Monday, February 28, 2011

Celebrate Aldo Leopold This Week!

Nature Net members are hosting several events this week in celebration of Wisconsin's premier conservationist, Aldo Leopold. 

Green Fire
Those of you anxiously awaiting the release of the Aldo Leopold Foundation's Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time will be excited to learn about screenings at two Madison locations this week. The film, which has been premiering around the country and the world for the past month, is making its way to the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery on Friday, March 4 and the Barrymore Theater on Sunday, March 6!

First Madison Show
DATE: Friday, March 4, 2011
TIME: 7pm, with a reception following the film
LOCATION: Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery Town Center
ADDRESS: 1300 University Ave., Madison, Wisconsin
TICKETS: Available through Brown Paper Tickets,
$8 advance/$10 at the door


Second Madison Show
DATE: Sunday, March 6, 2011
TIME: 7pm, with a reception following the film
LOCATION: Barrymore Theatre
ADDRESS: 2090 Atwood Ave,
Madison, Wisconsin

TICKETS: Available through Barrymore Theatre,
$8 advance/$10 at the door

Green Fire is the first full-length, high-definition documentary film ever made about the legendary environmentalist, Aldo Leopold. Through beautiful imagery, visits to important places in Leopold's life (including Baraboo and Madison!), quotes from his writings, and interviews with his family and colleagues, Green Fire highlights the extraordinary career and life of Aldo Leopold. Learn more about the film and watch a trailer here.
Leopold Discovery Day
If you are looking for something to do with the little ones, bring the whole family to Leopold Discovery Day at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery on Saturday. Hosted by the Aldo Leopold Nature Center, hands-on activities, games and scavenger hunts throughout the impressive Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery Town Center will highlight some of Aldo's favorite pasttimes, such as tree identification, fishing, phenology and more.

  • A search for birds in the Town Center Atrium trees.
  • An animal track identification hunt through the Mesozoic Garden.
  • A reading by author Nancy Nye Hunt of her new children's book, Aldo Leopold's Shack: Nina's Story.
  • A screening of the Aldo Leopold Nature Center's Learning from the Land video.
The program runs from 10am - noon at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery and is FREE for all ages. See you there!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

REMINDER: Nature Net Photo Contest!

Calling all photogs and shutter bugs! Send us pictures of your family or students enjoying nature, and you may win a Nature Net prize package.*

Submit digital images (5MB or less) to info[at]naturenet[dot]com. Include names and ages of photo subjects along with a brief caption. Submissions must be received by February 28, 2011. [*Winner will be selected by Nature Net staff. All photos become property of Nature Net and may appear on Nature Net websites, newsletters or other promotional materials.]

Friday, February 18, 2011

Nature Journaling and Phenology

A spring hickory bud at the Aldo Leopold Nature Center.

Spring is on its way, and now is the time of year to start up nature journals with your family or students. It's also a perfect time introduce them to phenology! Phenology, derived from the Greek word phaino, meaning "to show or appear," is literally "the science of appearance." It is a segment of ecology focused on the study of periodic plant and animal lifecycle events related to climate and seasonal changes. Although these natural observations can be done year-round, spring is a great time to get started by recording all the "firsts" you see. From noting the first bud on a tree to spotting the first robin in your yard, observing and recording these events can be the beginning of a life-long relationship with nature. You can record observations from your classroom or family in a yearly journal, and use these to compare notes from the past or make predictions about what will happen this year. It is a great way to connect deeply with a special piece of nature you visit regularly. 
Aldo Leopold was a major proponent of observing, recording and phenology.
Aldo Leopold was an important Wisconsin conservationist who championed phenology. He kept his own nature journals from the age of twelve and passed this tradition down to his own children. His notes have been an instrumental part of the phenological record of Wisconsin, and inspired the writing of his famous book, A Sand County Almanac. Learn more about Aldo as a boy and adult, and be inspired to follow in his footsteps with your own Leopold nature journals.

In addition to keeping your own records in a journal, your observations can be part of a larger effort to record phenological data around the U.S. and the world! Learn why phenology is important to scientists, citizens, climatologists and more, and check out some of these great sites on which you can become a phenology expert and contribute your observations.

If you are new to phenology or nature journaling, never fear! The Wisconsin Environmental Education Resource Library has put together a great list of nature journaling resources, from educator guides to books for adults and kids. National Environmental Education Week has an online Nature Journal if you'd like to start with some examples. This page from has a short video clip and some great teaching tips about phenology in Wisconsin. You can also use this activity plan from the UW Arboretum to indroduce kids to phenological concepts through a fun birthday game!

Nature journaling can easily be done in your own backyard or schoolyard. However, if you don't have access to a natural space, or just want some variety, consider doing a nature observation walk at any of the Nature Net sites. Many of these parks and nature centers would be happy to point out phenological events for you to observe while you are visiting.

Happy journaling!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Youth Grow Local Conference

Here is a great event from Nature Net member Community GroundWorks, just in time for this year's gardening season. Join youth gardening experts from around Madison at the Goodman Community Center on Saturday, March 5, 2011, from 8am-1pm.

  • Learn how to start and maintain a school or community youth garden
  • Network with others who are involved in the youth gardening movement
  • Attend expert panels designed to assist both beginning and experienced gardeners
  • Learn a variety of lesson plans and hands-on activities to use in your garden
  • Meet public health professionals involved in researching and promoting youth gardening
  • And much more!

