05.18.2019 – Family Science: Amazing Arthropods

Blog post written by Willow Bend intern Laura Sherrill

On Saturday at Willow Bend we learned all about amazing arthropod creatures. An arthropod is an animal that does not have a backbone, but does have an exoskeleton and a segmented body. There are many familiar animals that fall into the arthropod family. When you think of arthropods, imagine insects like cockroaches, arachnids like tarantulas, and crustaceans like crabs.

We were lucky enough to get up close and personal with all sorts of arthropods during this event. Our friends from Merriam-Powell NAU brought many creatures for us to meet, learn about, and even hold. Everyone got a huge kick out of being able to hold a millipede, who woke up and wiggled around to say hi to us despite being a nocturnal creature. If we listened closely, we could hear a faint “hissssss” sound coming from a hissing cockroach. We even got to see a live tarantula!

After getting to learn about our arthropod friends, we went outside with nets to catch and release insects that live near the Willow Bend center. Surveying the results of a few catching expeditions proved that so many different creatures live right outside of our front door. The world of arthropods is truly amazing, expansive, and there is so much to be learned about our animal friends! If you missed out on this event, be sure to keep an eye out for more upcoming animal themed events, like our Birds of a Feather Science Saturday!

05.10.2019 – 2nd Annual Flagstaff Youth Climate Summit

April 16th, 2019, marked the 2nd Annual Flagstaff Youth Climate Summit. Over 50 students from 10 schools and community organizations gathered at The Arboretum of Flagstaff to share climate action and renewable energy projects. Teams included youth in 4th-12th grade from Killip Elementary School, FALA Environmental Coalition, Hopi Junior Senior High School, Montessori School of Flagstaff, Coconino High School, Summit High School, Northland Preparatory Academy, Arizona Trail Association Gear Girls, Copper King Elementary School (Phoenix), and Pine Forest Charter School.

The Summit include presentations for two challenges, a sustainability expo, climate research tour, and guest keynote speaker. Teams in the Climate Action Challenge presented projects that addressed climate change related issues in their neighborhood, school, or community. Teams in the KidWind Challenge presented and tested originally designed wind turbines for energy generation and efficiency. When not presenting, youth explored the sustainability expo, which included turning on lights with bike-generated power, learning about waste and recycling, hands-on activities illustrating how pollution affects water resources, and nature trivia. Students also attended tours of the SEGA (Southwestern Experimental Garden Array) climate research at the Arboretum.
The Summit concluded with keynote speaker Dr. Ted Shuur, NAU Professor of Ecosystem Ecology, who shared his research and first-hand experience with the impacts of climate change in Alaska, followed by an awards ceremony. Congratulations to all participating teams, and a special shout out to the challenge winners and runner-ups!

Climate Action Challenge
4th-8th Grade Challenge Winner: Northland Preparatory Academy 7th Grade Science, Eco-Canvas
4th-8th Grade Challenge Runner Up: Northland Preparatory Academy 7th Grade Science, Fork It
9th-12th Grade Challenge Winner: Hopi Junior Senior High School Project Uuyii, The Effect of Climate Change on Hopi Fields
9th-12th Grade Challenge Runner Up: FALA Environmental Coalition, The Pledge for Veg/Change the Meat You Eat

KidWind Challenge
4th-8th Grade Challenge Winner: Team Windova, Cooper King Elementary School (Phoenix)
4th-8th Grade Challenge Runner Up: Team Wind Riders, Cooper King Elementary School (Phoenix)
9th-12th Grade Challenge Winner: Team A.D.A.M., Coconino High School
9th-12th Grade Challenge Runner Up: Team Swifty, Coconino High School

The 2nd Annual Flagstaff Youth Climate Summit was a collaborative initiative among the City of Flagstaff Sustainability Program, Willow Bend Environmental Education Center, and The Arboretum at Flagstaff. Read more about the Summit and view photos at https://www.flagstaff.az.gov/4123/2019-Summit.


Reposted by http://www.flagstaffstemcity.com/blog . Written by Lee Bryant.

