Tag Archives: nature

Earth Day: Sharing Nature with Children

30 Apr

Read Green 6.

As I mentioned earlier, children benefit greatly from exposure to nature. If you want more information, I would recommend starting with Richard Luov’s Last Child In the Woods or The Nature Principle. But I’ll be honest, I haven’t actually read either of these books cover to cover, and that’s not exactly the topic I wanted to talk about for my last Earth Day post.

Instead I’m going to assume that you already have a vested interest in sharing natural places with a child in your life, but don’t know how to get started. Maybe you are the parent of the child in question, or lead a scout or youth group. Or maybe you are the cool and/or crazy aunt or uncle who just wants to teach the little nugget to appreciate the outdoors. The good news is that you don’t need an advanced degree in ecology to create meaningful experiences for children in nature. All you really need is a healthy dose of common sense when it comes to safety and some basic knowledge of how to reduce your impact in your natural areas of choice. Once you’re armed with those, feel free to dive into these resources:

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The first, Joseph Cornell’s Sharing Nature with Children is such a classic that I couldn’t help but steal it’s title for this blog post. More than thirty years after its first publication the activities in it are still pure gold, even for a generation of kids who grew up being amused by computers and video games. I challenge you to find a child under the age of eleven who doesn’t enjoy playing Camouflage, Bat and Moth, or Meet a Tree.

The activities are divided into three categories. (And in true outdoor educator form each category is named after an animal. That is how you know this book is really legit.) Bear activities are calm and often introspective, crow activities encourage observation and physical activity, and otter activities encourage playfulness.

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Another great book that uses a slightly different approach is Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature by Jon Young, Ellen Haas, and Evan McGown. The first part of this book is geared more towards expanding the skills and perspectives of the mentor, (that’s you,) and the second half dives into activities. It is definitely intended to be more of a curriculum guide than a collection of stand alone activities but don’t let that scare you away. It also focuses more on tracking and survival skills than Cornell’s book, but includes meaningful activities about awareness and community building.

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When my friend Sal described this last book to me, I thought it was too good to be true. There was no way a book existed that connects children with natural places using outdoor activities and books. And yet it does. The book is called A Sense of Place by Daniel A. Kriesberg. While this book is definitely more geared towards teachers, I don’t think the activities are too complicated or difficult to be useful for the rest of us. Plus, if you’ve stuck with us all the way through the month of April you clearly have an interest in books and the environment; it would be kinda great if you could pass those on to the next generation.

Those are just a smattering of the resources I know and love. If you want more ideas I am happy to chat about it. Leave a comment or send us an email.

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Thanks also to everyone who read along with our annual month-long Earth Day celebration. Thanks especially to Mara for writing a guest post, commenting, and also for always being awesome. To Lisa and Rebecca for their proof-reading rescues. To Bethany and Jamie at the El Portal Library who helped me find and check out a huge mountain of books. To Sal, Rebecca, Ayla, Becky, and everyone else who told me about awesome books I should read.

<3 ~Robin

P.S.

Earth Day: Books in Nature

19 Apr

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This is not a nature book.  In fact, it’s not a book I would recommend to everyone.  You’ve probably seen at least one of the poems in the book.  Magic has been disseminated all over the internet, mostly without credit.  It took me a bit of digging the first time to figure out it was not by Shel Silverstein, but Bo Burham.  Burham is pretty similiar to Silverstein with his clever wordplay and irreverent humor.  Sometimes, though, it feels a bit like Burham is American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman channelling Silverstein.  So if you’re offended by things normal humans are offended by, I feel like I need to add a trigger warning for pretty much everything.

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Still, when Burham isn’t making his readers uncomfortable, he’s making them laugh out loud at his verbal dexterity and delighting them with his wit. So, if you don’t mind dodging a few jabs to find something great, pick up Egghead by Bo Burham.

~ April

P.S. I took these pictures in the park behind our library.  I had to fight a gaggle of birdwatchers in my path, but I love this part of the park.

Art Adventure: Young Lakes

16 Jul

I’ve been slowed down a bit by a relatively minor foot injury this summer, but I did manage to haul myself out to Young Lakes with a bunch of supplies for a mini art-retreat.

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Ragged Peak and Young Lake

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Ragged Peak (Western Approach)

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Emily told me the third lake was the best. She was entirely correct.

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I spent a lot of time with my Law’s Guide

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Someone else was here before me.

