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Tag Archive | "Howard Christensen Nature Center"

Hometown Happenings


Hometown Happenings articles are a community service for non-profit agencies only. Due to popular demand for placement in this section, we can no longer run all articles. Deadline for articles is Monday at 5 p.m. This is not guaranteed space. Articles will run as space allows. Guaranteed placement is $10, certain restrictions may apply. You now can email your Hometown Happenings to happenings@cedarspringspost.com please include name and phone number for any questions we may have.

TOPS weight loss support group

Jan. 28: Take off pounds sensibly (TOPS), a non-profit weight loss support group for men and women, meets every Tuesday at the Resurrection Lutheran Church in Sand Lake. Your first visit is free so come check out what TOPS can do to help you reach your weigh loss goals! Weigh-ins 8:15-9am, meeting starts at 9:15am. In case of inclement weather, meetings are cancelled if Tri-County or Cedar Springs schools are closed. Call Martha at 696-1039 for more information. #4

 

Winter Family Fun Day at HCNC

Feb. 1: Be a proud Michigander get out and enjoy winter. Here is your chance to come out and play in the snow with us. Children’s games, free snowshoe walk with your family, snowman or snow animal building contest, hula hoop contest, bubble blowing (if temp is below 32), make a snow glove, use our water filled bottles of color to create snow art in our open prairie. Then warm up with a bowl of chili or some s’mores around the campfire at Camp Lily’s location. Saturday, February 1 from12 noon to 3 pm. Donation of $6/person or $15 family. Howard Christensen Nature Center, 16190 Red Pine Dr., Kent City. 616-675-3158. #4

 

Springs Soccer Registration

Feb. 4&6: Springs 2014 Soccer Registration for American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) is Tuesday, February 4 and Thursday, February 6 at Burger King Restaurant, 4065 – 17 Mile Rd., Cedar Springs from 6 – 8 pm. Fee for the Spring Session is $60 per child with a $5 discount per child for families registering 3 or more players. Players must be at least 4 years of age by March 24, 2014. First time players – please bring Birth Certificate for age verification. Please complete online application at www.eayso.org – print two copies and take advantage of our Express Lane! These will be the final registration dates for the Spring Season. Please tell you friends and neighbors. If you have questions please contact us through the link on our website: www.ayso902.org. #4-6p

 

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Rob Vander Zee’s ArtPrize


Rob VanderZee’s entry into ArtPrize.

Rob VanderZee’s entry into ArtPrize.

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Rob Vander Zee, talented young man, was seeking an art project while in high school and has now displayed in Artprize 2013. When I was developing a wetland learning station at the Howard Christensen Nature Center in the 1980’s, it was fortunate that Rob connected with us. I explained a wetlands vision and gave him an image. From there he created the artwork mural that still draws youth and visitors to think about wetlands. Please visit HCNC and become a member.

I gave Rob a picture of a beaver pond and he painted a wonderful realistic rendition. The work entices viewers to think about the world we live in. Rob is at native of Cedar Springs and his work helps people think about the future.

Wetlands are major contributors to Michigan’s recreation economy.  They are economically valuable assets that filter toxics from water, reduce flood damage, are major food producers, and provide desirable sites for human habitation. Wetlands modify weather conditions and determine the depth of ground water tables that recharge city and private wells.  Water moves from wetlands to ground water and vice-versa.  How we handle sewage, fertilizers, pesticides, and toxic substance disposal are important community health issues that are constantly in debate. Safe drinking water is taken for granted and there are those that want to reduce community efforts to protect water quality by reducing government programs protecting our health and the environment.

In the 1970’s we passed the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Endangered Species. These programs have helped restore conditions that improve our quality of life. Those protections are being challenged to reduce taxes. People forget the pollution costs were more expensive and damaging to health than the preventive tax programs. Saving tax dollars spurs efforts to reduce government programs but at what cost? They may not be perfect but the programs protect our economy, health and quality of life. Rob’s art work hopes to engage people to think about the future and I hope my articles do the same.

When we bought Ody Brook property in 1979, the home plumbing from the toilet went into a 55-gallon drum that had rusted away and other water was piped directly to the Little Cedar Creek. We installed a proper septic system and drain field. It was not until 1976 that government regulations changed construction codes to meet the Clean Water Act and provide environmental protection. We recently added five acres to Ody Brook that has an existing home. That home’s plumbing ran to the Little Cedar Creek without a septic drain field. The home construction predated the 1970’s Clean Water Act tax legislation. We recently installed a proper septic system to protect the stream, wetlands, and water quality for Cedar Springs human and wildlife neighbors.

How many homes still have systems that pollute water quality, fishing, health, and damage our community’s economy and quality of life? The current budget battle in Washington is wrestling with what is needed to maintain a high quality of life in Cedar Springs. That brings us back to Rob Vander Zee’s art.

