday Nature Crafts!

First, I hope all of you had wonderful Thanksgivings! Whether you ate a robust feast fit for a queen or some lunchables from 711 (as one of my students did), I hope your days were filled with laughter!

As mentioned in my previous post, my family and I took a road trip to San Francisco. It was beautiful and on one hike we saw sea lions, porpoises, and a red-tailed hawk. Not to shabby for a big city walk-about.

On Monday we held our final Great School Escape of the year. Participants were full of energy, but focused enough to learn about the winter season. Students from my Environmental Education course wrote the lesson plans and objectives included everything from being able to define the term "diapause" to being able to identify types of avalanches. The weather held out for us and we had a good day!

Don't forget about our annual Holiday Nature Craft program coming up on Saturday, December 12. You can drop your kids off or come and create nature-related masterpieces with your children. Along with craft projects, we'll provide snacks, drinks, and games. This program takes place from 10am-2pm - drop by whenever you would like and stay as long as you would like. We'll be crafting in our classroom out at the Colorado Welcome Center (yup, its that funny looking building at the intersection of I-25 and East Prospect). Hope to see you there.

Have a great week and enjoy this lovely snow!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Gearing up for Thanksgiving

I've decided to use the majority of this post to relay the little bit of knowledge I have on the wild turkey. Before this, however, lets chat programs.

The Cub Scouts were finally able to earn their badges on Saturday. Though the weather was chilly, the precipitation held off long enough for the scouts to learn all about forestry and wildlife. We had a great time and are proud of all of the boys for coming prepared and ready to learn!

Monday, November 30th marks our last Great School Escape (GSE) of the semester. This one is already full, but we can certainly put your kiddos on the waiting list - just give us a call or shoot us an email. We will hold five, yes you heard that right, five, GSEs next semester. Registration for those will be up on our website by mid-January.

Mark your calendars for our annual Holiday Nature Crafts program taking place from 10am-2pm on Saturday, December 12. Drop your kids off while you do holiday shopping (or just drop 'em off and veg on the couch) or come and craft with your kids. We'll be creating masterpieces that are nature related and can be given as gifts. We'll also provide snacks and drinks and some extra games and activities. This program is free and is tons of fun (especially if you like glitter as much as I do)!

Okay, so now for some tidbits of information on the turkey. There are five subspecies of wild turkey in the United States. Here in Colorado the most common, and the subspecies considered to be Colorado's native turkey, is the Merriam's turkey. Evidence suggests that people have kept the Merriam's turkey for food here in Colorado since 500 AD! This turkey likes to live in forests between 6,000 and 9,000 feet in altitude - meaning you can find these guys (and gals) roaming around ponderosa pine, scrub oak, and pinion juniper covered regions. I've seen wild turkeys in two locations here on the Front Range: at Bobcat Ridge Natural Area and on the Lumpy Ridge Trail in Estes Park.

I recently learned that unlike the domestic turkey (the ones that most of us eat on Thanksgiving), the wild turkey can fly. In fact, they are quite fast. The wild turkey is an omnivore (most domestic turkeys are only fed corn and soybean meal) and they even eat salamanders! The wild turkey, out of necessity, is also much more quiet than its domestic counterpart. If wild turkeys made noise at even half the things that domestic turkeys do, they'd be prey in no time.

And that's all I know about the wild turkey. Feel free to share your knowledge!

My family and I will be spending our Thanksgiving in San Francisco with my sister. I may not be able to post next week, but will be back in December!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fathers and Daughters doing science together!

Hello everyone! Our Nature F.A.D. program that took place this past weekend was quite the success. Seven father-daughter pairs took part in the event. Each pair used GPS coordinates to locate five different female scientists stationed out on the ELC trails. Together dads and girls participated in hands-on activities related to the particular expertise of each scientist. They explored the fascinating worlds of geology, wildlife biology, hydrology, soil science, and fire ecology. A fun time was had by all and our staff members took a lot of pictures. Once we get those uploaded I will be sure to share them!

This weekend we will attempt to make up a couple of our cub scout programs that were cancelled in October due to the snowy weather. I've got my fingers crossed that the skies are clear on Saturday afternoon.

