The Kindness Rocks Garden at Willow Bend  

We just “seeded” a new little garden at Willow Bend, a Kindness Rocks garden. This garden is part of “The Kindness Rocks Project” TM, created by Megan Murphy. The Kindness Rocks Project, encourages people to leave rocks painted with inspiring messages along the path of life. Our mission, is “One message at just the right moment can change someone’s entire day, outlook, or life”.  Our purpose is simple, to cultivate connections within communities and lift others up through simple acts of kindness.

Please visit this addition to our gardens and…

Take One, for Inspiration

Share One, for Motivation

Leave One, to help our Kindness Garden Grow

There is a small bucket of clean, ready-to-paint, rocks on the edge of this garden, feel free to take a couple home to paint and plant in our Kindness Rocks garden.  We have a Facebook page “Kindness Rocks Flagstaff” and we’d love for you to post photos of your painted rocks, (or any that you find), on our page tagged #kindnessrockswillowbend.  Feel free to also share any inspiring stories of kindness rocks or other simple acts of kindness.

You can buy rocks to paint at the Landscape Connection, a 5-gal bucketful runs about $3, bring your own bucket and choose your river rock. Regular craft paint works well with a clear, waterproof top coat.

Thank you for sharing kindness!

Giving Tuesday and Year End Appeal

Dear Friends,

This year has been challenging for so many and in so many ways. Willow Bend is no exception. But we feel very fortunate to have received generous support from the community which enabled our amazing team to quickly adapt to the new reality and convert many of our programs to a virtual format or adjust to socially distanced delivery. We were able to continue providing engaging and interactive experiences and environmental education to our local schools and the community.

These efforts were hugely successful and even given the challenges we were able to reach over 15,000 students, teachers, community members, and visitors through school programs, teacher support, virtual presentations, and volunteer events. Through our partnerships, we were also able to take on a few big projects: installing an ADA accessible wildlife viewing platform, creating an interactive outdoor classroom, and making significant enhancements to the gardens and the Center.

With everyone’s health and safety in mind, last spring, we decided to cancel most of our in-person activities including the Annual Celebration. The celebration is typically our biggest fundraising event and membership drive and is critical to covering operating costs and program support.

Therefore, this year’s appeal is even more important. We know for some, even a small contribution is too big of an ask at this time. However, if you are able, please consider helping Willow Bend give the gift of environmental education and continue supporting teachers and families especially during this time when our services are most needed. You can make a donation on our website, send a check to 703 E Sawmill Rd, Flagstaff, AZ 86001, or contact Moran Henn.

Please renew or upgrade your annual membership or make a one-time holiday gift to help us reach our Year-End Appeal fundraising goal of $5,000*.

We are committed to continue developing, improving and making our programs accessible to everyone. We encourage you to take care of yourselves and each other and we hope to see more of you, in-person or virtually, in 2021.

On behalf of the Willow Bend Board of Directors and staff,

Moran Henn, Executive Director                                                                 Ariel Leonard, President of the Board



First Day of School – A Message from Moran Henn, Executive Director

The first day of a new school year is always an exciting time at Willow Bend. During the summers, in addition to running our summer programs and tours, we also start prepping for the upcoming semester. Reviewing our materials, updating presentations and handouts, adding fun activities to field trips, enhancing in-class programs, and contacting schools to start scheduling visits.

During the last few days of summer you can always feel the anticipation at Willow Bend. We are excited to catch up with all of our teacher friends and we look forward to meeting new teachers and administrators. But we are especially eager to see all the students! One year older, one grade higher, some have switched schools, some might have a younger sibling at school now, and some are new to Flagstaff, Coconino County, or even Arizona. But they all know more, remember more, and want to do more. They always run up to us when they see us walking down the hallway at their school, and they ask with so much enthusiasm “Willow Bend, are you coming into our class today? Are we going on a field trip? Are you coming to teach us…show us something…do an activity…?”.

There is nothing more rewarding than teaching children and guiding them in their journey learning about the natural world. Seeing the wonder in their eyes and the huge smiles on their faces when we show animal tracks, or look through binoculars, or identify macro-invertebrates at the pond, or when they see the petroglyphs at Picture Canyon for the first time. We love the work we do. We love getting students outside. We love supporting teachers by providing hands on outdoor STEM activities and lesson plans. We love seeing families at our center learning and exploring together.

But this first day of school feels a little different. The last few months have been challenging for everyone at Willow Bend as well. However, even though we won’t walk down the hallways today, even though we won’t step into the teacher’s lounge and catch up, we are as excited and ready for the new semester as we ever have been. We are committed to teach students and support teachers by providing environmentally focused materials that are both engaging and informative even though they will be delivered virtually. At first we thought it couldn’t be done. But our staff, board, and volunteers have been working hard these past few months to adjust and modify our programs and we are proud and excited to share these newly finished products.