Rob painted a mural for ArtPrize called Michigan Forest: The Future of Genetic Manipulation on an Eco System. He comments his artwork is open for interpretation. He wants people to think about society actions. His work displays possibilities for the future. He wants viewers to contemplate nature niches and our role as participants in the ecosystem. I hope many of you viewed his work. If not, view and read his comments about the painting at: www.artprize.org/rob-vander-zee.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.

 

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Nature Center receives gift


The Great Lakes Energy People Fund has granted/gifted Howard Christensen Nature Center (HCNC) a new commercial chainsaw.

The nature center had an old chainsaw that broke down more than it was in use and thanks to the Great Lakes Energy People Fund, HCNC hopes to get many years of use from such a magnificent gift.

With this chainsaw, HCNC will be creating major projects they will include the following:

A nature center playground made from only wood items, which will include drums, xylophone (PVC piping that children can play musical tunes on), sandbox, balance beams and more.

Cut up firewood for camping to help create sustainable income for the center.

Cut down some trees around the center. Therefore, the center can consider using solar energy panels to produce alternative energy.

To cut up fallen trees during storms that have become a nuisance or danger to humans.

HCNC is open from 9 am – 4 pm Monday through Friday and 12 pm to 4 pm on the weekends and closed on the weekends for special occasions. Please visit www.lilysfrogpad.com for more information, or call (616) 675-3158.

For more info on the Great Lake People fund, visit greatlakespeoplefund.com.

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No Child Left Inside Part 1


OUT-RangerSteveMuellerBy Ranger Steve Mueller

 

No child left inside is locally important for all things start at home. I emphasize what people can do to promote healthy nature niches on their property for families and wildlife. Our children are among those that live in our home nature niches.

An organized No Child Left Inside movement has been around for over a century in many forms by different names and sponsors. Field and Stream Clubs across the country have programs where youth get immersed in the outdoors. The emphasis focuses around hunting and fishing with a goal to help youth understand the natural world they depend on for life. They gave me a scholarship to wildlife camp for a week in 1964 where I learned about birds, mammals, fish, outdoor skills, and habitat management.

The National Audubon Society Junior Audubon program takes kids outdoors to experience birds, plants, insects, and all ecology our lives depend upon. The local Junior Audubon is the longest running program in North America according to Grand Rapids Audubon leader Wendy Tatar. My parents subscribed me to Junior Audubon booklets monthly for years that taught about soil, worms, insects, birds, mammals, amphibians, plant communities and the list goes on and on.

4H programs focus primarily on animal husbandry and plant propagation for making ones livelihood but it leads to understanding how all nature’s creatures like soil bacteria and mycorhiza fungus are essential for maintaining a healthy world. Paige Gebhardt, 4H student, graduated salutatorian this year from Cedar Springs High School and will attend Michigan State University studying wildlife programs. She told me this spring she would love to work with wolves and become a wildlife biologist to enhance healthy nature niches essential for the health of our community.

Boy and Girl Scout programs have been among the most influential for my personal development. Boy Scouts got me outside canoeing, camping, hiking, observing with focused activities where I could study the natural world. The leaders often did not have the best nature knowledge but they loved it. By the time I was in high school, scout leaders and other scouts often turned to me with nature questions because I immersed myself in outdoor study. The first nature book I bought with my own money was A Field to the Butterflies, by Alexander Klots. I had been chasing winged jewels for years and wanted better understanding.

The Michigan Alliance for Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE) is an organization of outdoor leaders and teachers focused on experiential outdoor recreational activities and for responsible environmental stewardship that is not environmentally destructive. I was president of MAEOE working to lead local communities in Michigan to help return environmental and outdoor education as a priority again in 2007. In 1986, Dale Elshoff and I both moved to Michigan and we were already trained Project WILD facilitators. Together we led the first statewide teacher training in Project WILD to establish it in Michigan. It is a form of no child left inside that teachers and organization leaders use with youth.

It was the beginning of June 2005 when I was called to the Kent ISD office and told to lay off the staff at the Howard Christensen Nature Center on the last day of school. The superintendent told me they were closing HCNC because environmental education was no longer a priority in America. I objected and he commented that he was not saying it was not important but it was no longer a priority in America, Michigan, or our community. There were several people throughout the county that contacted the ISD and even the Grand Rapids Press but environmental education had become a political football instead of a community value so it was closed. The Kent County Soil Conservation District reopened it a year later for two years and then a nonprofit organization called Lily’s Frog Pad assumed management. Their programs and community involvement are growing at HCNC to promote No Child Left Inside.

Next week’s nature niche will focus on the current No Child Left Inside movement.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the odybrook@chartermi.net or Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.

 

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Wild Wednesdays at Howard Christensen Nature Center


Rain or shine!