In nature news, I found the creature in the picture below roaming my house last night. It is a fact that I love all creatures, but not enough that I want to live with all of them. This sucker was named Bergita (after a hermit crab I once had for 14 days), promptly scooped up in a cup, and relocated to the alley across the street.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Quick update

Here, here, I do now declare that we have entered the slow season! For ELC staff that means we'll take a breather from field work, and put our planning and research hats on. For you blog-readers that means updates on programs might be a little dry, but have no fear, when possible I will liven things up with a winter wildlife tale or two.

Fright Night on the Trail went very well and, even though their was quite a chill in the air (and a lot of snow on the ground), 7 families still made it out to celebrate Halloween and learn about critters of the night. Thanks for braving the weather and taking part in this program!

This Saturday Nature F.A.D will take place. This is a program for fathers (and father figures) and their daughters. Research shows that girls' interest and success in science and science-related careers is directly related to the support of their fathers. Participants in this program will take part in field work with women scientists in various fields. We still have room in this program, so sign up now!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Conservation-minded tooth fairies...

I could not wait to write this post. I have a great tale for you that actually occured during our Octber 15th and 16th Great School Escapes. It goes something like this.

Participant: "I've lost 2 teeth in the past 2 days."
Staff member: "Do you have a tooth fairy?"
Participant: "Yes"
Staff member: "Did he or she come?"
Participant: "Not yet. I lost the first tooth yesterday and the second one this morning, so she's saving her energy and coming for both of them tonight."
Staff member: "Really. What do you mean by she's saving her energy?"
Participant: "You know, instead of coming once for each tooth she's only coming one time for both teeth. She's using less gas in her car that way."

Okay, I just thought that was the best answer ever.

Getting back to business, all 3 of Saturday's programs went very well. Girl Scout day was a success with 40 girls earning badges. Make a Difference Day also went well, but I'll let Hayes tell you more about that. The HeadStart on science fair also went really well.

As a staff we are super excited about Fright Night on the Trail this Friday from 5-7pm. Alysse has written a great lesson plan and we'll be learning all about owls, bats, spiders, and worms. Science song-writer, Mark Wesson, will also be back to serenade us in some nature songs. All ages are welcome, so RSVP soon for a great night of Halloween fun!

Don't forget about Nature F.A.D. (a program for fathers/father figures and daughters) on Saturday, November 7th. We also still have a few slots left in our November 30th Great School Escape. As always for more info on our programs, check out our website at www.cnr.colostate.edu/elc.

Have another great week!

Make a Difference Day

Some of you may have heard of, or even have been involved in, the United Way's 2009 "Make a Difference Day," a national day of volunteer service during which groups of volunteers pair up with local agencies to participate in projects aimed at development of the community. This past weekend, the Environmental Learning Center was fortunate enough to be a part of MAD Day 2009, when we hosted three groups of volunteers from the Fort Collins community. Members of Timberline Church, The Meeting Place, and Mountain View Community Church, as well as a handful of students from the CSU Key Service Community awoke extra early Saturday morning in the cold and dark to help finalize our organic garden for winter. The day consisted of hand tilling soil, mixing loads of our home grown compost, and covering garden beds with mulch in order to protect from the cold winter months.
The turnout for MAD day 2009 was great, and our volunteers completed the project much quicker than expected. On the whole, the day was full of fun and hard work, and I'm glad the ELC could participate in a program facilitating so much community interaction and service learning.
Our next opportunity for service at the ELC will be this Saturday, October 31st, or HALLOWEEN in other words! From 10am to 1pm volunteers will be reconstructing and maintaining the infamous trail system at the Nature Center, and improving the naturalness of our public grounds. I hope we will see just as many bright smiling faces in the cold and dark, ready to work for a few short hours in the morning. Also don't forget our Halloween Fright Night this Friday from 5pm to 7pm. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

In the thick of it.

Well, folks, we are three days into this glorious week. Three programs down (2 of which were all day affairs) and 7 more to go! Yep, you heard that right, 7 more to go! In fact, just this morning, George, Priscilla, and I were teaching a great group of 1st graders about plants. What a fun way to start my day!

