Archive for the ‘Nature Stories’ Category

Meet The Outdoor Play #GNO Twitter Party Panelists…proving that play trumps politics any day!

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Visit www.momitforward.com to learn more about #GNO!

Tonight, from 9-11 p.m. EST (7-9 p.m. MST), Sanborn Western Camps is sponsoring a #GNO Twitter Party with host Mom It Forward about the Benefits of Outdoor Play for Kids (and Adults!).

The Twitter hashtag #gno stands for “Girls (& Guys!) Night Out”.  Once you are on Twitter, do a search on the hashtags #gno and #sanborncamps to join the chat or follow the chat and tweet using Tweetgrid.  This promises to be a very informative, fun conversation with folks from all over the country.  It will get you pumped up to get your whole family outside this weekend (and maybe even tomorrow morning)  as well as give you information about the importance of play, summer camp, the Children in Nature movement, educational trends, and much, much more!

As some additional motivation to stop by, Sanborn Western Camps is giving away a full Sanborn Junior tuition (or a 1/2 tuition for the full term) for summer 2012 or 2013,  based on availability.  Visit momitforward.com for more details on how to enter.

We wanted to take a moment to thank all of our panelists for tonight’s #gno party.  They are incredible people to follow on Twitter and in the blogosphere.  We look forward to their insights and contributions during tonight’s event.  Play on!

Our tremendous panelists include:

@acacamps The American Camp Association (formerly known as the American Camping Association) is a community of camp professionals who, for nearly 100 years, have joined together to share our knowledge and experience and to ensure the quality of camp programs. Because of our diverse 7,000 plus membership and our exceptional programs, children and adults have the opportunity to learn powerful lessons in community, character-building, skill development, and healthy living — lessons that can be learned nowhere else. Dawn Swindle, head of ACA Publications (both print and web) will be tweeting using @acacamps and also @acacampparents during tonight’s #gno Twitter party.  With her years at ACA, and as a long time camp professional, Dawn is a great resource for parents and camp professionals alike.  Learn more about ACA and their rigorous camp accreditation process by visiting www.acacamps.org.

@acacampparents CampParents.org is a comprehensive summer camp resource for families—offering expert advice from camp professionals on camp selection, readiness, child and youth development, and issues of importance to families. ACA helps you find the right camp for every child.  Learn more about ACA and use the impressive camp finder tool at www.campparents.org.

@activekidsclub Kari Svenneby is not a professional tree hugger, though she is a proud wildcrafter and self-proclaimed “Polar Bear Mother.”  She is an urban mother, librarian and classically trained chef championing the benefits exposure to nature gives children.  She is so passionate about getting kids outside, Kari made it is her business. When looking for inspirational ideas about the natural world in magazines and online she found very little. Her passion turned into a business idea. She has set out to make an exciting website connecting children with nature for adults and kids.  Thus activekidsclub.com was born.  Kari is a “love refuge” from Norway who speaks 6 languages, and her posts and tweets offer a unique cultural perspective on natural play that are not to be missed.

@banteringblonde Fiona Bryan is a techno-goddess.  She blogs about social media and all things “banter-worthy” at Banteringblonde.com, was a 2009 Top #50 Tweeple on PRSarahEvans.com, and writes regularly for the popular blog Technorati.  Her passion for motivating and empowering women to be positive role models for their families led her to found MomActive in early 2009.  Momactive is a multi-media outreach initiative that includes a weekly Blog Talk Radio program, MomTV live stream video program, and the MomActive.com community and blog.  Fiona hope to check off a bucket item list sometime this spring when she takes a trip down The Nature Place’s zipline with her friend, Ariella Rogge from @sanborncamps.  As a former camper and current Director of Marketing and Public Relations for New England Music Camp (@nemusiccamp), Fiona appreciates and understands the growth and wisdom that comes from a summer camp experience.

@ChildrenNature The Children & Nature Network (C&NN) was created to encourage and support the people and organizations working nationally and internationally to reconnect children with nature. The network provides a critical link between researchers and individuals, educators and organizations dedicated to children’s health and well-being.  Typically hosted by Suz Lipman ( see below for more info about @slowfamily) who is a writer, blogger at www.slowfamilyonline.com, soapcrafter, jammaker, hiker, retro-enthusiast, and who claims she will work for peace, justice & cheese.  For @ChildrenNature, Suz shares incredible information, research, and cutting edge ideas with parents, educators, researchers, camps and like-minded organizations who are passionate about getting kids outdoors. 