Please visit for more information and online registration.

Friday, February 11, 2011

REMINDER: Owl You Need Is Love This Weekend!

Just a reminder: if you are looking for a fun and educational activity this weekend, join families and others at the Aldo Leopold Nature Center's Black Earth Campus this Sunday afternoon for Owl You Need Is Love!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Go Pack Go!

In case you have been burrowed deeper in a den than Punxsatawney Phil, Super Bowl XLV is this weekend, and the Green Bay Packers are playing the Pittsburgh Steelers. We nature lovers have not been immune to the Packer fever. Check out how some fellow Nature Net member sites have been incorporating Packer pride into their programming!

Our friends at the Madison Children's Museum have a great view of the Capitol Dome from their Rooftop Ramble exhibit. Check out the green and gold!

Students visiting the UW Geology Museum this week showed their Packer spirit in front of Wisconsin's famous Boaz Mastodon. Click here to see the great video!

Any of you lucky enough to be in or around Green Bay this weekend, consider getting some fresh air (and burning off those cheesecurds!) while learning about nature in the Green Bay area. Visit Nature Net's Statewide Directory to find great nature centers in the region.

Nature Net would like to join fans from across Wisconsin and everywhere else in supporting our team. Go Pack Go!

Owl You Need is Love at ALNC


Join families and winter romantics next weekend at the Aldo Leopold Nature Center's Black Earth Campus to celebrate this month's program, Owl You Need Is Love! The event, from 1pm-3pm next Sunday, February 13, will celebrate the winter courtship of Wisconsin's owls, who spend the cold dark nights of winter concentrating on romance, and are some of the few animals to be sitting on a nest of eggs by Valentine's Day! At ALNC's Black Earth Campus (about 20 minutes west of Madison), your family will participate in an owl watching hike, learn about different owl calls, meet a live owl and participate in owl craft activities. Learn more about the event on ALNC's Nature Notes blog. See you there!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow Stories

Who doesn't love a snow day? It's a great time to hibernate indoors playing games and drinking hot cocoa. Or, better yet, you could bundle up and take those rowdy little ones outside to find some snow stories! All this fresh powder is the perfect blank slate on which nature can write its stories in the snow. While many of Wisconsin's critters have been hunkering down to weather out this storm, you might be surprised at all the signs of life you can find if you take a look.

"Mouse Trail," Photo Credit: Brenna Holzhauer, Nature Net

Can you tell where your backyard bunny was able to find some food? Have the birds been hopping through the snow or staying high up in the trees? Is that family of deer traveling together or did some stay snuggled at home? The field mice are sure to be busy tunneling through the drifts - can you find them? Are those prints from a neighbor's dog or possibly a hungry coyote? If you can tell what direction the squirrel was scurrying from, you might be able to find where she uncovered this morning's acorn feast.

Check out this activity guide from the Wisconsin DNR for more ideas of what to look for. If you're not sure what you've spotted, use this Tracking Field Guide from UWSP. This recent article from JS Online - Outdoors may inspire you with some great tales of tracking winter wildlife. If you are looking to venture out, many of these Nature Net members or other Wisconsin sites have some excellent trails for your family to explore. Whatever you find, be sure to record your observations in Earth Alive!

So on this snow day, bundle up and beat cabin fever with some good old-fashioned tracking, and see what stories you can find in the snow!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February Nature Net News - Groundhogs

See the original here.

Nature Net News - February 2011
Your source for tips & tricks for exploring nature with your kids

Dear Reader,
It's that time of the year again. You know, when the hibernating animals start to leave their burrows only to  be scared by their own shadows? ....Well not really. That myth is just one thing you'll learn more about in this edition of Nature Net News!

Groundhogs are called many things, from cute to varmint, and they appear in a variety of forms.

From peeking a bushy head out of a burrow to ravaging a farmer's vegetable garden, the groundhog is an interesting creature to learn about!

Kathe, Sarah & Brenna

The Folks at Nature Net

Did you know..... Some other names for the groundhog include "woodchuck," "whistle-pig," and "land beaver."

Another fun fact: groundhogs can climb trees!

What to Do This Month:
Celebrate Groundhog Day on February 2nd!

Sing The Groundhog Day Song!

Tricks of the Trail for Parents:
Sleepy 'Hogs
Though Groundhog Day is celebrated on February 2nd, most local groundhogs are still hibernating in their burrows at this time! Instead of watching for groundhogs, try taking a nature walk to spot signs of spring. Is the snow melting? Are the trees beginning to sprout buds? Can you see fresh grass?

Instant Outdoor Expert:
Groundhog Day
Most of North America celebrates Groundhog Day. On the second day of February it is said that a groundhog will awake from its hibernation slumber and emerge from its hole. If that groundhog sees its shadow, it will return to its burrow and there will be six more weeks of winter. If it does not, spring will arrive early. So goes the folk legend.

The belief of a groundhog emerging from its hole and predicting the weather came from early settlers from Europe. This is because in some parts of Europe, beavers, hedgehogs, and bears are supposed to act in the same manner. Despite the popularity of this image, most wild groundhogs awake in March--not in February.

Make This Month's Nature Craft: Poppin' Groundhogs!

Learn about This Month's Featured Nature Net Site: Aldo Leopold Foundation