This weekend we have Girl Scout Day for Brownie and Junior scouts. We'll be learning all about the elements. We also have Make a Difference Day, a city-wide day of service. Folks will be coming out to help us continue winterization of our garden and remove some pesky invasive plants. And, finally, we will have a table at Headstart on Science, a program for headstart families in Fort Collins.

Looking ahead a bit, we are gearing up for Halloween Fright Night on the Trail, taking place on Friday, October 30 from 5-7pm. We're going to learn all about owls, bats, and other critters that have become popular symbols of halloween. Participants are encouraged to wear their costumes (we sure will be), and we'll be handing out candy (of course).

Okay, I feel like this blog post has been a little dry. Let's end with a joke. Why did the lichens break off their relationship? It was on the rocks.

Ah ha ha. Until next week!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Snow and Mink Sightings!

Unfortunately several programs were cancelled last week due to the cold weather and snow. I'm a big fan of the seasons, but I can't say I'm ready for snow...especially during our busiest month! The wet weather put a damper on Cub Scout day, but don't worry all you merit-badge seekers, we're working on a reschedule date!

Luckily the skies are drier this week and our programs are all scheduled to go off as planned. Our Great School Escapes take place on Thursday and Friday. I am super excited about them as Brittany, Fumie, and Carolyn jam-packed them full of unique activities and a lot of outdoor romping time. I am even getting out of the office to help out on Thursday...woo-hoo!

Though this weekend is program-less (giving our staff a bit of time to breath), we have a lot of cool events coming up. Girl Scout Day takes place a week from Saturday on the 24th. Our Halloween Fright Night on the Trail happens on the 30th and our monthly Service Saturday is going to be held on the 31st (perhaps we'll see some witches using their magic to rid the ELC of the invasive Russian Olive tree).

We have some exciting critter sightings to report. Three different people have spotted mink at the ELC within the past two weeks. One of the sightings was reported by our very own program staff member, Ally Eden. According to Ally the mink ran along side her, stopped, stared her in the eyes, jumped into the river, and ran away. "How was she sure it was a mink and not a muskrat?" you ask. Well, it had a fluffy tail! Again I am super jealous and think it is time for me to start spending more time out there again instead of in front of this computer.

Have a great week everybody and don't forget to get outside with your family and friends this weekend. It's supposed to be very nice!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Yellow Jackets and Boy Scouts

Yes! As mentioned below, the Environmental Learning Center recently became under attack by a rabid swarm of yellow jackets. Crazy! The hive in question was RIGHT next to the trail entrance, and sought after following a series of stings reported by patrons and staff members. The account that follows has in no way been fabricated and the terror of the hornets was deathly(hardly). It began with a search for the nest of the beasts by, yours truly, and the bee slaying bombardier Dr. Brett L. Bruyere. Together we constructed makeshift yellow jacket-proof suits, pulling all the stops to prevent further infliction by the hoards of buzzing jackets, in an attempt to locate their source. Next we precariously attempted to mitigate the stinging swarm with our very own what-do-we-have-on-hand homemade insecticide; a clever combination of sand, dirt, and a vinegar soaked rag. After burying the nest, it was discovered that the yellow jackets, in a style comparable to Houdini, survived being buried alive and were none the happier about their mud bath vinegar shower. Next an attempt was made with fire and water, when George Foster(G-Fo) aided the good doctor Brett Lawrence Bruyere(B-Law-B) in first burning the nest in a frenzied affair and then dousing it under a torrential flood. Still, however, G-Fo and the BLawB failed in removing the enemy, and only strengthened their thirst for vengeance. In the end a professional yellow jacket-trapping device was used, and I assure you dear readers, the Y-jacks are no more. Amazingly it took being buried, burned, and flooded for them o finally buzz off, oh yeah and some vinegar.

In other news, this weekend’s program, “Owl Long Will it Take” went off without a hitch and was a huge success! Families traveled back in time to experience history firsthand when they visited various points along the path of Fort Collins unique cultural past. Native American traditions blended with Civil War era battle camps to produce an event that proved to truly be one for the ages. Big thanks to everyone who was involved!