 

Come and enjoy these Wild Wednesdays events at Howard Christensen Nature Center, located at 16190 Red Pine Drive, Kent City, Michigan, 49330. Wild Wednesdays are best suited for Children 6-13 years old. Please bring a lunch and drink each day for child. Scholarship programs available to those in need, please inquire. Free for members of HCNC. Events are $8 per child, per day for non-members, or $20.00 for all four classes prepaid. (Parents always welcomed and encouraged to come along free of charge.)

For more info or to register, please call (616) 675-3158 or visit lilysfrogpad.com for more info.

July 31: Creepy-Crawly Insects 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Ages 6-13 years old

Children, come touch, examine, find, and learn of our insect world, learn why insects are important to our ecology and insect habitats. Children will be going outside and collecting their own insects, examining under microscopes and learning fascinating facts of the insect world. Please bring a lunch and drink each day for child. Please dress children in play clothing—long sleeves (sleeves they can roll-up) and pants/jeans. Bring child’s backpack for carrying things through woods. Pre-registration no less than 3 days prior.

August 7: Reptiles & Amphibians 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Ages 6-13 years old

Hunt down a frog or two, possibly a snake—this class you can get dirty and touch the outside world. Our Naturalist will lead children on an outdoor excursion in finding where amphibians and reptiles live, what they eat and their worlds.  Children will use nets to capture living creatures and discover greater knowledge with hands on teaching.

August 15: Trees & Plants 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Ages 6-13 years old

Discover what it takes to make an organic garden. What you can grow in Michigan and what is good eating in nature. Children will find native plants that are edible and part of the animals buffet dinner daily/nightly. Children will make their own garden pots and take home to watch their plants grow with instructions from one of our Naturalists. Children will also learn to identify poisonous plants.

August 21: Nature Art/Crafts 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Ages 6-13 years old

Calling all children artists and nature lovers. Nature has inspired many famous artists—is your child next? Spend the day creating art pieces and crafts and finding great art in the outdoors. Create works of art that reflect what each child has seen, with paint, leaves, and more!

 

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Birds Displayed


Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Frank Rackett collected and mounted birds starting in 1876 and continued through about 1936. He donated his collection to Godwin Height Public Schools. The school district could not properly care for the collection and was no longer displaying them. They contacted the Howard Christensen Nature Center (HCNC) to see if they would be a useful addition to our extensive display collection.

More than 150 bird cases containing about 450 birds were picked up in March 2012. During the summer and fall, volunteer Dave Cartwright refurbished cases and cleaned specimens. Preparing the collection for display has taken hours and great dedication from Dave. Without his efforts, the current display would not be suitable for viewing, enjoyment and education.

Come to HCNC between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays or noon and 4 p.m. on weekends to enjoy the displays. Taxidermist Harold Moody donated live mount specimens (those prepared to look like living animals) to HCNC starting in the 1970’s and continued for 30 years. When a bird or mammal was killed, we contacted Harold and he volunteered to mount specimens in memory of his daughter, Pamela, who was killed at age 24 by a drunk driver.

We also worked with MI DNR conservation officers to acquire animals that were confiscated from poachers or were found dead like the Common Loon that swallowed a fishing lure. The Mute Swan flew into a power line. The bobcat was hit on Red Pine Drive north of the nature center.

The Rackett collection contains many birds from western North America, including a few from south of the United States. There are several warblers and rarities like the Green Jay, MotMot, Painted Redstart, Lewis’s Woodpecker, and Mountain Plover that one will not see in Michigan or may not be found in other Michigan collections.

We developed what might be the most extensive bird and mammal collection for any nature center in Michigan. Universities and some large public museums have more but it is rare to find such an extensive collection at any nature center in the nation or world. Our collection is especially rich in birds of prey and I doubt it is matched by other nature centers.

HCNC is now a 501c3 non-profit operated by Lily’s Frog Pad and is working to continue serving school districts and area communities. HCNC is an important community resource and deserves community support. To help HCNC continues its mission, you can sponsor a display case or live mount display by providing funding for operations. Explore the displays free during open hours and please sponsor a display for a year. Come pick a display of your choice and provide $25 or more in support for 2013 programming to serve education and community interests. When visiting ask about individual or family memberships.

Though I am retired, I continue to volunteer at HCNC where more volunteers are encouraged and welcomed. Contact Cindy Perski at 616-675-3158 to offer your skills from technology, grant writing, woodworking, outdoor projects, nature study surveys and more. http://lilysfrogpad.com/volunteer-opportunities/.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433, 616-696-1753.

 

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Nature Center events


UPDATE: Postponed due to weather…

Daddy daughter date night, astronomy

 

The Howard Christensen Nature Center, 16190 Red Pine Dr NW, Kent City, has a couple of fundraising events coming up that you won’t want to miss.