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Does this landscape look ominous?

It was. I had the very exciting- but not very pleasant- experience of waiting out a hail storm hunkered under my tarp. I didn’t take any pictures, but I’ll recreate it for you:

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After it cleared though?

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Breathtaking.

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I took a well-worth-the-extra-walking detour to Dog Lake.

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And the rain held out long enough for me to paint.

~Robin

Earth Day: Foraged Food

18 Apr

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I’m going to start this post with the disclaimer that I approach wild edibles with a very healthy dose of caution. There are a number of plants that look like edibles that are, in fact, highly toxic. For example, in the Marin Headlands fennel grows like a weed. It has a lovely scent and a licorice like flavor, but it looks remarkably similar to hemlock that also grows everywhere and has the slightly problematic property of being used to kill uppity Greek philosophers. Know what you are doing, use a guide that teaches you how to recognize a poisonous look alike, and do not go all Into the Wild on me.

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With that out of the way, foraging for food among the weeds growing around your house is a fun, if slightly challenging way, to go green. Eating hyper-local reduces your carbon footprint by cutting the miles and packaging between farm and plate, and it’s a fun way to get outside and become familiar with your natural surroundings.

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I’m fortunate to have a patch of miner’s lettuce growing only a few feet from my front door. Miner’s lettuce is remarkably similar to spinach in both texture and flavor. Around here the miner’s lettuce grows a little on the small side. I’ve seen it grow three times larger in the Sierra Foothills. Even with my patch’s lilliputian size it took me only a few minutes to harvest enough for a salad, and there was still tons left in the ground. I load my salads with toppings so I tossed on some sliced tomato, sunflower seeds, crumbled goat cheese, olives, and a splash of balsamic vinegar.

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Miner’s lettuce supposedly got it’s name during the California gold rush, when miner’s would eat it for it’s high vitamin C content. The added bonus of eating this foraged food? I am so not gonna get scurvy.

~Robin

Earth Day: Weekend Images

6 Apr

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To keep life simple, every weekend day that I have a post, I’m just going to share a picture that reminds me why our planet is so darn cool.

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The Devil’s Backbone on Mount Baldy.

~April

Earth Day: The Big Picture

2 Apr

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In honor of keeping Earth Day/Month/Extravaganza simple, I wanted to start out with a topic that takes as little effort as humanly possible.  I’m going to suggest that you take on the momentous task of watching a television show.

I’m sure you’ve heard of Cosmos.  It’s the reboot of a series that originally aired in 1980 with Carl Sagan.  This time around it’s hosted by science superstar Neil Degrasse Tyson.  Four of the episodes have already aired, but there are still 9 to go… more than enough to get you through April.  If you haven’t watched it yet, you can see past episodes on their website.  I haven’t seen the original series, so I’m just going to comment on the new one.

The series is written for a broad audience, so you could probably show it to a twelve-year-old and they’d have no problem following it.  In fact, Neil Degrasse Tyson kind of reminds me of an interplanetary Miss Frizzle with his soothing voice and “Ship of the Imagination.”  If you’re out of grade school though, Cosmos still has something to offer.  One of my favorite features are the animated stories of Important People of Science.  The show takes on the greats, like Isaac Newton, but you’ll also learn about the ones you didn’t study in school.  The animation is distinct and realistic, making it feel like you’re watching a graphic novel.

To tie this in a little better with the Earth Day theme, I think a grand overview like this is important.  Some people come to appreciate the importance of our planet through the little things it offers, like flowers and sunsets, while for others seeing the earth as a unique (as far as we can tell now) piece of an unbelievable vast universe helps them see it a kind of underdog or rare jewel to be protected.  Last year I watched the Discover Channel’s North America series and I loved it so very much.  I am enthralled with images of baby birds awkwardly flying for the first time or trees that have witnessed ice ages.  I am equally captivated by Cosmos and its story of a tiny planet and the people that live on it that are trying to figure out how it, and the universe around it, works.  I think both of these views give us a complete picture and better appreciation of the planet we call home.

~April

Oh Lord, Oh Lord, What Have I Done?