05.04.2019 – Science Saturday: Fires and Forests

Blog post written by Willow Bend intern Laura Sherrill

On Saturday, we spent the day learning about fire ecology during our monthly Science Saturday event. Since Flagstaff is nestled in an expansive Ponderosa Pine forest, it is important to keep in mind how wildfires can affect our home. This was such a fun day with a very special guest: Smokey Bear himself!

After saying hi to Smokey, people had the option of reading along to the story of Ponderosa Pete, making tree ornaments, trying on real firefighter gear, watching a demonstration of how fire can affect forests, looking at tree rings up close with a magnifying glass, or answering fire ecology trivia questions for the chance to win a prize. Smokey Bear themed erasers, pencils, bandanas, bookmarks, and rulers were up for grabs.

Did you know that Smokey is an American black bear? His brown colored fur can be a bit misleading to his true species. We had such a good day learning new facts on this jam-packed Science Saturday. Thank you to everyone who stopped by to learn about fire ecology. If you missed it, make sure to check out our calendar of upcoming events.


04.20.2019 – Earth Day the Bushmaster Park

Blog post written by Willow Bend intern Laura Sherrill

On Saturday, we spent the afternoon celebrating Earth Day at Bushmaster Park. Willow Bend was among nearly 50 local organizations that came out to table for the day. It was so much fun to learn about planet Earth through watershed models from the US Forest Service, composting demonstrations, and even a “Climate Change Scavenger Hunt” organized by the city.

At Willow Bend’s table, we decided to showcase the wildlife of Arizona with a matching game. Passerby were able to match an animal relic with the corresponding picture and learn all about the animal in the process. Getting to hold a desert tortoise shell is a rare opportunity that made for wonderful hands-on learning.

The weather was beautiful, and when the sun came out from behind the clouds the party really got started. Live music had people of all ages dancing and hula-hooping in the field. Even those who would rather relax were able to lay down and sunbathe. There was something for everyone to do.

Thank you to everyone who came by our table to say hi, learn about wildlife in Arizona, and celebrate the Earth! Even though Earth Day has passed, we will continue to host events that promote learning about the planet, and we encourage you to get involved. Check out our upcoming event schedule and join us for Science Saturday or an Adult Workshop!

04.01.2019 – Adult Workshop: Starting Seeds at Home for Your Summer Garden

Blog post written by Willow Bend intern Laura Sherrill

Last Saturday at Willow Bend, in partnership with the Arboretum, 15 participants spent their morning learning how to start seeds for at-home gardens. Gayle Nance, horticulturist at the Arboretum at Flagstaff, facilitated the lesson, covering topics such as necessary supplies for planting seeds, which seeds do best in which climates, and conditions essential to growing resilient plants.

After learning about the essentials to seed starting, participants were able to get our hands dirty and plant some seeds. Participants split up into pairs, and filled up seed-starting trays with nutrient rich soil. By the end of the workshop, we started hundreds of seeds. The seeds were transported to the Arboretum where they will grow and eventually be planted.

Did you know Flagstaff’s growing season is only 90 days long? This growing season is distinctly short, so we are excited to get a head start on our gardens. Thank you to Gayle for all of the outstanding advice and information, and thank you to everyone who came out to help start seeds. Missed it? We have a bunch of great adults workshops coming up, click here to check our upcoming schedule.

02.09.2019 – Adult Workshop: Basics of Botanical Illustration

Today, 18 participants spent their Saturday at Willow Bend with Sheila Murray, Research Botanist at The Arboretum at Flagstaff, learning all about the basics of botanical illustration. Participants learned composition, three-dimensional rendering, black ink pen technique, botanical anatomy fundamentals, and drawing from herbarium specimens. Classical music played in the background, while participants chit-chatted and worked on their illustrations. All participants got to take their drawings and art materials used in the workshop home so they could continue to practice the skills that they learned. Thank you to Sheila Murray and the Arboretum for the partnership in making this workshop happen!




