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.

Playing with your child/children outside helps them understand that you value the natural world.  Kids will mirror you values (for awhile) – if you are afraid of something, they will show fear; if you see something as special, so will they.

Consider involving you family in a local “stewardship” event or activity.  Have them help pick up litter that has blown into your yard or neighborhood.  Take them out to see a group of people working together on keeping nature healthy.

The “River Trash Round Up” is an event that is open to people of all ages.  Bring the kids and family down to see what several hands can accomplish!

I’ve been working on a presentation for a Child Care conference in May, and as part of the preparation, I’m looking for plants that are unsafe for kids or that are great for kids’ play areas. It is kind of surprising what some people consider a danger to children. One list from Colorado said that no fruit trees should be planted because the bark might be harmful if eaten. Good grief! How much bark can a toddler eat off a tree? And why weren’t you supervising them a little more?

If you are a gardener, you already know that most gardens are great for kids with a little supervision and a little time spent teaching the children what they can and can’t do in the garden. However, it got me thinking, what might a backyard garden look like that was designed with kids in mind? In other words, what might I plant in a garden that would give kids more to do or play with, rather than limit the ability of kids to just be kids?

Here are a few thoughts I had:

  1. An area that is bare soil, where they can just dig and make mud pies and get dirty. Maybe a “sandbox” but maybe not. I remember spending many happy hours playing with water, dirt, and sand in our garden or the barnyard growing up.
  2. Paths through “big” shrubs or trees. There is nothing that gets the creative juices flowing more than ducking under branches on a winding path to get to a special place to play. We had a playhouse in the middle of our windbreak, and the preferred way to get to it was between the lilac and the birch tree.
  3. Of course, just having a rustic playhouse built by my dad in the middle of the windbreak was pretty awesome!
  4. Ornamental grasses could create the prairie equivalent of our windbreak hideaway. It would be very easy to create a “garden room” with plantings of some of our prairie grasses. You could also create a maze.
  5. Some open lawn space is a must, but I don’t think the amount of lawn space that most people have is really necessary!
  6. Flowers that can be picked. We might love our flowers out in the garden, but for many children, the compulsion is to pick them and bring them in the house.
  7. Other “kid-friendly” flowers like sunflowers, tulips, and daffodils are also great. They are easy for kids to plant and work with, the colors are bold, and they are just flat out fun!
  8. Plants that attract butterflies, caterpillars, etc! Most kids get really excited by insects, even those tomato hornworms that chew up your tomato plants.
  9. Obviously my list wouldn’t be complete without vegetables. Cherry tomatoes, colorful lettuces, even peas and beans to pick are great experiences for kids.
  10. Water. It wouldn’t be summer in Kansas without water. Even if you garden doesn’t “need” watering in the middle of the afternoon, kids can enjoy playing with the hose and getting everything, especially themselves, all wet.

RECYCLE Wichita – Family Program

While viewing the Pixar film, “Wall-E”, children will be entertained with the many trials of a little robot trying to undo damage from centuries of wasteful human behavior on the planet Earth and get ideas about they can help stop “today’s” Earth from coming to such a predicament. Parents can expand on the lessons learned in the film and develop family activities to enforce sustainable behavior both in the home and in the community.

Information will be provided to families about the multitude of recycling and disposal centers available within the Wichita community as well as about other programs which might enrich the lives of their children. A suggested donation of $5 per person will be rewarded with a refreshments voucher on arrival! Additional programming of this nature will be scheduled in response to great attendance for this event!

Special thanks to the Illuminating Engineering Society, Wichita Chapter, for co-sponsoring this event with the USGBC Central Plains Chapter Wichita for USGBC Committee.

When:   Saturday, September 26, 2009 
                10:00 AM – 12:00 PM Central Time Zone

Where:  Old Town Warren Theater
                 353 North Mead Wichita, KS 67202 USA

Attire:   Playtime Casual

RSVP by Friday, September 25, 2009 by visiting this link:
Event Invitation – Online Registration