@GoExploreNature Debi Huang is a Los Angeles-based wife, mom and adventure guide for two young boys.  Her blog, Go Explore Nature, is a place for her to share her family’s nature adventures. She hopes to inspire you to get your family outside, too. She has weekly reviews of nature adventures (her recent holiday beach trip was a favorite of the frigid mountain set); she also shares stories, inspirations and lessons learned from nature; and she has THE cure for the #FF blues: “Fun Friday” activities that feature simple ways to connect your kids with the natural world (reader favorites include a winter scavenger hunt and taking a color walk.)  She is a prolific blogger and an anchor in the Children in Nature movement.  But our favorite thing about Debi?  She has been writing letters (REAL MAIL!!) to her Big Explorer and Little Explorer since before they were born.

@hoo_dee_hoo Meredith Sinclair is a Chicago-land mother hung up her teacher hat after having kids, started a blog to “find” her writing voice, and now writes and vlog on her own site and Chicagoparent.com about daily life as a full-time mom of two young boys and the challenge of maintaining her vengeful girlie side in a home fueled by undistilled testosterone.  She believes PLAYtime is vital to our health and well being…not to mention it makes us all WAY less grumpy…however, if you ARE feeling grumpy, you should just take a moment to watch Meredith talk about the game Pajaggle in her Holiday Play-list post.  Her enthusiasm, and great ideas, are contagious!

@ImaginationSoup Melissa Taylor is a freelance writer, an award winning educational blogger at ImaginationSoup.net, an award winning teacher with a M.A. in Education, the Book Editor-at-Large for Colorado Parent Magazine and a parent of two children, ages 5 and 8. As a teacher, she won Outstanding Teacher in Douglas County Schools. She worked or the non-profit P.E.B.C. as an instructional coach and trainer and hosted groups of teachers in her classroom for learning labs.  Taylor understands instruction, literacy, assessment, differentiation, learning styles, multiple intelligences, learning disabilities and curriculum. Taylor hopes Imagination Soup will gives parents plenty of ideas to keep their kids learning every day…mostly by keeping learning fun and playful!

@JylMomIF Jyl Johnson Pattee lives, works, and breathes a special kind of magic.  As the founder of MomItForward.com, Jyl combines a passion for communication and people, and she launched the site in 2008 with the mission to “change the world one mom at a time.”  We think the concept is a perfect use for value-added social media (and a great metaphor for human relations all the way around)—great ideas are TOO great not to be shared.  She is THE hostess of the weekly #gno parties on Twitter, which started in September 2008. Jyl is known as a “connector” who brings good ideas and people together both on and offline to make a positive impact for causes and brands through education and sharing of experiences.  Jyl is also a tremendous mother to two active boys, an intrepid traveler, the creator of the EVO conference, a wonderful writer, an occasionally irreverent wife to Troy, and a great friend to any parent online.  Please take the time to visit her and learn more about Jyl, the EVO conference, the Mom It Forward movement, #gno and much, much more at www.momitforward.com.

@kaboom KaBOOM! is the national non-profit dedicated to saving play. Children today spend less time playing outdoors than any previous generation, a fact that is having disastrous consequences on their health, achievement levels, and overall well-being. To fight this play deficit, social entrepreneur Darell Hammond founded non-profit KaBOOM! in 1996 in Washington, D.C. with a vision of creating a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America. Since then, KaBOOM! has mapped over 89,000 places to play, built more than 2,000 playgrounds, and successfully advocated for play policies in hundreds of cities across the country. KaBOOM! also provides communities with online tools to self-organize and take action to support play on both a local and national level. Hammond chronicles the founding of the organization and the importance of the cause of play in his The New York Times Best Seller KaBOOM!: How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play. The book details how businesses and communities can work together to save play for children across the country. All author proceeds support KaBOOM!. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., KaBOOM! also has offices in Chicago and San Mateo, Calif. For more information, visit www.kaboom.org.

