Bring Your Weeds to Willow Bend

Invasive Weeds2This Saturday, August 17, please join Scott Harger at Willow Bend Environmental Education Center for a noxious weed identification session from 2-4 pm.

With the incredibly wet July we had here in northern Arizona, the forests, neighborhoods, and roadsides are bursting with beautiful native wildflowers…and invasive weeds!  How can you tell which is which?  Take a picture, or dig one up and bring your weed to Willow Bend.

Harger, a Range Conservationist at the Coconino Natural Resource Conservation District, also serves as a Coordinator for the San Francisco Peaks Weed Management Area.  He will have posters and samples of noxious weeds from the area and will provide advice on management.  Drop in anytime between 2 and 4 pm.

The Five Points Project

One of our founders was Jim David – a high-school biology teacher in Flagstaff.  From the beginning, classroom programs about environmental education have been our focus.  With many different programs to choose from and dozens of kits, we complement teachers’ lessons with specific areas of expertise as requested.  Continuing in this tradition, we recently completed the Five Points Project.

The Five Points Project incorporated 5 major components of environmental education: standards-aligned classroom programs, outdoor field experiences, training for teachers, service learning projects, and family science events. The underlying theme of the project was wildlife habitat restoration and resource conservation.

Students at Knoles Elementary School take a break from trail building activities.  As part of the 5-Points project, Willow Bend worked with volunteers from the American Conservation Experience (ACE) to build a nature trail and outdoor classroom on the school grounds.

Students at Knoles Elementary School take a break from trail building activities. As part of the 5-Points project, Willow Bend worked with volunteers from the American Conservation Experience (ACE) to build a nature trail and outdoor classroom on the school grounds.

First, we visited the classrooms to provide lessons on habitats and biodiversity, forest ecology, animal and plant structure and human interactions with the environment. Using the school grounds as an outdoor classroom, we created micro-habitats, hunted for animal scat and sign, and discussed how we could improve the school yard habitat.

At one school we started by working in the school garden developing micro-habitats for a variety of animals and plants. This linked in with a much larger project through Terra BIRDS – an organization specializing in school gardens. In another school the students researched local birds, made bird feeders from recycled materials, and hung bird feeders in the school grounds. At a third school, students constructed a new trail, built “insect hotels” to welcome small wildlife, and created animal books with poetry and artwork on local animals that may be seen close to the school.

The children had incredible fun building trails, starting a garden, exploring their school yards, writing field guides for wildlife found near the school yard, and creating beautiful art work and poetry.  And, they learned valuable lessons:
“You made us all realize we can help.”

The project included a lesson where the children made art work re-using materials, and then wrote poems about their animal.

The project included a lesson where the children made art work re-using materials, and then wrote poems about their animal.

The project was funded through a grant from the Arizona Game and Fish Department Heritage Fund, and administered through the Office of the Coconino County Superintendent of Schools.

– Cassandra Roberts, Willow Bend Program Manager

Please see our recently completed Annual Report for additional articles.

New AmeriCorps Positions

We have posted two new AmeriCorps positions at Willow Bend.  There are two positions open for Outreach and Program Assistant: one is half-time and one is full-time.

The Outreach and Program Assistant will work with Willow Bend staff to develop, promote, and present programs and events to schools and community members around Flagstaff.  This person can expect a varied workload potentially including representing Willow Bend at events across the community, assisting with or leading programs for families, adults, and school groups, promoting upcoming Willow Bend events through print and social media, and general administrative work in the Willow Bend office.

We provide an open, flexible work environment for self-motivated individuals and opportunities to participate in professional development workshops, trainings, and conferences.  To learn more about these openings please contact Cassandra Roberts (cassandra@willowbendcenter.org or 928-779-1745.)

Youth in Action is the AmeriCorps program based in Flagstaff, Arizona.

New Membership Program at Willow Bend

Membership BrochureWe are excited to present a new membership program at Willow Bend.  You may soon be receiving a letter or email inviting you to join…and we think that you should!  Why?

