Friday, October 21, 2011

Your Feedback Needed! Wisconsin's Plan for Environmentally Literate and Sustainable Communities

Now is your chance to have a voice in the future of environmental education and sustainable communities in Wisconsin!

We at Nature Net are excited about the new Wisconsin Plan for Environmentally Literate and Sustainable Communities, preliminarily released this month from the Wisconsin Environmental Education Board (WEEB), Wisconsin Environmental Education Foundation (WEEF) and the Wisconsin Association for Environmental Education (WAEE), in partnership with a range of individuals and organizations across the state. Building on Wisconsin's history of strong conservation ethic and environmental education leadership, this plan serves as a pathway for moving forward in developing an environmentally literate twenty-first century society comprised of sustainable communities. This encompassing proposal focuses on the knowledge, skills and attitudes of Wisconsinites at home, work, school and play, in promotion of healthy citizens and environment. (To read the plan, click here.)

The plan is currently in a Public Preview Period (October 17-24, 2011), and your feedback is welcome! Take a moment to review and comment on Wisconsin's Plan for Environmentally Literate and Sustainable Communities and have a say in EE and sustainable living in Wisconsin. The final version will be unveiled at the WAEE Fall Conference in November.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Educators' Open House


Calling all K-12 teachers: be among the first to see the exciting new offerings at the Aldo Leopold Nature Center!

WHEN: Thursday, October 27, 2011 - come anytime from 4-6pm!

WHERE: Aldo Leopold Nature Center, Monona, WI

WHAT: Preview brand new hands-on, interactive educational exhibits designed to teach your students about climate science, renewable energy and sustainability! Bring the family and explore the exhibits together - view our planet as the astronauts see it with Science on a Sphere, see how global temperatures shape Earth's past, present and future with Global Warming Facts & Our Future, and discover the latest green innovations with the Madison Gas & Electric Renewable Energy Center.

Find out about new programming in the works and opportunities for fieldtrips, professional development and more. Enjoy teacher resources, free classroom materials, raffle prizes, coffee and cookies and more! Register to win one of three grand prizes, sign up to be one of the first to pilot our new programs, and learn how you can qualify for fieldtrip subsidies to the Aldo Leopold Nature Center.

Monday, October 3, 2011

October Nature Net News - Rascally Raccoons

"In plain sight now, within the den, we found four baby raccoons, a month old perhaps. The entire litter of kits might easily have fitted within my cap. Each tail had five black rings. Each small face had a sharp black mask. Eight bright eyes peered up at us, filled with wonder and worry."
- from Rascal, by (Wisconsin's own!) Sterling North

Dear Reader,

Who is that marauding at midnight? Who's ripping up and spreading around all your trash? Who washes their food and hands before every meal? It's the masked crusaders of the dark - they're raccoons!

Ever since childhood, I've had a special affinity for these cunning critters. From Racoony, who would launch himself at our front door to eat my mom's ornamental corn wreathes, to Big Guy, rapping on our sliding glass doors for more catfood, I've had 'coon run-ins aplenty. But, despite their mischievous acts, I still find myself grinning whenever I see one of those little masks looking at me from a tree or trashcan.

Mind you, I'm not saying they can't be troublesome, but I find myself appreciating these clever creatures, like Sterling North and his pet Rascal, or the National Wildlife Federation's hero Ranger Rick, rather than viewing them as demons bent on destroying my flowerbeds or corn patch.

In this issue of Nature Net News, you'll learn about these crafty critters and how they adapt to their environment, along with historic and international attention they have received.

And a big "Thank You!" to Peter Green for allowing us to use one of his adorable raccoon pictures!


Kathe, Sarah & Brenna
The Folks at Nature Net

Did You Know.....
Raccoons wash their food in water before eating. In fact, the word for 'raccoon' in several languages can be translated as 'wash bear.'

Raccoons are omnivorous scavengers and will eat just about anything!

Raccoons have opposable thumbs on their front paws, allowing for all sorts of mischief to happen.

Raccoons are nocturnal, meaning they are mostly active during the night.

Raccoons are able to adapt to many different environments. While they originally evolved as woodland creatures, due to widespread urban development, they have become very adept at city living.

What To Do This Month:
Check out the MacKenzie Environmental Education Center's Hootenanny on October 1 and their Haunted Hay Ride October 21 & 22. Dress up like a raccoon or other nocturnal trickster!