And today, even though it’s not quite like any other “first day” we have been through before, we are here and as ready as always. We are looking forward to providing high quality standard aligned placed based environmentally focused programs. We created fun and engaging lessons coupled with activities that connect students to the natural world that is right outside their window. We are well prepared to assist teachers who want to incorporate environmentally focused programs into their classes.

We are here to support you – teachers, administrators, students, and families – at every twist, turn, and step of this journey.

Here is to a (challenging, rewarding, exciting, hectic, wonderful) new school year!


With appreciation and service,

Moran Henn, Executive Director


08.04.2020. Meet Sara Wilbur, Willow Bend Garden Intern

Hello! My name is Sara Wilbur and I recently started volunteering at Willow Bend. I am writing content for the new garden signs that are being installed this summer.

I am from Fairbanks, Alaska. Much of my childhood was spent on rivers, on skis, and with a violin in my hands. I left Alaska to pursue undergraduate studies in biology and music at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. A six-year hiatus from academia was spent touring the country with a folk band called Patchy Sanders and playing in southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley Symphony. Science eventually called me back, and in 2019 I finished my graduate studies in biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, focusing on arctic ground squirrel hibernation physiology and demographics.

An arctic ground squirrel zooms across the snowy tundra. Photo courtesy of Øivind Tøien.



I now live here in Flagstaff. Although I still love research, one of my greatest passions is science writing and communication. I recently completed NAU’s science communication certificate program and am currently writing for Willow Bend and STEM City. I am also the Social Media Officer for the Canadian non-profit organization Art the Science.


Beyond my science interests, I also invest time into the Flagstaff music community. I play with the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra, teach violin to kindergartners at Marshall Elementary, and teach violin through NAU’s Community Music & Dance Academy.

Thank you, Sara, for bringing your many talents to our garden projects at Willow Bend!

July Is Nature Art Month!

July is nature art month at Willow Bend! 

During the month, each day, we will be sharing a different fun nature art idea celebrating our connection with nature and using natural materials. Check out our FB page, instagram, and calendar to download each day’s activities, materials, and pictures. 

iNaturalist Challenge Winners!

During the month of July Willow Bend, in partnership with Coconino County Parks and Rec, and the City of Flagstaff Open Space, held an iNaturalist Nature Challenge. Over 30 participants collected observations and uploaded them to iNaturalist and more than 150 identifiers helped ID plant and animals assisting our county and city gather important ecological data.

As of June 30th we challenge participants made 915 observations and identified 364 species!

Each week we raffled off prizes for challenge participants. Today we are announcing the overall challenge winners! If your username is listed below, please contact us at to receive your prize:

Most observations made 1st place: Graysons 
Most observations made runner up: Jeffbalmat 
Most species observed: Graysons 
Most species observed runner up: Migo111
Most identifications made: Steve Jones
Most identifications made runner up: Steve Ganley 
Random drawing winner: Steph150
Random drawing winner: earthlovinggari (Ari)
Random drawing winner: diana97 (Diana Henry)
Random drawing winner: Susan Lamb 

While our official online challenge has ended, we encourage you to join our iNaturalsit Willow Bend Nature Challenge project and keep adding observations! This project will remain open indefinitely.  

July with Creative Spirits!

We are excited to partner up with Creative Spirits for the month of July and offer 4 virtual art classes. Join us online, from the comfort of your own home and create beautiful works of art for a great cause (Willow Bend receives 50% of the profits!).

Art sessions will be held on Fridays July 3, 10, 24, 31 from 6:30-8:30pm. Each week will have its own art project with step by step instructions from professional artists. All you need to prepare is a couple of difference sized brushes, a cup (for washing paint brushes), a small towel or wash cloth, plate (for mixing paints), a canvass or paper (any size you want), and acrylic paint (primary colors). You can order online or over the phone and do curb pick up from your favorite art supply store (cost of materials estimated at $10).

Once you sign up you will have access to the online event recording for 2 weeks. So even if you cant join the live virtual class, you can still follow the instructions and create your masterpiece.

Classes are $20 each. Sign up online at

Below is a schedule of themes for each week:

July 3rd-Waterfall

July 10th-Cactus

July 24th-Sunset

July 31st-Moonlight


Visit for more information and to register

Willow Bend Statement of Equality and Inclusion in Environmental Education

Willow Bend Environmental Education Center’s mission is to provide educational outreach services that build environmental awareness and an ethic of responsible stewardship of our natural and cultural resources. Over the past 40 years we have been serving Coconino County’s diverse population: students, teachers, residents, and visitors.

