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Tag Archive | "Howard Christensen Nature Center"

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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On tap this weekend


You don’t want to miss these events coming up Friday and Saturday!

On Friday, May 13, at 7 p.m., En-Gedi youth center, meaning a Place to Be Refreshed, will host its first ever “Come Be Refreshed – Special Event” in the Cedar Springs High School. This is a free community event with a dessert buffet/cook-off providing sweet treat samples for guests to enjoy. Area catering and restaurant owners will be vying for guest’s votes in hopes of being named the “2011 En-Gedi Best Dessert Cup Winner.” A silent auction will be held for items such as two tickets to a Taylor Swift Concert, one ton of wood pellets, guided turkey hunt, two desktop computer, monitor, and software, Amish quilts, two bikes, a leather relaxation recliner, one-night stay at the W. W. Lodge, MSU autographed basketball, and many more great items. The evening will conclude in the auditorium with some exceptional music from local musicians as well as hearing from some students and Pastor Holloway. Proceeds go to support the youth center. Visit the En-Gedi website to learn more and/or make a donation (Pay Pal) www.En-GediYouthCenter.com.
On Saturday, May 14, come celebrate the grand reopening of the Howard Christensen Nature Center, 16190 Red Pine Drive, from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The Birds-eye Treasure Hunt has been canceled, but residents are still welcome to come out and explore the nature trails and enjoy the cozy atmosphere of the Red Pine Interpretive Center, where lunch will be available for $5. The Howard Christensen Nature Center occupies 135 acres owned by the Kent Intermediate School District and is located west of Cedar Springs in the middle of the Rogue River State Game Area. To make a donation, or to get more information, call (616) 675-3158.

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Celebrate grand re-opening of Nature Center


Bird’s-Eye Treasure Hunt fundraiser on May 14

Supporters of the Howard Christensen Nature Center did not hibernate during the dark months of winter. They were busy making plans to re-open the nature center, at 16190 Red Pine Drive, which closed at the end of January due to budget issues. The popular nature center is experiencing a re-birth under the operation of a new non-profit organization called Lily’s Frog Pad Inc. The public is invited to participate in a “Bird’s-Eye Treasure Hunt” fundraiser on May 14, 2011 to celebrate the center’s Grand Re-opening. The Howard Christensen Nature Center occupies 135 acres owned by the Kent Intermediate School District and located west of Cedar Springs in the middle of the Rogue River State Game Area.
Lily’s Frog Pad Inc. is the creative idea of Cindy Perski, who is the President of the independent, 501c3 non-profit organization formed for the purpose of managing Howard Christensen Nature Center. Perski came up with the Lily’s Frog Pad name to initiate a fun, new image for the nature center that is well-known for providing environmental education field trips to West Michigan students since 1976. The Field Station, one of two “interpretive” buildings on the property, is expected to be re-opened as “Camp Lily” to provide a site for group overnight retreats. Other programs to serve the community’s needs are planned such as summer nature day camp, crafts classes, and fitness programs.
To “jump start” the nature center’s re-opening, Lily’s Frog Pad Inc. received a $3,100 grant from the Jimmy F. New Foundation. This Indiana foundation honors the founder of JF New, an environmental restoration and consulting firm with eight offices throughout the Midwest including three in West Olive, Ann Arbor and Holt, Michigan.  The grant was awarded in January, but wasn’t disbursed until recently when the new non-profit board was established, and matching start-up funds were acquired from Cindy Perski. Former director and Lily’s Frog Pad Inc. Vice President, Kathy Reed, says this grant allowed the nature center to offer field trips again this spring, but additional grants, donations and fundraising events are critical to the continued operation of the nature center.
The first fund-raising event is the “Bird’s-Eye Treasure Hunt” on Saturday, May 14 from 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. Participants must register in advance and make a $25.00 donation which allows them to hunt for 51 treasure “blocks” that have a value of $2.00 to $25.00 and a total value of $1,000.00! Rules and registration forms are available at the nature center and local libraries, or request one by e-mail. Lunch will be available for both visitors and participants to purchase from 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
The Red Pine Interpretive Building at Howard Christensen Nature Center is now open to the public from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday with occasional exceptions due to field trips or other scheduled events. For more information call the Howard Christensen Nature Center at (616) 675-3158.

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