Is your little one ready to join in the fun of Mighty Acorns?

For our youngest naturalists, we're excited to present another year of the Mighty Acorns Club, a "meeting" of budding naturalists and their caregivers held on the third Thursday of every month of the school calendar year. Ages 3-5 are welcome to participate in this hands-on program intended to introduce participants to some of the many wonders of the natural world.

The first 2017 Mighty Acorns Club will take place on Thursday, January 19, from 10-11:30 a.m. at The Nature Museum.  During this program, Wild About Bears, the Mighty Acorns will learn all about what bears eat, where they live, and how they survive in winter. Does your “bear cub” like blueberries? So do bears. Time outside along with a story and hands-on items will teach your child all about bears.  

The February 16th Mighty Acorns Club features Snowshoeing and Winter Animal Adaptations. After a short lesson about how animals survive cold Vermont winters, the group will venture outside to learn how to use snowshoes. Is that an animal track we see? Who has been here, and where is that animal going? This is a great program to introduce your Mighty Acorn to snowshoeing, with time outside exploring and tromping through The Nature Museum’s field. Children’s snowshoes are available to borrow upon reservation for this program.

You are welcome to drop-in, but you'll save $2 by registering in advance online. And new for 2017: sign up for multiples sessions at one time!

Through stories, games, hands-on items, and crafts, Mighty Acorns helps children connect with nature. The cost per child is $5, and caregivers are free. Children should bring a snack and clothes for outside. Drops-ins welcome! Pre-registration is encouraged, but is not required. 

We hope you can join us on January 19th!

Join us this Saturday for our first "Kindred Spirits" program!

Our newest program for 2017, Kindred Spirits, kicks off this Saturday. This monthly program is designed for families to share and explore the mysteries of nature through hands-on activities, both indoors and out.

Come join two of our amazing naturalist leaders, Leah and Caitlin, this Saturday for a session dedicated to making art with natural materials, including fairy house structures. If you made it out to our Fairy House Festival in September, you remember how creative and artistic our builders' creations were. Be a builder this Saturday or make other nature inspired art alongside other nature (and art!) lovers of all ages.

Kindred Spirits: Nature Art will take place at The Nature Museum on Saturday, January 14th from 10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. This program is for all ages including adults. Weather permitting, we will also take a stroll outside and see what we can see! 

Drop-ins are welcome, but we appreciate RSVPs too so that we may better prepare materials. 

Calling All Kids: Another Winter Break Is Around the Corner

Winter brings with it new opportunities for growth and discovery outside, especially for kids who are experiencing the joys of cold-weather outdoor pursuits for the first time, like skiing, ice skating, or snowshoeing.

There’s a Norwegian saying you may have heard that rings true here in Vermont: “There is no bad weather, only bad clothes”. If properly suited up to fend off the cold, kids can have just as much fun in these brisk months as they do in our state’s gloriously mild summers. 

Next month, we excitedly offer Brave Bears and Wild Walkers, two exciting outdoor adventure programs, for kids ages 6-14. Both programs are scheduled during our local schools’ winter break and will take place here at The Nature Museum in Grafton. 

Do you know what a blast a group of kids on snowshoes can have? We do, because we offered these two popular programs last year. Your kids won’t want to miss them! Both camps offer adventure for those eager to get outside and go exploring; both programs will be led skilled and experienced environmental educators.

Scholarships are available. Please inquire for multiple day or sibling discounts. Kids should bring a hearty bagged snack, lunch, and a water bottle carried in a backpack and wear appropriate winter clothing and gear to winter camps. Upon request, The Nature Museum can loan snowshoes for participants who do not have their own. 


Brave Bears | Ages 6-9 | Tuesday, February 21, 10am-3pm

Brave Bears will tackle fun, hands-on indoor and outdoor experiences related to the animals that call Vermont home. We’ll learn about these animals’ winter adaptations and how humans track them— before embarking on a snowshoeing adventure in the forest and field, collecting clues left in the snow by wild animals. Campers will practice snowshoeing skills through entertaining games and a scavenger hunt.

In the afternoon, special guest Charles Norris-Brown, PhD., social anthropologist, author & illustrator, will read and discuss his recently published book, “Did Tiger Take the Rain?” This inspiring and beautifully written and illustrated tale of a Himalayan land that is experiencing drought features two courageous girls who are seeking an answer to environmental changes. The combination of gorgeous watercolors, a forest adventure, and the notion that children have the ability to act to make life better, creates a vibrant story for Brave Bears to enjoy.

