Wednesday, August 17, 2011

My Summer at Nature Net

Hey all!

Hi! Nice to meet you!
This summer I had a blast! I was working with the fabulous Brenna to create and supply materials to parents and teachers to help kids get outside. It's one thing to write about kids getting active, and yet another to see it in action. Working above the summer camps at the Aldo Leopold Nature Center, everyday my inspiration was renewed afresh. There's just something about a shrieking, giggling, wild gaggle of 4-6-year-olds racing through the prairie or investigating at the pond that inspires a happy feeling, as if you were infused with helium.

My favorite part was during the PBS Kids Go Open House. Perhaps you saw me, I was the girl going around with a raccoon puppet on my art and speaking odes, in a squeaky voice, about garbage cans (and if anyone has pictures of this event, I would be ever so grateful for a copy, for I have none!). This summer has been such a marvelous adventure!

In addition to the open house, I was the one who sent out your Nature Passports and other assorted materials when you ordered them online (sorry for any delays!) and I contributed to issues of Nature Net News (check out the summer issues posted on this blog!). Also, we're just starting out our Family Nature Club program. It's a really good way to keep your kids outside, even in the non-summer months! I've put quite a lot of time into it, so please check it out and see if it's for you!

Alas, I wish I could stay forever, but this is my last week working for
Nature Net. Next week, I leave the country to go on a new adventure. So, farewell!

It's been a fun summer for me, I hope you have had one too.



Thursday, August 4, 2011

Nature Net News - August 2011 - Camping

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

Dear Reader,

Summer is ending soon, and what better way to celebrate these last halcyon days than to get away for a weekend and live amongst nature?

"The man who goes afoot, prepared to camp anywhere
and in any weather, is the most independent fellow on earth."
Horace Kephart
I remember, as a little girl, sitting around the campfire with my family, lighting marshmallows aflame with glee. I also remember when the fire burned down to embers, telling ghost stories before going to bed and startling at every strange and exciting sound I heard that night. 

Camping is not only a way to spend a vacation, but a way to instill a connection with the natural world. This is important, especially in these times when many children don't get outside as much as their parents or grandparents did in their childhood. Camping is a fun way to remedy that, promoting family togetherness and appreciation of nature, while creating lifelong traditions and memories.

In this issue of Nature Net News, we'll take a look at the various aspects of camping from bugs to bingo to cooking a meal over an open fire. 


Kathe, Sarah & Brenna
The Folks at Nature Net

Did You Know.....
You can use Nature Net's Interactive Statewide Directory of Nature Centers and Programs to incorporate the outdoors into your vacation just about anywhere in Wisconsin!

Some invasive and harmful bugs, like the Emerald Ash Borer, can travel in wood carried from site to site - so make sure your firewood is local and be sure to bring only what you'll burn!

And some camping humor... How do you start a fire using only two pieces of wood? Make sure one of them is a matchstick! How can you tell which  tree is a dogwood? By its "bark"!

What To Do This Month:
Go camping at one of Dane County's many park sites! Play camping bingo during your trip!

Camping is fun for all ages - even really little ones! Read this great post on camping with toddlers.  Get older kids engaged by having them join in the planning.

If you can't escape for an overnight trip, pack a picnic and go for a nature day hike at one of your local Nature Net sites! Read this article for tips on hiking with kids.

Check out the National Wildlife Federation's Great American Backyard Campout and GABC Facebook page for more great tricks and tips - this summer's event has passed, but this site is a great resource year-round!

Tricks of the Trail for Parents:
Biting and Itching While Tent Pitching
While camping, be sure to wear pants and sleeves, keep mosquito nets around, burn some citronella candles, or liberally spray yourself with insect repellent - otherwise you may find yourself and cranky tots covered with spots, itching all night long. Experiment with essential oils or non-DEET repellents containing eucalyptus or citronella. If the bugs are bad enough to require Deep Woods DEET sprays, make sure to spray it on clothing as opposed to bare skin. The Upper Midwest is also a known habitat for Lyme Disease-causing deerticks, so see if your spray repels ticks too. (Don't forget to take these action steps for sun safety too!)

Instant Outdoor Expert:
Camping Cooking Tips
Camping is fun, but what really makes it special is the yummy food around the campfire!

Plan your meals before you go and pack appropriately. You can create more elaborate meals by pre-chopping, pre-measuring or pre-spicing ingredients and putting them in clearly labeled plastic baggies.

Coals are easier to cook over than the open flame. While lighting a marshmallow on fire may seem more fun for younger  children, coals provide more even cooking for most foods.

If you're grilling over coals, use four large coffee cans filled with water to support your grill. During the course of the cooking, the water will become heated up for quick and easy clean-up!

For more outdoor cooking tips, click here.
Find delicious camping recipes here.

Featured Nature Net Site:
Dane County Parks and Conservation Parks
Year-round recreational opportunities abound throughout the Dane County Park System. Whether you enjoy fast-paced physical fun or quiet enjoyment, Dane County Parks offer you countywide locations for quick getaways from urban settings and offer custom-built recreational facilities amid splendid natural beauty. Imagine all you can do year-round throughout the Dane County Park System.

Dane County Parks also offers many campsites of various environments and scenery. Check them out for your camping trip today!

Nature Craft:
Rock Buddies!
What you need: rocks, paint, glue, googly eyes...
1. Wash your rock to make sure it is nice and clean. Let it dry in the sun.
2. If you want to, paint your rock with various colors and patterns and let dry. Add a face and/or glue googly eyes to it. Let it dry overnight.
3. You now have your very own personalized rock buddy! Take it on adventures, take some photos, keep in a special place, make some more rock friends and family, add a magnet, or string on a necklace!
4. Consider checking out the "Rock Thoughts" project with your new pal.

(Nature Craft adapted from
in words and pictures)

Suggested Reading:
"Curious George Goes Camping" by Margaret and H.A. Ray (all ages)
"Maisy Goes Camping" by Lucy Cousins (baby-preschool)
"When We Go Camping" by Margriet Ruurs (preschool)
"Camping Out" by Mercer Mayer (3-6)
"S is for Smores: A Camping Alphabet" by Helen Foster James (4-8)
"A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee" by Chris Van Dusen (4-8)
"Stella and Roy Go Camping" by Ashley Wolff (4-8)
"Camp Out!: The Ultimate Kids' Guide" by Lynne Brunelle (7+)
"Kids Camp!: Activities for the Backyard or Wilderness" by Laurie Carlson and Judith Dammel (4-12)
"Let's Get Primitive: The Urban Girl's Guide to Camping" by Heather Menicucci (adults