@sanborncamps Ariella Rogge, Program Director/Assistant Director/Outdoor (and indoor) Educator/Social Media Junkie/Mom of Two Boy Wonders/Toilet Plunger, manages the @sanborncamps Twitter account both day (and more consistently) by night.  Ariella has been involved in some capacity (see “Toilet Plunger”) at Sanborn Western Camps since she was 12.  She is a true believer in the transformational power of the camp experience for all children because for her, like Richard Louv (author of “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder) says, “The woods were my Ritalin. Nature calmed me, focused me, and yet excited my senses.”  She would love to answer any questions you might have about summer camp (or help direct you to the right person!)—either at Sanborn or anywhere else—feel free to email her at ariella at sanbornwesterncamps dot com.

@slowfamily “Slow down. Enjoy lost arts and each other. Trade frenzy for fun.”  Suz Lipman’s About Slow Family page is about as far from a traditional bio as one can get…and that is exactly as it should be.  Conceived to connect to that part of ourselves and our families that somehow got lost in the shuffle of our busy lives, the Slow Movement speaks to all of us who have had enough:  “Enough” to super-parenting and consumerism and running around (“racing to yoga”, as it were) and not being happy anyway. As Suz says, the Slow Movement is really about having more fun. It’s also about being authentic, deciding what’s really important, restoring a sense of wonder, appreciating and helping one other, and taking time to enjoy and honor life’s simple pleasures in the relatively short time we’re all here together.  Amen to that!

@TroyPattee Troy Pattee is a Man Among Women.  Troy is THE “G” in #GNO.  Troy’s wife, Jyl, founded the Twitter #GNO (Girls Night Out) party—and has brought her affable “Guy” with her to every event.  @sanborncamps first connected on Twitter with Troy—and later with Jyl—because he has an unnerving propensity to be skiing EXACTLY when we wish WE were skiing (and, we’ll admit it, sometimes the snow IS better in Utah).  Troy has a fabulous blog called Dadventurous.com where he will be sharing tales and adventures with other like minded dads…and—knowing Troy–probably moms, too.  Check out the blog at www.dadventurous.com and hang with him during the weekly Tuesday night #gno Twitter parties.

@windycitymomma Renee Keats is an urban mom living in the suburbs who defies classification, writes thoughtful blog posts about her adventures in (and out) of her neighborhood (which she calls Utopia/Pleasantville) that can be found at Windy City Momma.  She lives in Pleasantville with her husband, daughter (K), and a wickedly funny cat named Sabine who has changed family dog’s (Maya) name to “Beast.”  She loves having green space, growing a mostly organic garden and quotes from John Hughes movies almost as much as a circa 1987 Big Spring camper.

Top 10 Holiday Inspirations From the Natural World

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Broomball=Family Fun! (Helmets are always a good idea!)

10.  Outdoor Ice Skating…especially fun on ponds.  Broomball is a great game for the whole family.  Part hockey, part hilarious this game is a slippery way to burn off a few of the too-many-holiday-cookies calories.

9.  Animal tracks.  Fresh snow, or even wintertime mud, is a great way to discover the critters in your neighborhood.  See if your kids can identify the differences between canine and feline tracks, and try to find a mouse track (the impression left by the tail is a great way to identify one).

8.  Outdoor icicles.  The ones hanging on your Christmas tree are nice…but the ones hanging from the tree in your front yard have historical legacy….and are much tastier.

7.  Quiet nights.  Long, star-filled night skies make for great evening walks and story telling.  Check out H.A. Rey’s The Stars for stories about wintertime constellations like Orion and Gemini.

Eating snow is a favorite winter activity, too!

6.  Going sledding and building snow people.  One of the times you are guaranteed not to have to cajole your children into multiple layers of clothes, but you might need to cajole them to come inside for dinner.

5.  Making holiday decorations from natural objects.  Besides cutting down your own tree (a great family tradition), you can make fragrant wreaths, centerpieces, and door swags from the nature that you have nearby.

Pinecone Bird Feeder

4.  Creating animal trees.  The animals will appreciate a few treats around the holidays, and nothing is better than peanut butter-birdseed-pinecone ornaments.  The birds (and maybe your dog) will love you forever.