Always be prepared, as they say in the Scouts. This Saturday, October 10th is Cub Scout Day at the Environmental Learning Center, so mark your calendar for a day full of merit badge earning and environmental learning from 10a.m. to 3p.m. Cubs, Bears, and Webelos are invited, as is anyone interested in Scouting around the nature center. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ah...the calm before the storm...err, I mean program madness!

This past weekend was as busy as most fall weekends around the ELC. On Friday we had 4 different programs going on! On Saturday we joined other informal science educators at the Northern Colorado Birding Fair where we had kiddos and adults exploring bird beak adaptations! We also had our monthly Service Saturday, but I'll let Hayes, the service guru, tell you all about that.

In contrast, this week has been relatively calm...but as referenced in the post's title, this is that eerie calm before the storm! We have programs scheduled on nearly every day of October. Unlike the spooky calm green skies before a real storm, however, our staff are cheerfully planning these upcoming programs. When this storm hits there will only be floods of fun and lightning flashes of learning!

Get your feet wet in all this program madness starting this Friday at our Full Moon Program. Mark Wesson will be leading us in songs about nature and science around the campfire. On Saturday we have another program for families - Owl Long Will it Take?

In other news, our October Great School Escapes are full! We are also busily planning our Halloween Fright Night (mark your calendars for the evening of October 30).

Last Friday I helped facilitate a teacher training and happened to find a black widow spider while on my lunch break. I was super psyched and slightly creeped out. You know that feeling when you catch something weird in a jar and you are almost scared to touch the jar? Luckily my curiosity was too high to allow my fear to get the best of me. That sucker was really cool!

Last Thursday the ELC staff got together for our first staff bonding of the year. We played a great game about gold miners. We got to romp around our property and find 'gold' while avoiding 'robbers' - so much fun. We did, however, have two people injured - with yellow jacket stings. The injured were honorary staff member, Kaija Stafford (my 17 month old daughter) and new program staff member, Gemara (who was stung not once, but six times). All are fine, but the same can't be said for the yellow jacket nest. Yes, we love all living creatures, but we can't have yellow jackets hanging around the entrance to our trails, so Brett and Hayes took it upon themselves to remove the suckers...I'll let Hayes tell you about Operation Yellow Jacket and I'll make sure he shows you the picture of he and Brett in their Operation Yellow Jacket uniforms (its a really good one, I promise).

Hope to see you on Friday and Saturday!

Monday, September 21, 2009

What a Weekend!!!

This weekend started off with our staff preparing for the 10th annual Sustainable Living Fair here in Fort Collins. The CSU Environmental Learning Center was well represented on both Saturday and Sunday by staff members Tommy "The Taskmaster" Rokita, the "Very Vivacious" Veronica Kinn, Alysse "I'll Be There!" Brice, Hayes "Have you seen my ELC shirt?" Seubert, Carolyn "Woman in Control" Wilson, and Fumie the "Furiously Fastidious" Hiromitsu. These fine ELC-ers made it their mission to bring the noise to the community in terms of our awesome upcoming fall programs. Parents and children alike were enamoured by our science/wildlife display as well as our mad cognitive/emotional poster board skills, while various random visitors inquired about our Mink, which became a reoccuring confirmation throughout the day. It might also be pertinent to note that our furs on display were donated by the Colorado Division of Wildlife and that these animals were NOT tortured and murdered helplessly just so we could gaze upon their beautiful pelts, as one rather obtuse gentlemen was convinced. Regardless, the Sustainability Fair was a lot of fun and a huge help in outreach to the community.

Also this weekend, our Nature Center got a makeover thanks to the help of Collin "The Craftsman" Jacobsen, who constructed entirely new shelves on which to organize our millions of educational tools and tid-bits(a much needed improvement at the ELC). Collin has also been working on shoring up loose boards on the suspension bridge, replacing split-rail fence posts, and basically fixing whatever is made of wood using his excellent carpentry skills. The ELC garden also got some overdue attention on Friday, when volunteers helped harvest some of the final vegetables of the season, adding to our total harvest of 850+ pounds(YEAH!). Work went into winterproofing the garden for the upcoming months and preparing our compost pile for and even better season next spring. We also came across the largest caterpillar I've ever seen, which I was informed, was actually a Tomato Hornworm, a common garden pest that defoliates garden plants including Tomatoes, Potatoes, Eggplants and Peppers. Check it out!

