CCEP green heron logo Calvin College Ecosystem Preserve

January/ February 2014 Newsletter

IN THIS ISSUE:

Citizen Scientist Tool Box

Winter Critters & Company

First Saturdays

Friendly Faces

Tales from the Trails

Nature Neighbors

Unplugged

 



Walking trails are open to the public every day from dawn to dusk.

Bunker Interpretive Center (BIC) hours

Academic year:
M–F  9 a.m.–5 p.m.

Summer:
M–F  8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.

Closed weekends and holidays.

Admission to the trails and BIC is free.

1750 East Beltline Ave. SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49546
www.calvin.edu/go/preserve
(616) 526-7600


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Contributing Writers:

Julie Wilbourn,
Department Assistant

Leah Jonker,
Program Assistant

Sheila DeVries,
Program Assistant/
Program Leader

Jeanette Henderson,
Program Manager

Citizen Scientist Tool Box

Discover how your observations of nature can help scientists expand scientific knowledge by learning about a variety of citizen science programs in which you can participate. From Ebird, to Michigan HerpWatch, to the Great Lakes Worm Watch Project, we will highlight a variety of flora and fauna projects that need your help. Bring your smart devices to discover how these technology tools and other online resources can help you enjoy your outdoor exploration, identify species, learn more, and provide scientists with valuable data at the same time. This workshop is great for educators looking to incorporate real world data collection into their teaching, and involve students in projects that make a difference.

When:
Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Sponsor:
Ecosystem Preserve & West Michigan Cluster of the Stewardship Network
Where:
Bunker Interpretive Center
Cost:
$5 suggested donation at the door to support the work of the WMC Stewardship Network
Registration:
Pre-registration is preferred as space is limited to 45 participants, but walk-ins are welcome

Who should attend? Observers of the natural world, educators, homeschool parents, scout leaders, and other naturalists aged 12 & up.

About Citizen Science: Citizen science is a form of research that enlists the public in collecting a wide range of environmental data to expand scientific knowledge and literacy. Citizen scientists range in age and scientific background, however, all citizen scientists enjoy learning more about the natural world.

Click here to see more upcoming events hosted by the Ecosystem Preserve.

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Winter Critters & Company


This February is the time to trek the trails with Miss Jeanette!  We have many wonderful activities planned for your youngster(s) to help take care of those ‘winter wiggles’.  Our winter themes are: Snowflakes & Snowman | Winter Hide & Seek | Birds in the Winter | White-tailed Deer.  For more details and to register, click here.

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First Saturdays

Tracks & Trails Winter Hike
Join Miss Jeanette on a wintry walk through the preserve to discover secrets in the snow left by winter active animals. Go on a track hunt, learn how to identify animal tracks and other animal signs, and then create your very own track stories. A great program for families with children ages 4-12.

When:    Saturday, February 1 at 10:30 am - 12 pm
Where:   Bunker Interpretive Center
Cost:       Free, no registration required
Dress for the weather and walking the trails.

To see more First Saturday programs planned for winter, click here.

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Friendly Faces

Gabriel LePageIntroducing: Gabriel LePage, Preserve Steward

What is your role at the preserve?
My role is to take care of the trails and keep track of the birds present at the preserve. As Preserve Stewards, we also enforce the rules and help Jeannette Henderson, the preserve´s Program Manager, with whatever odd jobs she may need to have done.

What is your biggest challenge as a Preserve Steward?
The biggest challenge is the weather, but even that is not so challenging. If it is too cold or wet, I can help Jeannette with a project indoors, usually data entry. But there is something invigorating about walking through the woods for several hours in rain or an early fall snowstorm.

What are the rewards of the job?
This job is an excellent respite from the world of lectures and assignments. When I work on Mondays and Thursdays, I have the chance to step out of all my other responsibilities and simply enjoy the forest. You can't write papers while bird watching.

How is this job preparing you for your future?
Working in the preserve is preparing me for my future in simple ways, such as practicing communication with a boss, and sharpening my knowledge of local birds.