3.  Seeing different (read: not evergreen) trees illuminated by lights.  One winter, in La Paz, MX,  I saw a palm tree wrapped in a strand of multi-colored lights and now I look for out-of-the-ordinary trees and bushes that have been festooned for the holidays.  Most recently: a pile of stacked tumble weeds illuminated by a farmhouse on the Kansas prairie.

2.  All-NATURAL workout.  Shoveling snow and scraping ice?  Thank you, Mother Nature, for the requisite motivation to get out and move this morning.

1.  A REAL Context for Christmas Carols.  While we walk in a winter wonderland, we can build Frosty the Snowman because, now the ground is white, and we are heedless of the wind and weather. O’er the fields we go, laughing all the way to where the treetops glisten, and to where all is calm and all is bright.  We are caroling out in the snow, while fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains remind us that heaven and nature sing.  We were expecting a silent night, but the sun was hot that day, then—with a look down from the sky—we shouted, “Let it snow!”   The snow came upon a midnight clear, and folks dressed up like Eskimos.  In fields as they lay making snow angels with their friends and family, those of us who love the natural world hope that all your Christmases be white.







Happy Holidays!

Holiday Listening Skills: The Reason for The Visit

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Taking time to listen...all year long

How are your listening skills? Today is the Colorado Outdoor Education Center’s annual holiday luncheon at The Nature Place.  It is our opportunity to get everyone from the different departments at COEC together for a meal and some quality story telling, some questionable singing, and some good listening.  This is a holiday tradition that has been part of Sanborn for decades.

Story telling is an essential part of the holiday season, it allows us to take a deep breath and immerse ourselves in the history of the past year with our friends and family.  It allows us to remember those we have lost, and celebrate the triumphs of childhood and share our quest for sanity in parenthood.  It allows us the opportunity to listen at a deeper level.

In the excellent article, In Africa, The Art of Listening, author Henning Mankell reminds us why “humans have two ears and only one tongue”.  Much holiday family time revolves around “visits” to different places to see different people…yet a “visit” is also a time to chat and, more importantly, to listen.  It is around these holiday tables that I learned my history and began to define my own set of stories to help explain my distinct sense of self.

One of my family’s favorite stories was about Sandy Sanborn.  My uncle, Charlie, does an amazing Sandy impression and his favorite story is a humorous retelling of The Day The Sheriff Came.  “Chandler” (as my uncle was known) was the Garbage Man at Big Spring.  The day the sheriff arrived (for reasons never known), Sandy had my uncle hide—and then began to tell everyone that “Chandler” was a wanted man.  At the next meal, a shot was fired outside the lodge, and–in dramatic fashion–my uncle crashed through the front doors….covered in ketchup.  (This was always the point in the story my dad would mutter, “My kids are NEVER going there…”)  I don’t remember what happened next—but I’m certain it involved Sandy’s deep belly laugh…a laugh that I had heard imitated for years before I actually heard it in person.

Children LOVE your stories.  They will readily become enraptured as you tell stories about your favorite gifts, most memorable holiday moments, and the history of the traditions you practice and remember.  They want to hear your stories about everything: school, camp, love, adventure, embarrassment, and mistakes.  A good story will teach a lesson…but the listener might not realize the lesson for years to come.  Your stories will shape their paths, and they will return to them again and again to gain more and more knowledge about the world.

In a world where information is ubiquitous, time is a valuable resource, and there are innumerable technological distractions that take away from these “visits” it is important to take time to pause, reflect, remember and share.  Whether we know it or not, we all crave the knowledge those moments provide.  As Mankell says, “Many people make the mistake of confusing information with knowledge. They are not the same thing. Knowledge involves the interpretation of information. Knowledge involves listening.”

During this holiday season, we hope you take time to tell a story or two, listen to the stories being told, and watch for the new stories being created.

Happy Holidays!






Tails from the Barn Coming Soon!

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

Introducing: A new section of the Sanborn Blog!  Tails from the Barn will chronicle the lives of our favorite four-legged friends during the on- and off-season at Sanborn.  Ever wonder what CindyLou does all winter long?  Curious about what Popcorn looks like in her full winter coat?  Want to check in on Cowboy?  Here’s where you’ll find that information and more, including Four-Legged Profiles, New Arrivals, Horsey News and Updates all relating to Sanborn’s Riding Program.

Stay tuned for updates on our favorite friendly four-leggeds.