Violence and discrimination in communities across the country, as well as in our own, remind us that we, as environmental professionals, have a duty to address this humanitarian issue. We cannot be silent.

We recognize that social, environmental and racial injustices are a daily reality for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and systemic racism, prejudice, violence and unequal access to resources and transportation have prevented, and continue to prevent, communities that have been marginalized from enjoying outdoor privileges. We believe that access to education, environmental programs and outdoor spaces must be inclusive, welcoming and safe for all who wish to participate in nature focused activities.

As an organization, and as environmental and outdoor professionals, we need to reflect on how to increase diversity within the environmental education field, seek representation that reflects the population we serve, expand our work to reach more diverse populations and stand against practices that harm BIPOC in outdoor activities and daily life.
In order to ensure inclusive and safe spaces for all who wish to learn about and participate in outdoor activities we commit to critically analyzing our behaviors, practices and programs.

Specifically, for starters, we are reviewing and revising our program content, adapting our outreach services, investing in diversifying our community program presenters, seeking expansion for our Title 1 school programs, expanding partnerships with organizations that serve a diverse population base, examining and adapting our Strategic Plan and taking guidance from the Equality and Inclusion in Environmental Education action items and goals put forth by the Arizona Association for Environmental Education (AAEE).

We welcome any input, suggestions, or ideas as we go through this process. This is only a start.
We are committed to putting in the work to realize a future that is anti-racist, respects and celebrates the diverse ways people engage with outdoor activities, and ensures that everyone has equal access to outdoor and cultural places of their choice.

Our board has open spots for anyone passionate and interested in taking on the important work of providing environmental educational outreach services that truly serve our entire community and ensure access and opportunities for all.

(Willow Bend is following the leadership of the AAEE and other state, national and international voices in Environmental Education. This statement is adapted from and inspired by the AAEE Equality and Inclusion in Environmental Education statement)

Willow Bend Nature Challenge

Enjoy spending time outdoors (even right outside your house)? Love wildlife and plants? Want to learn more about them? Or are you an expert in your field and can help identify observations? Join the Willow Bend Nature Challenge.

Willow Bend, in partnership with City of Flagstaff Open Space, Coconino County Parks and Rec, and the Junior Entomology Academy will be hosting a community wide Nature Challenge for Flagstaff and Coconino County during the month of June. By participating you will automatically be entered to win awesome prizes each week! Plus you can help contribute important information to citizen science projects, learn new things, and connect with other nature lovers, scientists and experts in our area.

The Willow Bend Nature Challenge will be done through iNaturalist, a free observation platform that can be used on your smart phone or computer. It acts as a place for people to record observations, learn how to identify organisms and interact with other enthusiasts and experts. Observations from iNaturalist also contribute to biodiversity science. Anyone can freely access and use this information.


If you don’t already have an iNaturalist account downloaded on your phone or computer go to the iNaturalist page to learn how to create an account, or view this tutorial video. It’s really easy, iNaturalist is designed to be used by everyone!

Once you have an account:


Start recording observations (view this “making” observations tutorial to learn how). These can be flowers, trees, insects, reptiles, mammals, birds etc. Observations you make in the Coconino County area will automatically be included in the project and contribute to the City’s and County’s biodiversity database.


Each day the Willow Bend team will highlight the “observation of the day” and share it on our Facebook page and Instagram. Each week all project participants who made observations will automatically be entered into a raffle and win weekly prizes. The final challenge winner(s) will be selected on June 30th.


Feel free to contact us with any questions at We are here to help you take on the challenge successfully!


05.18.2020 This Week’s Virtual Learning With Willow Bend

In an effort to stay true to our mission, and continue serving the community, we are providing environmentally focused programs through social media. We will offer two programs a week on Wednesdays and Fridays at 11am through Facebook Live. You can view these programs for free and find materials and schedules on our Facebook page. Missed it? See past virtual programs at our Willow Bend Virtual Learning Hub

This week’s scheduled programs:

Wednesday, May 20th, 11AM – Life of a Flower: 

Learn about the magnificent flowers around us! Basic flower parts, how a seed is made, why are flowers so important and more! If you want to follow along while we dissect a flower during the program you can have some flowers ready. Please do not pick native flowers. You can remove invasive weeds such as toadflax, or purchase ornamental flowers from the grocery store.

flower parts worksheet-follow along during virtual program

Friday, May 22nd, 11AM – Bald Eagles: 

Learn about the bald eagle life cycle, ecology, and conservation in our FINAL program for the Spring of 2020 semester.

Make a Bald Eagle Puppet