Stare at the stars at Bethel Horizons on October 8 and 29.

Upham Woods is having an Autumn Splendor family event on October 8 and a fall Family Camp Weekend from October 15-16.

On October 23, check out the crazy critters at the Henry Vilas Zoo's Halloween at the Zoo!

Discover all kinds of "Creatures of the Night" at the Aldo Leopold Nature Center's spook-tacular family Fall Fest on October 28!

Find Family Events on the Nature Net Calendar of Events

Tricks of the Trail for Parents:
Raccoon Reminders
While it's fun to learn about raccoons, it's quite another to directly interact with them! While your children might become excited about meeting these masked magicians, be careful not to actively attract raccoons - your trash collectors and neighbors will appreciate it! Instead, we recommend trying to spot raccoons or their tracks on nature walks, listening for them on campouts, or learning about them through literature.

Instant Outdoor Expert:
Cartoon 'Coons
Sterling North's 1963 book, Rascal (an autobiographical story about his childhood with a pet raccoon in south central Wisconsin) was adapted to anime cartoon in a popular 1970s Japanese series called Araiguma Rasukaru. While raccoons have long been seen as everything from an annoyance to a wild menace in American communities, thousands of Japanese children were enamored with these adorable exotic pets and asked their parents to import them from the United States! However, people soon realized the difference between real and cartoon raccoons and released them into the wild, where they wreaked havoc on Japan's ecosystem. Now, raccoons tend to be looked at more as pests than pets, but the cartoon about the boy and his raccoon adventure is still popular today. Learn more about this here.

Featured Nature Net Site
Lussier Family Heritage Center

The Lussier Family Heritage Center is a Dane County facility for hosting private and public events. The center is named after the Lussier Family who contributed a significant amount for its construction and preservation. It is located within the Lake Farm County Park and surrounded by native prairie vegetation and forests.

Lake Farm Park borders the Heritage Center and offers numerous recreational opportunities including boat launch, picnic facilities, campgrounds, hiking and cross-country ski trails, and playground equipment. Check out the nature and bike trails around the property!

Don't miss the Lussier Family Heritage Center's Harvest Moon Festival on Friday, October 7 to discover nighttime nature on a torch-lit stroll.
Learn About Other Nature Net Sites

Nature Craft
Paper Puppet
What you need: paper bag, black construction paper, white construction paper, glue.

1. Fold the two square corners at the bottom of the bag to form the raccoon head.

2. Cut from the white construction paper two large circles (masks), three small circles (nose and eyes), two medium triangles (ears) and a large oval (stomach).

3. Cut from the black construction paper two tiny circles (pupils), one small circle (nose), two large black circles (mask), two large triangles (ears) and two large ovals (paws). 

4. Glue the black pupils on two of the small white circles. Layer the remaining circles to form the mask around the eyes. Glue the black medium "nose" circle on the white "nose" circle. Then paste your eyes, mask and nose on the paper bag's "face."

 5. Glue the large white oval on the stomach of your paper bag and glue arms to the sides of the paper bag. 

6. Glue small and big triangles together to make ears and glue to top of the puppet's head. 

7. Viola! Your puppet is ready to act!

Nature Craft adapted from Enchanted Learning - Nature Craft Archives

Suggested Reading:
"Little Raccoon's Big Question" by Miriam Schlien (baby-preschool)
"The Little Raccoon" by Elizabeth Ring (baby-6)
"Raccoon Tune" by Nancy Shaw (preschool-5)
"Raccoons and Ripe Corn" by Jim Arnosky (3-8)
"Raccoon on his Own" by Jim Arnosky (3-8)
"Little Raccoon" by Lilian Moore (4-8)
"Clever Raccoons" by Kristen L. Nelson (4-8)
"The Kissing Hand" by Audrey Penn (4-8)
"Raccoon's Last Race" by Joseph and James Bruchac (4-8)
"Raccoon Moon" by Nancy Carol Willis (4-8)
"Welcome to the World of Raccoons" by Diane Swanson (4-8)
"Kit: The Adventures of a Raccoon" by Shirley Woods (4-12)
"Rascal" by Sterling North (5+)
"Raccoons: Scavengers of the Night" by Elaine Landau (9-12)
"Raccoons: A Natural History" by Samuel I. Zeveloff (teen)