Click here for more Tails from the Barn.







Where are we? Colorado! What are we? Mountain Mamas!

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

Camp Kids at the "Rockin" SWC table

On Monday, we had the opportunity to be part of the Colorado Mountain Mamas Spring Fling.  Colorado Mountain Mamas is a hiking club for moms living on the Colorado Front Range.  They have a chapter in Denver and one in Colorado Springs.  CMM offers hikes for moms with babies newborn to 2 years in a pack (with three different levels of difficulty) and also hikes for toddlers ages 2 to 5.

CMM was founded in 2003 by Joy Opp (a former Colorado Springs native and 6th grade attendee of HTOEC) after the birth of her daughter, Amanda.  The club has grown to over 2,000 members trekking the trails with their seven hike leaders.

The Audubon Center--a great facility!

Their annual Spring Fling event attracted over 300 outdoorsy individuals to The Audubon Center at Chatfield Reservoir in south Denver to hike on the trails, hang out with the red-winged blackbirds, make cool crafts, check out great vendors, and play Nature Bingo with Mike and Ariella from Sanborn Western Camps!

We loved meeting all the moms, dads and grandparents who are passionate about getting their kids into the outdoors.  We gave away 3 copies of our new book 101 Nature Activities for Kids and donated one to Colorado Mountain Mamas and one to the Audubon Center for their future programs.   We encourage you to visit Amazon.com to order a copy for your family, classroom, nature club, youth group, or just to share with your neighbors.

101 Nature Activities for Kids

We often share some of those 101 nature activities on our  Sanborn Western Camps blog–so like us on Facebook so you won’t ever miss a post!  Our blog is also a great place to stay current on everything going on within the Children in Nature movement, find fun outdoor activities to do with your kids, and to find great tools and techniques to incorporate into your own outdoor parenting, grandparenting, and teaching style.

Additionally, April is Children in Nature Awareness month—and there will be plenty of opportunities to get your kids outside in the upcoming weeks.  Plan, or plan to attend, a Let’s G.O. (Get Outside) event for your favorite play group, a school field trip, or home school community.

Check out the Children and Nature Network on Facebook to stay up to date on ideas, activities, articles, legislation, and more.  Keep the outdoors part of childhood…keep hiking, playing, and doing what you are doing with your family, friends, and neighbors.

We love Mountain Mamas and Dadventurers–let’s get these kids outside!







Beyond 101 Nature Activities—Part I: Thinking Outside the Bag

Monday, February 14th, 2011

In his 150th ACA Anniversary keynote address, Joe Ehrmann noted that a recent study of elderly individuals in this country showed—if they could “do it all over again” they would take more risks, reflect more, and do more things that would live on after they were gone. This is the very stuff of childhood…and it is disappearing.

Risk taking is being undercut by our culture of fear and oppression. Reflection is giving way to constant motion and unending distraction. Taking action that makes the world a better place is seen as too idealistic and unattainable to people who are accustomed to the instant gratification our society so readily provides.

101 Nature Activities for Kids--from Sanborn authors Elizabeth Rundle and Jane Sanborn

Yet we can reverse this trend. We can reconnect children, and their parents, teachers, and mentors, with the outdoors and with themselves. We can reignite their sense of wonder.

At the recent American Camp Association conference in San Diego,CA, Sanborn leadership team members Elizabeth Rundle and Ariella Rogge led a presentation entitled, “Beyond 101 Nature Activities.” The goals of the session were to:

1. Help participants engage and reconnect with their sense of wonder.
2. Demonstrate ways to teach other staff members, adults (parents/community members) and mentors the value and importance of outdoor play.
3. Learn tools, activities and strategies to get kids outdoors, and—in some cases—help them learn or re-learn how to play and how to just BE.

The “Thinking Outside the Bag” activity reminds us that our world views can sometimes be fixed and grounded in the known and the familiar. Yet children operate in a day-to-day world that is both unknown and highly unfamiliar—sometimes a little uncomfortable and scary—but mostly unexplored, uninhibited, and experience-rich. So we wanted to push our participants gently into that same unfamiliar space—back through that door of the known, and into the world of imagination, fun, and possibility.