7 Aug

Before reading this post, I suggest you listen to this:

Now, the only relation it has to the rest of this post is that it has the same name as the trail I hiked this weekend.  It certainly would have been a better song to have in my head than Jonathan Coulton’s Mr. Fancy Pants on my climb…

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Unlike Robin, I don’t live in the middle of a national park and I repeatedly use this excuse to spend the weekend at the movies, the beach or just watching Orange is the New Black instead of exploring the outdoors.  What this translates to is this… I am not in shape.  I also want to do a backpacking trip to Valhalla in Sequoia this year, but in my current condition, I’m not quite up for hiking 10 miles in a day, especially in the Sierra so my boyfriend and I are trying to do small but mighty hikes nearby to prepare for the trip.

First on the docket was Mt. Baldy.  As the highest mountain in Los Angeles and Orange counties, it’s a fitting challenge, especially considering I’ve never hiked a peak before.

Thinking about it again, I guess I was wrong.  That Civil Wars song begins with the line “Oh Lord, Oh Lord, what have I done?” and that’s exactly what was going through my head about half way up the first incline… less than half a mile into the hike.  Between the rapid elevation change (sea level to 7,500 feet in an hour), my weak legs, and the steepness of the climb I was about ready to slide down that ski slope and call it a day.  Happily, I did not choose to do that and instead was treated to the namesake of this hike, the Devil’s Backbone.

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It’s one of those rare vistas that actually looks cooler in pictures than it does in person.  While the sides are just as steep as they look, the trail seems wider when you’re on top of it.  On a clear day, you can see the deserts to the south, the ocean to the west, and a sea of surrounding mountains.  On our trip, it was a little overcast so we didn’t get the full experience, but we did get to see some pretty fantastic views, including misty mountains.

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Somehow I was too busy motivating myself to keep going on the way up to take many pictures so I didn’t get a good shot of the trail climbing to the peak, but I did take one going back down.

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Slowly, I made my way to the top, and once it sunk in that I had made it, the burning calves were worth it.

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We sat on the top for a lunch of cheese and crackers and popcorn.  I was amused to note that we were enjoying popcorn purchased at the Chicago airport and cheese from Amish country in Ohio.  I’m sure the manufacturers didn’t imagine their wares being eaten on the top of a mountain in California.

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The trip back down was faster, if not less work.  I had a chance to pay more attention to my surroundings.  Just above the treeline there were a crazy amount of grasshoppers in the rocks.  I tried to tell them that there was no grass, but they just clicked at us.

Halfway down we could finally see the Top of the Notch restaurant in the distance and its promise of a ski lift down.

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After such a sense of accomplishment who knows what I’ll take on next… Mt. San Jacinto?  Whitney?  Everest?  Only time will tell.

~ April (in Autumn)

My Big Fat Cleveland Getaway

25 Jul

Just when you thought had a fix on my location I took a quick trip back to my hometown for a wedding.

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It was a Pinterest perfect combination of sass and class.

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My friend Kristina loves the yarn bombed trees in Cleveland Heights.

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Elegant Lily pads at Cleveland Botanical Gardens.

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We took a bike trip on the Canal Towpath in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. This crazy structure is a lock for the old Ohio and Erie Canal. There is a really cool program in the summer where if you bring bikes onboard you can ride back on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad for only $3.

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Apparently I was really into taking pictures of bridges on this trip. This is the I-80 Bridge, it is home to a nesting pair of Peregrine Falcons.

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This is the Route 82 Bridge.

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Details on the Old Station Road Bridge.

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I was ready to gloat that this picture didn’t have a bridge in it when I realized that the boardwalk technically bridges the Beaver Marsh.

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I’m sure there’s also a bridge somewhere in this picture.

~Robin

Photo Adventure: Backpacking Hetch Hetchy

4 Jun

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Kolana Rock and Cloudscape

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Wapama Falls

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Lilly Pads!

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Tiltill Valley (I can’t wait tiltill we get there!)

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Crazy Tree Branches on the top of Leconte Point

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Rancheria Falls

This was an awesome trip. Y’all should be jealous.

~Robin

Photo Adventure: Panorama Trail

27 May

This is a total flyby post because I leave for a backpacking trip tomorrow morning and I haven’t started packing yet.

These are all from a hike I did on the Four Mile and Panorama Trail. I don’t know why I waited two years to do this hike, it’s one of the best day hikes in Yosemite!

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El Capitan from the Four Mile Trail

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Glacier Point view of Halfdome, Nevada and Vernal Falls

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The backside of Half Dome and Illilouette Falls

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Nevada Fall

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OMG Rainbow!

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Starlit El Capitan (notice the climber’s lights)

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I love this quote

~Robin

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