P1060125  I can’t believe that it’s almost September! I really don’t know where the summer has gone. Our September g2g Outside event is coming up in less than 2 weeks! It is going to be held here at the Sedgwick County Extension Office.

Treats, Treks, & Toodle-oo’s

When: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 from 6-7 p.m.

Where: Meet in the Demonstration Garden at the Sedgwick County Extension Office (It’s on the Ridge Road side of the building) for some treats and then we’ll head off on some treks! We’ll be walking on our Nature Trail and perhaps have a scavenger hunt of our grounds as well.

Who: Anyone that’s bringing a child with them!

Cost: FREE!

No RSVPs are necessary.

So, the treats and the treks part of this event are pretty obvious. Maybe you’re wondering about the “Toodle-oo’s” part?

Well, that’s the other part of the news. Those of us that have been working with g2g Outside for the last 5 years have made the decision to end the program after this year. We have lost staff in the past couple of years and all of us, including our partner agencies, have been taking on new and different job responsibilities, leaving less and less time for g2g Outside. I’m sure you’ve noticed that the blog has been pretty quiet this year. There is no longer anyone that is able to spend enough time on g2g Outside to keep offering the program in a way that is thriving and growing. We are all sad to say goodbye to you, but we hope you’ll keep on playing outside anyway!

SO….The September event will be the LAST g2g event hosted by our core team. I know that Tonya is planning to come back for the event, and most of the rest of us are planning to be there.  We hope you can stop by to say goodbye!

The November and December events are still going to happen, just with one of the partner agencies. Keep watching the blog for information about those events. After our December 2013 event, there will be no more g2g events planned for the future.

The blog will still be here for links and references, and I may even post something once in a great while. We hope you will keep on with the good outdoor habits and play that you’ve learned in the last 5 years!

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Have a canoe or kayak gathering dust in the garage?
or
Wanting to get out on a beautiful fall morning and do something in nature that makes you feel good for the rest of the day?

Join us for a “Clean Up & Canoe” on Saturday, October 29th.
Meet at 9 am at 12th Street and Bitting Street, Wichita, KS

 

 

Last week, we spent a few days up in Wisconsin at my parents’ farm. My husband, not having grown up on a farm, wanted to try his hand at a little tractor driving and hay baling.

While my dad and husband were busy with the baler, I decided to wander around the edges of the field and take some pictures.

This is a wild, unfarmed area to one side of the part that was being baled. It isn’t really the “edge” of the field, but more of an island that has never really been cleared or tilled, probably because there is either a low spot that isn’t worth the hassle of disturbing or because there was no desire to clear all off those trees. Maybe if I asked, my parents would know why. At any rate, it gave me something to photograph! You can see all the different kinds of grasses and lots of goldenrod in this area.

This is actually a picture of part of the field that hasn’t been cut for hay yet. This field has a pretty nice stand of grass, clover, and alfalfa, and hopefully has some good protein for my parents’ cows. Unfortunately, even though the alfalfa and clover flowers make for pretty pictures, it is best if the hay is cut before full bloom. Unlike here, my parents have had too much rain, and so it was too wet to get into the fields without damaging the crop or the soil.

I eventually wandered all the way along the field to the fence row on the west side of the field. There was quite a diversity of plants! I had to take this picture, because it illustrates a horticultural concept that we talk about, but isn’t always fully grasped. In this case, we have a larger maple tree (the lighter green leaves at the top) and underneath it, growing as a large shrub, is a dogwood tree. Dogwood do prefer some shade, and are more of an understory tree (like Japanese Maples). They don’t do very well planted in full, scorching sun. This is a great example of how these trees would grow on their own, without intervention, so we should keep that in mind when planting things.

There were also some nice healthy vines of wild cucumbers growing over various trees and shrubs in the fence row. I remember playing with these prickly fruits as a kid, and tearing them open to look for seeds and whatever there was to see. I actually saw a cucumber beetle on these vines, but didn’t quite manage to get it in the picture. Interestingly, I’ve never seen a cucumber beetle in my parents’ garden, so it was interesting to see that they do actually exist that far north. Maybe the cold winters keep the population low enough that they are content to subsist on wild cucumbers?

I was a little surprised to find milkweed in the fence row, although I don’t know why I should have been. I guess I always associated it with the swampy area on the farm more than the edge of the fields (although sometimes they are one and the same!). These pods are not quite ready to burst yet, and they were about the biggest I saw. There were several plants with smaller pods and even a few plants that still had some flowers on them. I was hoping to find some monarch caterpillars, but no such luck. I did find some kind of tussock caterpillar and a spider, but not monarchs.

There was also a kind of ugly, short little tree that had these fun shaped clusters on them. I’m pretty sure that I’m correct in identifying it as a filbert (aka Hazelnut); this is probably just a wild one growing here. It’s still very green, and not at all close to being ripe, but I think there are going to be some happy animals later this fall, thanks to this tree.

Now, I’ve just been showing pictures here, and certainly photography is a great way to interact with nature and make observations. But…I’m also a compulsive feeler, “dissector”, leaf shredder, and flower stripper. I like to pick a clover flower and pull it apart, pull off a milkweed pod and break it open, tear leaves along the veins, strip seeds off of grass, pick a green filbert and tear it open, etc. I’ve always done this, and I remember a lot of “play” as a child that involved pulling seed pods off of weeds and tearing them open or pulling the seed heads off of grasses. On one hand, this seems kind of destructive. I would argue though, that this sort of thing is important for kids in getting to understand the natural world.