Each participant was given a paper bag with a random natural object hidden inside. From here, participants were asked to transcend their “adult” (and somewhat “fixed” mindset) and connect with the children they once were. Using only their sense of touch as their guide, participants explored their object and answered the following, very unscientific and very imaginative questions:

• What color does your object feel like?
• What does this object smell like to a mouse?
• Where would this object be camouflaged?
• Would your dog eat it? Why or why not?
• What sort of creature might use this object and how?

A lively discussion ensued in which we “juiced up our imaginations” and “had fun.” In a few short moments, we had shifted our focus into the world of possibility, imagination and wonder. Yet the joy, surprise and amazement that followed when participants actually saw their natural objects was almost as rich as the sense-deprived, imaginative experience in the first place.

Take a walk this afternoon, gather a handful of natural objects, hide them in bags for your family, and then come up with your own creative, imagination-juicing questions to help them—and you—reconnect with that forgotten sense of wonder, and that vast, untapped realm of the imagination.

What questions will you ask?







More Support For Children’s Play

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Camps have known about the importance and power of play for a long time. As outdoor educators and youth development professionals we do all that we can to promote children’s use of imagination, creative play, developing relationships, understanding of self and others, self-esteem, and appreciation for the outdoors (to name a few).

Research has been done and published promoting these lessons and the chance for children to play and explore. The New York Times published an article today about efforts made to promote play. This article supports our parents’ efforts to encourage their children to use their imaginations, disengage from video games, computers, and TV. We have long recognized and try to share the importance of free play and getting kids outdoors as a way to take advantage of imaginative play. Children need recess, camp, time in the backyard to develop and refine the life and relationship skills that are hard to learn in the classroom or on the soccer team.

Central Park hosted the Ultimate Block Party in October to promote the importance of play in children’s lives. While the party’s over, the Web site provides additional resources and research for parents. Just looking at the number of sponsors and endorsements the group received was inspiring for me to see the number of people and organizations that support the movement to get children playing.

Throughout the past year we have shared ideas and benefits of creative and imaginative play with our readers. As I searched our archives and reread what we’ve written, I realized that I couldn’t share every post that we’ve written, so I tried to limit the links (as hard as it was).  These are just a few links to check out some of our ideas for helping children and parents helping their children get back to unstructured (while supervised) play: Snowy Day ActivitiesBring on the Sunscreen,Parent Lessons from CampGo Play OutdoorsHooray for the Wild ChildMore PlayTime for a Special PlaceAdventures with the 5 Senses, and Reconnect With Your Sense of Wonder. Sometimes children just need props to get their creative juices flowing and other times we try to provide limited guidance to help children feel comfortable with the idea of free play.

With greater recognition, support, and effort we can all help children reconnect with their childhood and enjoy playing again.

A Shiny New Outdoor Adventure

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

On the lake at Lakewood Discovery Center, Salina, KS

Visits with family during the holidays can be, um, challenging.  I love to hang out in non-child-proofed, 80+ degree homes, full of adults and Limoge-like breakables as much as the next mom…but my kids go beserk.

Of course, the promise of presents, and the overarching threat of the “naughty” list can keep them in check for a few days, but not indefinitely.  After the presents are opened and the World’s Greatest New Beeping Plastic Toy has lost its allure, I watch them begin their descent into the worst holiday-time illness out there: Cabin Fever.

Fortunately, my husband and I know the symptoms: roving eyes, subversive touching of “breakable” objects, the use of shoes/stuffed animals/cups/hard plastic animals as baseballs, and—of course—the act of stuffing one’s younger brother into a cupboard against his will.  Somewhere between almost breaking Grandma’s crystal cardinal and feeding the baby large chunks of Hubba Bubba gum, we seek a cure: let’s go outside.

Checking out the salamanders

During our last visit to Salina, KS—home to the excellent Rolling Hills Zoo and Museum—our sons began exhibiting rather significant symptoms about 2 hours before dusk (you know, around 2 p.m.).  We didn’t have enough time to head out to the zoo, but we had heard of an alternative: The Lakewood Discovery Center.

Located in northeastern Salina right next to Lakewood Lake, this hands-on center is run by the Salina Parks and Recreation Department and it is a top-notch facility for families, school groups, and others looking for an opportunity to get outdoors and to gain knowledge and insight about some of Kansas’primary flora and fauna.