Did you know that Willow Bend Environmental Education Center was booming with children this past spring because all of our available slots for school field trips were full?  We could grow our staff and reach even more classes, with your help.  

We know environmental education works and children enjoy these experiences.  94% of the kids we surveyed responded  “Yes” to the statement “I like being outdoors.” But many schools don’t have enough funding for field trips.  Through our NEW membership program at Willow Bend your donation can send Willow Bend to a classroom, or send a class to Willow Bend for a field trip.

There are lots of other reasons to join and become a ‘Friend of the Bend.’  You can check out the membership brochure and find the level that is right for you.  And you can join right now, with an online donation.

IMG_1227Check out this cool grocery bag made from recycled P.E.T. that you’ll get when you join.

Stamping Out Invasive Plants

The Siberian Elm found around Flagstaff is an invasive species

The Siberian Elm found around Flagstaff is an invasive species

Even in the native gardens surrounding Willow Bend Environmental Education Center we battle against invasive plant species.  Recently the crew from the Coconino Parks and Rec. was here to remove some unwanted inhabitants from Sawmill County Park: the Siberian Elm.

This pesky tree has the notorious distinction of being on “Flagstaff’s Dirty Dozen” list and for good reason.  It is invading our forests, and it produces hundreds of seedlings, the sprouts from which grow very rapidly.

You can find the complete list of Flagstaff’s Dirty Dozen on display at Willow Bend throughout the summer.  The set of posters was assembled for the San Francisco Peaks Weed Management Area by the Coconino Natural Resource Conservation District.

Noxious weeds cost the US 1.4 Billion each year, they block out native plants and degrade wildlife habitat, riparian areas and waterways.  Come check out the posters and learn to identify the weeds and help control their spread in your neighborhood.

Invasive Weeds

Do you have a mystery plant growing in your yard?Invasive Weeds2
Is it taking over?

Bring your ‘suspect’ (or pictures of it) to Willow Bend Environmental Education on Center for help!  A representative of the San Francisco Peaks Weed Management Area will help identify your weed; if it is a “bad guy” we will give you tips on how to manage it. We’ll also have information about local weed groups in your area that are working on restoration projects and improving their neighborhood environment.

Please drop in and visit!
June 8th from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.

News Release – Largest Unrestricted Gift Received

Flagstaff, AZ. May 16, 2013 – The Wildland Trekking Company (www.wildlandtrekking.com) in Flagstaff, AZ recently donated $12,000 to Willow Bend Environmental Education Center – the largest unrestricted donation in the non-profit’s 35-year history.  The donation will be used for improvements to the Willow Bend Discovery Room including development of new exhibits and displays on regional water resources.  These will be hosted at Willow Bend’s site for K-12 school field trips and public programs, as well as travel to schools and community events.

The Wildland Trekking Company offers backpacking adventures as well as Inn-based and basecamp hiking vacations. Destinations range from the Rockies to the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the Desert Southwest.  More than 2,500 people join their tours annually, and the business was recently showcased on the Discovery Channel as one of the “Official Best” attractions in Arizona.

Co-founder, Brad Ball said that “after doing some homework on Willow Bend and reading their annual report, we saw that their mission of environmental education for children is very well aligned with our business philosophy.  We believe that exposure to the natural world helps to create an emotional identification with the land that can motivate day-to-day action on behalf of the places we love. It is our dream that these special places will be preserved and cherished by many generations to come.”

Through 1% For the Planet, the company has pledged to donate 1% of annual gross revenue to environmental organizations.   1% For the Planet is an alliance of businesses committed to leveraging their resources to create a healthier environment.

Willow Bend Environmental Education Center, founded by the Coconino Natural Resource Conservation District, is a resource for learning about stewardship of our natural resources through K-12 education programs, family science events, adult education series, and community events.  Visit willowbendcenter.org to learn more about their energy neutral building and habitat-friendly native landscaping.