On Friday, February 24, from 6-9 p.m., dad and their daughters, ages 5-16, can enjoy a pizza dinner and an evening of dancing at the Daddy Daughter date night. In addition to dancing, there will be lots of games and activities being played throughout the evening. A light pizza dinner will be served between 6-7 p.m. Bring your dancing shoes and have a blast! Registration not required but is appreciated.

On Saturday March 3, individuals or families can have some fun learning about astronomy, from 7-9 p.m. This event will help satisfy that desire to know more about the heavens and show you how to see objects in the night. The class covers information about the earth, moon, planets and stars—from making a scale model of our systems to understanding the difference between stars. Instruction is given on viewing the night sky using binoculars and natural sight. Following the workshop, we will go outside to view the stars. Basics will be given on how to use (provided) binoculars to see the planets and stars. For more info call (616) 675-3158.

 

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Walk or run: benefits for all


According to research, natural settings increase a sense of self-worth and decrease stress. The Howard Christensen Nature Center (HCNC), nestled in the Rogue River State Game Area, is the perfect setting for a walk or run, especially on Sunday, October 23. This is the date for the first Red Pine Run that is being held to promote healthy lifestyles and to benefit the nature center. The public is invited to enjoy a beautiful Michigan fall day by running or walking the 5K (3.1 mile) trail or grabbing a friend or family member to participate as a relay team.
The course, designed by Kent City Cross Country coach Jill Evers, is a flat, scenic double loop through the nature center on well-marked trails. Each relay team member will do one loop. Participants doing the full 5K will run/walk the loop twice. The race begins at 2:00 p.m.
Refreshments and an award presentation are scheduled for the finish of the family-friendly race. Participants receive a t-shirt and awards will be given for the top two finishers in each age division.
For participants 19 years old and older, the fee is $20 for registrations received before Oct. 3, and $25 after that date. The registration fee for participants 18 years and younger is $15 before Oct. 3 and $20 afterwards. Registration forms are available on the website at www.lilysfrogpad.com. Lily’s Frog Pad Inc. manages Howard Christensen Nature Center and is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
Proceeds from the race will help keep the nature center buildings open for school field trips, family workshops and Snow Shoe Saturdays during the winter.
Contact Cindy at (616) 675-3158 or cindy@lilysfrogpad.com with questions. An informational flyer, directions and other information can also be found at www.lilysfrogpad.com.

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Little people can do BIG things


Connor Schaffer (right) and his brother Spencer are excited about the celebration at Howard Christensen Nature Center.

Student’s donation provides inspiration to Nature Center

On June 28, Connor Schaffer presented a check to the Lily’s Frog Pad Inc. Board of Advisors for $150. Although this donation may not be the biggest received by the new non-profit that is now managing the Howard Christensen Nature Center, its significance is huge. Connor is 10 years old!
His mother, Jennifer Schaffer, is proud of her son. “It is important for kids to know that they can make a difference; it doesn’t have to always be the grown-ups,” she said. The Lily’s Frog Pad Inc. Board members agreed whole-heartedly and celebrated Connor’s inspirational efforts with a framed certificate of appreciation and a special cake. Connor was also recognized by Fox17 News as their “Pay It Forward” Person of the Week on June 24.

Connor’s involvement with the nature center started when all of the third grade classes at Chandler Woods Charter Academy visited Howard Christensen Nature Center (HCNC) for a field trip in the fall. Connor was very disappointed when he heard that the nature center was closing this past winter due to a funding shortage and he wanted to take action.

Connor made donation boxes and signs and talked to his entire school about the nature center’s plight. The students did extra chores around the house to earn money to donate. Their teacher, Mrs. Lopez, even put out a challenge to match dollar for dollar what the kids turned in for the day! When Connor and his class heard the news that Lily’s Frog Pad was going to re-open and manage HCNC, they were happy to know that the nature center will be around for other kids to come and enjoy.

Day camp programs are scheduled this summer and field trips will resume in the fall. More information about Howard Christensen Nature Center programs can be found at www.lilysfrogpad.com.

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Two upcoming events at Nature Center


Lily’s Frog Pad Inc., the new non-profit that is managing the Howard Christensen Nature Center, invites everyone to come see the changes that have been made at the Red Pine Interpretive Center. Two events are scheduled to show the public what the nature center has to offer them.
On Thursday, July 14, from noon until 3:00 p.m., a Junior Naturalist Day is scheduled in conjunction with the Sparta Town & Country Fair. Families are invited to come hike the trails and try hands-on activities for children in the Red Pine Interpretive Center. All of the activities are free.
For those who want to get directly involved in supporting the nature center, a Volunteer Work Day is scheduled on Saturday, July 23 from 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. Volunteers are needed to do work both inside and outside the buildings. Games, food and drinks are planned as well as the work! The event is scheduled rain or shine. Contact Cindy Perski at the nature center to sign-up or find out more. Call 675-3158 or www.lilysfrogpad.com.

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