Registration is now open. The cost for Brave Bears is $25 if registered by February 1 or $30 after that. In case of inclement weather, this program will be rescheduled for Friday, February 24th.


Wild Walkers | Ages 10-14 | Wednesday, February 22, 9:30am-3:30pm

Our Wild Walkers program is a partnership between The Nature Museum and Vermont Wilderness School, a Brattleboro-based non-profit.

Participants will learn how to coal-burn—a method used for making spoons, bowls and even canoes, which dates back to the First People. Skills learned will include safe fire tending, how to manage coal-burning safely and how to use and care for a knife. 

Youth will make a "quickie" spoon rather than a full-process coal-burn spoon, which can take several hours to make. Participants, who have their own sheath knife or locking-blade knife, should bring it. If not, the instructor will provide sheath knives that campers can borrow. Skilled instructors from the Vermont Wilderness School and The Nature Museum will guide Wild Walkers in a safe, fun, and respectful experience.

Registration is now open. The cost for Wild Walkers is $35 if registered by February 1 or $40 after that. In case of inclement weather, this program will be rescheduled for Friday, February 24th.

Bambi's Impact

By Bob Engel
Marlboro College Professor Emeritus of Biology and Environmental Science

Years ago we had a Mexican exchange student living with us.  One evening we went by the edge of an orchard and saw two deer.  Our student went absolutely crazy.  She had never seen a deer because subsistence hunting by rural people in Mexico has just about eliminated anything large and edible.  I let her fawn over our find, but I kept my thoughts to myself.  I’m not a big fan of our deer, at least not at their current densities.

Some years ago, a rather extraordinary lawsuit was filed by several botanists against the U.S. Government’s Department of Agriculture.  The botanists had been working on the quantification of plant species in a northern Wisconsin National Forest, and then happened to do the same on a nearby Native American (NA) “reservation.”  It was like night and day!  Many plant species that were rare in the National Forest were common on the NA land.  These differences included woody species like Yew and a lot of herbaceous species.  What had caused the differences in plant abundance?  You got it; White-tailed deer.  It turns out that hunting is tightly regulated in the National Forests but allowed all year on NA land.  There were eight times as many deer in the forests as on NA nation.  The law suit held that the U.S. Forest Service was not upholding its legal mandate to maintain biodiversity in our National Forests.

In 2005, a paper appeared in Science magazine reporting on a reassessment of numerous historic Ginseng populations in the Northeastern and mid-Atlantic states. (The article isn't available unless you have a Science subscription, but you can read about this paper in a related National Geographic Magazine article.) Some ginseng populations had disappeared completely and the rest had declined.  By process of elimination, the finger was again pointed at deer.  The same finger reappears with a 100 year remapping of a natural area near Boston.  In the century between the two samples, a huge fraction of the historic species were simply gone.  Right, it’s Bambi… again. 

For that matter, we now have a lengthy list of herbaceous plant species that tell you whether deer herbivory in your neighborhood is intense.  If your property is covered with Jack-in-the pulpits and trillium, you don’t have a lot of deer.  The numerous painted trilliums along our drive are long gone.  So are the orchids.  I fence some gentians, which are doing fine.  Talk to any forester and s/he will tell you that deer are changing the composition of Vermont’s forests (the bugs will probably finish the job).  American beech is like chopped liver for deer, so it becomes disproportionately common as other tree species are browsed.

And there is also the nuisance factor: deer eat our flower and vegetable gardens.  There’s a multimillion dollar industry out there to help you with that.  I hope you’ve had more luck than we have.

Then it gets more personal.  We all know people who have had Lyme disease (or other tick-born diseases).  Some of these folks will struggle with often debilitating symptoms for life.  We can thank those very same deer for at least some of that.  Looking around the literature, there’s more than you want to read on deer and Lyme.  There’s a lot of circumstantial work that shows lyme to subside in prevalence with deer population reductions.  But there are also some people who think deer are free of blame.  There’s even a conspiracy theory that Lyme escaped from a Government lab in the south!  From where I sit, the jury is walking down the hall: young ticks feed on a variety of host species, from shrews to possums, the adults like bigger things like deer.  Both young and old can transmit the disease to us.  So how much do we blame the deer for our tick-born woes?  Again, its mostly circumstantial: for example, both mice and deer like acorns.  Acorns?  Yes, oak mast years has been connected to Lyme outbreaks.  Is this a case of trying to force a correlation into causation?  We simply don’t know yet.

So here’s the question: why not be safe instead of sorry?  Why don’t we regulate the deer herd downwards to see if that helps both us and our forests?  It’s a no-brainer, right?   More on that next time.