News Release – Solar Photovoltaics Presentation

Flagstaff, AZ. May 14, 2013 – Willow Bend Environmental Education Center is hosting a presentation by Jim Corning on solar photovoltaic cells for home energy use. In partnership with the Coconino County Sustainable Building Program the presentation is on May 16th 5:00 PM at Willow Bend Environmental Education Center (703 East Sawmill Rd.) Come learn about installing and using solar photovoltaic cells to help meet your energy needs.

Jim Corning is an entrepreneur in the truest sense of the word having founded four high-tech businesses currently operating in Flagstaff.  His businesses include Plug and Play Solar (the lead sponsor for the Sustainability Series), Prometheus Renewables, Novakinetics Aerosystems and Kinetic Defense.

Although he calls himself a ‘tinkerer,’ he is a mechanical engineer with a degree from MIT, and co-designer of the innovative Plug and Play system which he will demonstrate during the presentation at Willow Bend.

In college in the 1970s, during the first oil shocks, Jim saw firsthand how important energy is to our economy and way of life. Ever since, Jim has had a passion to help solve the energy problem.  He has seen solar and power electronics technologies make it possible to generate electricity cleanly at our own residences – enough to power a home and charge an electric vehicle – and Jim came to believe that solar energy technology was the place to invest his skills and time.

Jim believes that if we want our kids and grandkids to live in a cleaner, more secure society, we need to take action ourselves now by investing in clean energy like solar electricity. Jim drives his own Chevy Volt around town, powered mostly by sunshine, thereby living a dream come true after those long gas lines of the 1970s.

His other businesses specialize in a variety of products: Prometheus Renewables offers full service design and installation of renewable energy systems; they generously donated and installed the photovoltaic system in use at Willow Bend. Novakinetics Aerosystems Inc. specializes in high-performing composite parts for aircraft; and Kinetic Defense is now a leading developer and manufacturer of high-performance ballistic armor systems for aircraft used by the U.S. Department of State.

This event is a part of a free Sustainability Series hosted monthly through July, 2013 at Willow Bend Environmental Education Center. The series is presented in partnership with Willow Bend and the Coconino County Sustainable Building Program and is sponsored by Plug and Play Solar, APS and Flagstaff Native Plant and Seed.

The goal of the Sustainability Series at Willow Bend is to provide the northern Arizona community with a great opportunity to learn from local experts on sustainability, encompassing Willow Bend’s building and practices as models for teaching.  For more information or to register, contact (928) 779-1745 or register online at: www.willowbendcenter.org/public-programs_adult

News Release – Grant awarded from National Park Foundation

Flagstaff, AZ. April 23, 2013 – Willow Bend Environmental Education Center and the Flagstaff Area National Monuments- Sunset Crater Volcano, Walnut Canyon, and Wupatki are one of 34 recipients across the country selected to receive a 2013 America’s Best Idea grant from the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks. Inspired by the critically acclaimed Ken Burns’ documentary “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea”, the America’s Best Idea program funds park activities designed to connect diverse, underserved and under-engaged populations throughout the United States with their national parks in innovative and meaningful ways.

Through their partnership, Willow Bend Environmental Education Center and the Flagstaff Area National Monuments will bring environmental education into the classroom and children into our local National Monuments to provide an understanding of past and present sustainable practices.  The project team will work with teachers to develop resources and training through the Teacher-Ranger-Teacher program and will also include family learning activities.  Teachers interested in learning more about participating in this project should contact Willow Bend Environmental Education Center at 928-779-1745.

Willow Bend and Flag National Monuments Press Release

Spring colors

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Plant labels can combine art and identification!

This week at Willow Bend, spring garden planning has included making a planting map, and painting colorful labels. The youth that I have been working with did a great job despite only getting a small crash course in gardening. We have been using seed catalogs to learn about the crops we’re growing so we know what they look like and how they grow.

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Spinach sprouting

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Lettuce sprouting

Right now on our window bench we have spinach, lettuce, and cilantro, starting indoors to go outside in May. Next week we’ll be starting sunflowers, broccoli, carrots, chard, and herbs.

Thanks for checking in! Check back soon for more news!