What advice can you give prospective students or freshman to encourage their involvement at the Preserve?
Prospective students and freshman should definitely come out to the preserve and enjoy the trails. If they run into me or any of the other stewards, we would love to tell them about the birds we've seen and where to look for them. They should also know that the Bunker Interpretive Center is one of the best and least used homework spots. It's a great area to read your philosophy homework while looking out over the pond. Then, maybe they'll land themselves with one of the best jobs on campus.

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Tales from the Trails

Reflections of Andrea Voss Harvey, former Educational Program Leader, Program Assistant, Camp Leader in 2004-2008

What is your favorite story, memory, or experience from the preserve?
I think my favorite memory of the preserve is just the sense of peace and awe for creation I had each time I lead a group through the preserve. I loved seeing how each time I went through the preserve there were small little changes. From the new spring flowers to the colors in the fall, each time going through the preserve was uniquely different. I also loved working with students who came for field trips or day camp, as many of them were eager to learn about topics such as the water cycle, plants, rocks, and more. In addition, it was neat to see the students enjoy the creatures throughout the preserve and in the Bunker Interpretive Center. The "cool, look at that frog" remark could often be heard, and it was especially wonderful to hear from students who came from areas without a wooded environment.
 
What did you learn from your job at the preserve?
From working at the preserve, I learned the importance of hands-on learning for elementary students. Today, so many students need the opportunity to interact with their learning, and the nature preserve gave them these types of experiences. I have adapted some of the activities we used in lessons at the preserve for my classroom today.
 
What do you do now, and how did your job experience at the preserve influence your career, family life, faith, or lifestyle in general?
After graduating Calvin in 2008, I accepted a position at Crown Point Christian School in St. John, IN.  Now I am in my sixth year as their middle school Science teacher. I feel the roles I held at the preserve influenced my role as a teacher in numerous ways. First of all, it impacted my teaching to be more hands-on in the classroom. Secondly, my position as program assistant taught me some skills for managing organizations like the preserve. Third, it taught me that each child is unique in their learning, and whether it was a class field trip or day camp, it was important to engage each student in God's creation. Finally, working at the preserve provided me with a deeper appreciation for God's created world. After four years of working there while I was a student at Calvin, the preserve never ceased to amaze me with something new each day.

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Nature Neighbors

Meet Your Neighbor:

Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)

Description: Covered in grey upper-feathers and white under-feathers with a tufted crest on their head, making them distinguishable even by their silhouette. Short, squatty bill and rusty, orange feathers under their wings. Grow to an average length of 16 cm.
Voice: Year-round, one can hear their loud song, a fast-repeated (up to 11 times in succession), clear whistle: peter-peter-peter.  Tufted Titmice also have fussy, scolding call notes (particularly during mating season).
Habitat: They are all-year residents of shrubland habitats and deciduous or mixed wood forests, primarily in the Great Lakes region. Rarely these birds are found in elevations above 2,000 feet.
Diet: They spend most of their time scavenging for nuts and seeds on the ground, though sometimes dive into bushes and shrubs to catch insects and spiders.
Interesting Facts: The nest of the Tufted Titmouse is built in a natural tree cavity, lined with hairs, snake skins, and other soft materials. Sometimes they even pluck hairs straight from animals. Their nest is cup-shaped to protect their young.

Be a Good Neighbor:

Tufted Titmice cannot build their own nest cavities, and since dead wood has an abundance of hollows, these birds are dependent on a forest´s dead trees. Instead of sawing down these trees, it is important to leave them standing in forests to provide the Tufted Titmice with homes. Since these birds are often found in urban neighborhoods where trees are less dense, nest boxes are also inviting homes.

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Unplugged: Connecting with Nature

rabbit tracks in snow
Snow in the winter is a perfect time to look for animal signs. Fresh snow is a blank canvas just waiting for the animals to walk through. Looking for animal tracks, and playing detective by following where they lead, is a way to have fun outside and learn at the same time. Some tracks that are common in residential areas include squirrels, rabbits, deer, birds and raccoons.  When following tracks, observe the habitat and where the tracks lead to help identify the animal and figure out what it had been doing.  Take along a field guide to help identify the animal.  If you don´t have a guide, draw the tracks in a notebook, or set a ruler next to the tracks to measure them and take a picture. Then visit EEK, a great website for animal track identification. Take their Tricky Tracks quiz to learn more and see how many tracks you can ID.

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