In other news, the very first Great School Escape of this fall is happening NOW, Monday September 21st at the Nature Center. Today's program involves "Using Good Sense," and provides kids an opportunity for fun and learning using all five senses. Remember parents, when school is canceled its ELC to the rescue! Our next scheduled escape is scheduled for October 15th and 16th, Thursday and Friday so sign up soon.

This Saturday September 26th is also our first Service Saturday of this fall! The last Saturday of every month is reserved for volunteer help at the Nature Center, so come out and lend a hand from 10am to 2pm with varous projects and improvements at the ELC. Hope to see you There!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Great School Escapes, Snapping Turtles and Tons of New Staff!

Happy Tuesday everyone! Our Fall programs are in full swing. Using Good Sense, our first Great School Escape of the semester takes place next Monday and is completely full! We're going to have a great time exploring the 5 senses that we share with other animals and other senses that some animals have that we don't. Our October 15, October 16, and November 30 Great School Escapes only have a few spots left. So, sign those kiddos up now!

In other news, a snapping turtle was spotted on our trails last week. When I heard this I was so jealous. I have worked here for six years now and have never seen a turtle on our property - beaver, muskrats, deer, coyote, and the ever-elusive stray cat family, but never a turtle! It's time to hit the trails by the river and put my turtle-detecting skills to work!

Parents, you may have noticed some new faces at the ELC lately. We have eleven new staff members on board this year! More than half of our previous staff graduated in the spring, so Brett and I had to go on a hiring spree. Rosemary, Alysse, Ally, Carolyn, Emily, Priscilla, Gemara, and Veronica have joined our program staff. Collin and Sean have joined our maintenance/volunteer management staff. In addition, graduate student, Kate, is our new Diversity Outreach Coordinator. These new folks will be learning the ropes from our returning staff members - George, Hayes, Tommy, Brittany, Joanna, and Fumie. As always, the ELC has attracted the best and the brightest in our college (and even a few from some other colleges on campus).

Enjoy the rest of your week!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

We're blogging!

Hi ELC fans! We've started a blog so parents, volunteers or anyone who is just curious can be kept more regularly up to date on what's going on at the ELC. Parents can check on the latest program registration information; volunteers can see what opportunities are coming up for donating their time; and anyone who's interested can get a better idea of what's going on in the day-to-day world at our organization!

The bloggers for this our Nicole Stafford, our program director; and Hayes Seubert, our volunteer and service coordinator. Nicole has been around for awhile; she started at the ELC almost seven years ago as one of environmental educators. Hayes, on the other hand, has been around just a few months and has learned the ropes!

Nicole: We're now entrenched in our Fall program season after a successful summer of day camps and gardening. Great School Escapes are scheduled for all four Poudre School District in-service and parent conference days, and registration is in full swing. If you want to register your child, do it soon! The slots are filling up, and the first date is just two weeks away on September 21.

We also have our second Picnic on the Poudre event this Saturday (Sept 12) from 11am-3pm at Magpie Meander Natural Area. We'll have activities, food, supplies, and programs led in Spanish as well. Join us! The price couldn't be better (free!).

Hayes: Our garden has produced nearly 800 pounds (the equivalent of one gorilla) of organically grown produce for the Food Bank of Larimer County. Volunteers, we need you to help us harvest the last of it before the first frost; there are more tomatoes and zucunni to come. We had our first-ever "Garden Happy Hour" this past Friday and came up with a few more boxes worth of produce, followed by some true happy hour appetizers and relaxation. The next one is Friday, September 18 from 4-6pm. Join us!! Overall, our focus the next month will be on late-season harvesting and then closing up the garden for the season.

Enjoy the three day weekend. More blogging to come!