 

Twigs and Stems // January 2017

Here are a few links from around the web that caught our attention in recent weeks. Have you seen something that stuck with you that you'd like to share? Post it in the comments! Love what you see here? Follow us on Facebook, as we often post these goodies as we find them. 


Photo by David Govatski/USFWS via Flickr

Photo by David Govatski/USFWS via Flickr

2017: The Year of Symbiotic Wonders

Just like in years past, we've chosen a theme for this year's programming, a message reflected in some way with each camp, workshop, and talk that we offer.

This year will be dedicated to...

SYMBIOSIS

plural symbiosesplay\-ˌsēz\
1
:
  the living together in more or less intimate association or close union of two dissimilar organisms (as in parasitism or commensalism); especially :  mutualism
2
:  a cooperative relationship (as between two persons or groups) <the symbiosis…between the resident population and the immigrants — John Geipel>

In light of the new theme, we are excited to announce a new program for 2017,  “Kindred Spirits". This monthly program is designed for families to share and explore the mysteries of nature through hands-on activities, both indoors and out.

View our roster of Kindred Spirits events over the next several months>

At the same time, The Nature Museum promises that 2017 will offer an exciting slate of speakers, special events, and camps, as well as educational programs, workshops, and outreach programs in schools, libraries, and community hubs.

We hope you can join us for our first Kindred Spirits program, Nature Art , on Saturday, January 14, from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Nature Museum.

Participants are encouraged to beat the winter blues by joining the Museum’s naturalists Leah Kotok and Caitlin Holden to create take-home nature crafts, including fairy houses, using recycled or natural materials. This program is for all ages, especially families. If weather permits, there may also be an outside stroll. Drop-ins are welcome, but an RSVP is encouraged. Admission is by donation. 

February’s Kindred Spirits program features animal tracking and winter adaptations with environmental educator Jay DeGregorio. This program is slated for Saturday, February 18, from 10-11:30 a.m. Many native wildlife species remain active during winter and move about in their habitats to find food, shelter, and mates. This program will help participants notice clues that animals leave behind as they trek through ice and snow, providing opportunity to learn more about their lives. An RSVP is strongly encouraged. Admission is by donation. Snowshoes required. A limited number of snowshoes are available for children; please call to reserve a pair at nature-museum.org.

 

Sending You Warm Winter Solstice Greetings

Happy Winter Solstice friends!

We're a number of snowfalls in, but today marks the first day of winter and for some, an uptick in the pace of holiday prep. This time of year nature inspires us to hibernate and turn inward; but the stresses and demands of the holiday season often affect us in the opposite manner as we busily wrap gifts and make travel plans or ready our homes to welcome visiting family and friends.

For us, the Winter Solstice is a reminder to slow down, to reflect, and to celebrate the little things that add true meaning to our lives. It's this pause that can help us really tune in to the magic of the season and the opportunities for connection with others. ourselves, and the greater natural world.

Taking stock of our year here at The Nature Museum, we're so grateful for the incredible community we serve. Our efforts to facilitate stronger connections between adults and kids and nature would not be possible without you. So many of you have played a part in building this community through your participation and support and we are incredibly grateful. 

If you haven't already, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to The Nature Museum before the close of the year. You can also help us moving into 2017 by making us your charity of choice on Amazon through their Amazon Smiles program. Your support is vital for the continued growth of our community and are ability to continue to deliver high-quality nature programming for kids and adults alike. See you in 2017! 

Thank you again for a wonderful year. We wish you and your family a happy holiday season. See you in 2017!

A Bee Hive Upgrade Is In the Works!

One can no more approach people without love than one can approach bees without care. Such is the quality of bees.
— Leo Tolstoy

This past Thursday, two experienced and deeply committed beekeepers, Jeff Cunningham of Westminster West and Tom Goldschmidt of Saxtons River, met with our director, Carrie King, to discuss possible renovation options for our observational bee hive.

Honey bees are susceptible to diseases and other winged predators and our bees have not been spared from these harsh realities. We are committed to organic beekeeping methods and rely on dedicated volunteers to help us manage our observational hive. 

Jeff and Tom volunteered two hours of their valuable time to figure out the best ways to hive honey bees in our observational exhibit. Their knowledge and experience is priceless.

Stay tuned to see what plans have hatched to improve this fantastic live animal exhibit at The Nature Museum. We are open year around on Thursdays and we know that so many of our visitors appreciate seeing these amazing pollinators up close.