Built in a donated home, the downstairs houses some nice animal dioramas and a few live amphibians and reptiles, a fun puppet theatre and small library for budding naturalists to research the discoveries made during their hikes on the trails around the lake.  The upstairs of the center has more “hands-on” activity stations: mask-making, sensory identification, Who Lives in This Tree, owl pellet dissections, fur and skull identification, and much more.

Skunk pelt in the What's Is It? Sensory Exhibit

My sons and niece really enjoyed the animal mask making station and trying to identify animals based on the sounds they make.  We also had fun attempting to name all of the birds on a beautiful mural in the hall.

The Peligret

Afterwards, we went out to hike some of the trails and were amazed by the various shapes and sizes (and sticking power) of the seed heads on the plants and grasses which lined the trails.  At the lake my boys discovered they could make the coolest noises by throwing various rocks onto the ice—and, as we were getting ready to leave, a giant bird arrived which looked like a mix between a pelican and an egret.

It was a highlight of the entire holiday…and when we returned from our outdoor adventure, the holiday chaos had been put into perspective.  If your holiday travels include a foray on I-70 or I-35–plan to stretch your your legs and mind at the Lakewood Discovery Center–your holiday psyche (and your children) will thank you.

May you all have a blessed, nature-full, holiday season!

Wordless Wednesday Wisdom

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.” -Edward Abbey-

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.” -Edward Abbey-

Ariella and the Wild Animals

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Hanging up the "Carrot Chain"

Two of our favorite winter and holiday season children’s books are Annie and the Wild Animals by Jan Brett and The Christmas Cat by Efner Tudor Holmes. Using the beautiful weather and our multiple readings over the last week as inspiration, the boys and I went out this weekend to create/decorate an “animal tree” to help the animals celebrate the holidays with some special treats. Little did I know it would become a rather “special treat” and a memorable story of outdoor adventure for all of us.

We sat on the ground and hung apple slices on string loops, made a rather unique “carrot chain”, and spent most of the afternoon slathered with peanut butter from the peanut butter birdfeeders we made. After my sons rolled some “peanut butter balls” under the car (“Rolling peanut butter balls under the car is a good choice if we were actually looking to adopt a small fuzzy animal as an in-vehicle mascot—but it is a bad choice when we are trying to sell the car”) and playing a long game of “keep the pinecone away from the dog”—we carried all of our completed treasures out to our chosen animal tree.

In Annie and the Wild Animals, Annie is looking for a new pet (her cat, Taffy, has disappeared)—and hopes that by leaving homemade corn cakes at the edge of the wood, an appropriately fuzzy pet will arrive and cure her loneliness. In The Christmas Cat, an abandoned cat is rescued by a nameless, highly compassionate man who arrives in the woods bearing gifts of food for all

The Birds are REALLY Excited

of the woodland creatures.

As we decorated the animal tree, our conversation turned toward the similarities of the two books and we came up with these take-aways:
• Cats are THE pet to have (“Mom, please! We really NEED a cat!”)
• Woodland animals really like people food (“just like Sula!”-our dog)
• Animals like surprises, too
• Being lonely isn’t very fun

Yet, just like the cosmic irony that kept attracting every giant creature of the woods to Annie’s corn cakes, I discovered the very next morning that—no matter what the books say—when you get up and go outside, amazing things happen.

Early the next day, by the light of Orion’s belt and nothing else, my people-food-eating dog and I set out for a run—and this is where I realized some of our take-aways were slightly off:
• Dogs are THE pet to have…especially when there are giant animals in your yard
• Woodland animals really DO like people food—A LOT

Animal Tree in Progress

• Animals DON’T really like surprises
• Being alone in the dark might actually be better than being alone in the dark with a lot of other really large wild creatures which are big enough to make your people-food-eating dog bark in a way that makes you think YOU are about to BE “people-food.”

So the animal tree was a success, AND I incorporated some wind-sprints into my early morning routine. After sharing my tale of crashing elk (or something) in our yard, my son said, “Wow! Now we need to get MORE animals to come! We need to get some salmon for the bears, some meat for the coyotes, more carrots for the rabbits, some

hay for the deer, more seeds for the mice, and ……”

….maybe another dog.

-Post by Ariella Rogge