It’s one thing to see something or take a picture of it and learn about it. It’s completely different to feel it and take it apart, getting your fingers sticky in the process. I think there’s a lot of learning that happens through something that might seem very destructive. Certainly, kids should learn that you don’t want to disturb natural areas or be unnecessarily destructive without reason, but sometimes I think we go too far the other way, and don’t let kids really immerse themselves in what’s around them. It isn’t their job to save the planet. It IS their job to learn to look on the natural world with wonder and find “cool” things to touch and experience.

Think about it this way. How much more will a child who has spent time experiencing plants this way understand when they get to a science class that talks about plant identification, pollination, seed formation, vascular systems, parts of the seed, etc? They may not have known all the scientific terms when they were out playing, but they know what they saw, touched, smelled, and even tasted. They can now assign those terms to things they already know.

I remember some of the biology and horticulture labs I had to do in high school and college, and I always thought that the lab exercises where we dissected flowers, seeds, etc were incredibly lame! After all, I had torn apart many a flower and already knew what I would find. It never occurred to me that some of the other students may have never seen those things in real life.

Where am I going with this? Well, I would argue that sometimes we get a little too up tight about having everything perfectly manicured and tamed (How dare there be weeds in the ditches!) or too protective of every blade of grass (Don’t pick the flowers!) that we prevent kids, especially those in an urban environment, from really gaining a very tactile experience of nature that will give them great benefits in the future. Of course, I’m not advocating for taking hordes of kids out to trample a wetland or tear into endangered wildflowers. But is there really anything wrong with letting some places be a little overgrown where no one cares if kids act like kids in that space?

Okay, that’s the end of my rant for today! If you want to see more pictures from Wisconsin, you can check them out at Flickr.

Connecting with nature through stewardship  is not only great outdoors time, it is also a fantastic way to ignite a sense of personal ownership. 

On May 7, 2011,  g2g Outside participated in the 10th Annual River Trash Round Up.  That morning, g2g’ers were part of 648 participants who collected 401 bags of debris from the Arkansas River.  All that trash totalled up to 2.57 tons!  Now that is some serious outdoor stewardship!

Consider taking a trash sack on a walk around your neighborhood – can your kids find “un-nature” items?  Are the items litter or just part of your urban landscape?  These little acts help shape your children’s outdoor ethics for years to come.

Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It:
Observe the nests in the trees in your yard (or nearby where you live).

Winter is the perfect time to look up into the tree branches and discover what hides behind the leaves during the rest of the year.

Although most of the small twig and mud-constructed nests will be empty during the cold months, larger nests and tree cavities may hold winter-hardy creatures.  Some visible winter nest users include squirrels and owls (Great Horned owls have even begin to incubate their eggs in the winter!).

Mission Report:

1.  How many nests or nesting cavities (holes in trees) did you find?

2. How many nests were constructed out of leaves and about the size of a basketball (squirrel-made nest)?

3. How many nests were constructed from grass, twigs or mud?

Up for more of a challenge?  Visit a nearby Wichita Wild Habitat Area to see a greater diversity of nests and winter creatures.

I think Autumn is officially here – the air is drier, nights are cooler and there is a hint of color on the trees.  This is also the time of year of pumpkin patches, cider pressing, and corn mazes.  What great opportunties to get outside!!

As you decorate the inside of your home for Autumn, Halloween or Thanksgiving, why not bring in items straight from the neighborhood?  Have the kids look around for fallen pine cones, sycamore seed balls, pretty leaves and even colorful stones.

Feeling adventurous in your decorations?  Try capturing a spider’s web for your holiday decorations.

April and May are the perfect months to make and fly a kite.    May 5th is Children’s Day in Japan.  It is traditional for children to fly a fish kite on this day.   Fish kites can be made from everyday material you have at home.  

What you need:

  1. Bright colored tissue paper or wrapping paper.  Large sheets work the best.
  2. Scissors
  3. Glue stick
  4. Long pipe cleaners or florist wire
  5. Sequins, glitter, small pieces of tissue paper or stickers
  6. String or strong yarn 2-3 feet long
  7. Bamboo pole or branch

What to do:

  1. Gently fold a piece of paper in half lengthwise, but Do Not Crease!
  2. Cut through both layers at once in the shape of a fish.
  3. Unfold the paper
  4. Put a line of glue along the straight edge of the paper.
  5. Lay the pipe cleaner next to the glue line and fold paper over pipe cleaner.  Press down well.
  6. Turn paper over and decorate as desired.  Remember that the fish will be folded in half, so decorate both sides of the fish.
  7. Carefully bend the pipe cleaner  into a circle, twist together.  This will form the mouth of the fish.
  8. Run a line of glue along the long edge of the fish.  Press the opposite edge together.  Leave the tail open.
  9. Tie a string or yarn to the pipe cleaner to form a bridle. 
  10. Tie other end of string to the end of a pole or long branch.  To make it fly, simply walk to make your fish fly.

 Now, Take it Outside…

  1.  Take a picniclunch or supper to the park and fly your kite for fun. 
  2. Eat fish crackers under a shady tree.
  3. Search online for other types of kites that you can make at home. 
  4. Have a kite building contest with your friends.  See which one can fly the highest, longest, etc.