1.26.2019 – Teacher Workshop – Climate Change and Renewable Energy

In Spring 2018, Willow Bend partnered with the Wind for Schools project, which aims to advance renewable energy and energy efficiency education and research initiatives from the K-12 through university levels statewide. Through the Wind for Schools partnership, as well as support from the KidWind Project, the City of Flagstaff, and the Arboretum at Flagstaff, Willow Bend hosted a two-day teacher workshop on climate change and renewable energy for 15 Arizona educators. Teachers in attendance represented a wide range of education levels; there were pre-school, elementary, middle, high and even college educators that came together to learn wind and solar activities that could be adapted to their students’ grade levels. On the first day of the two-day workshop, the Climate Change portion was covered. Lee Bryant, Sustainability AmeriCorps VISTA member, presented the climate action tool kit, a handful of resources teachers can use in their classroom for teaching climate change. On Saturday, teachers returned and KidWind trainers Kathy Jackson and Buddy Grider introduced the KidWind Project and the KidWind Challenge. They demonstrated several wind and solar activities that teachers could easily do in their classrooms. Some of these activities included MacGuyver, solar fountains, sail cars, and blade design for wind turbines. Teachers were informed and encouraged to attend the Youth Climate Summit in April, a summit that will have Climate Action, KidWind, and Solar Structure Challenges, using knowledge they learned in the teacher workshop to help their students develop successful projects. Teachers were also showed where to access KidWind curriculum and were offered the opportunity for Willow Bend to visit their classrooms to assist teaching wind and solar activities. Teachers were also informed of Willow Bend’s wind/solar teacher checkout kits and the upcoming Recharge Academy in the summer. Willow Bend was thankful that Kathy and Buddy were able to visit Flagstaff to facilitate an engaging and experiential learning experience for so many wind and solar activities and concepts.


12.31.18 Annual Report Fiscal Year 2018

We just published our Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2018 . The report includes a summary of our income and expenses, major donors and partnerships, programs, events, staff and board updates and more.

While our fiscal year goes from July 1st 2017-June 30th 2018, it is published each year, at the end of the calendar year.

We want to thank our donors, supporters, partners, volunteers, interns, board members, and staff for their dedication, hard work, and love for teaching and the outdoors!

See you in 2019.

Moran Henn,                                              Ariel Leonard
Executive Director                                   President of the Board

12.28.18 Willow Bend Recognized as Flagstaff’s Organization of the Year!


We are honored to have been recognized as Flagstaff’s Organization of the Year by the AZ Daily Sun. (read all about it in the link).

In 2018, we delivered hundreds of programs, field trips, events, and workshops, serving over 18,000 students, teachers, community members and visitors. Receiving this award means so much to us, especially, since we will be celebrating our 40th Anniversary in 2019. This shows us that our services and programs are needed and appreciated.

As we mentioned in the article, Willow Bend’s work is successful thanks to our many volunteers, partners, and supporters. If you are among them, THANK YOU!

We have big plans for 2019, including rolling out new curriculum, enhancing our field trips, strengthening and creating new partnerships and f course, our 40th Anniversary Celebration!

We look forward to continue serving our community,

Willow Bend Staff: Moran Henn, Cassandra Roberts, and Melissa Eckstrom

Willow Bend Board (including members who served but left in 2018): Ariel Leonard, Michele James, Cree Donovan, Mary Mckell, Steve Gatewood, Andy Gould, Reed Jenkins, Ken Myers, Shelly Shepherd, Eric Souders, Whitney Tapia, Holly Taylor, and Neil Weintraub.

Partial Willow Bend team: (left to right) Eric Souders (board member), Mary McKell (board member-treasurer), Moran Henn 9executive director), Neil Weintraub (board member), Michele James (vice-president), Susan Lamb (volunteer-garden coordinator), Bob Baer (volunteer), Sara Day (volunteer), and Cassandra Roberts (Education Director).


Announcing the Winners of the 2018 Fourth Grade Water Ethic Contest

The Coconino Plateau Watershed Partnership (a branch of the Coconino Plateau Water Advisory Council), and Willow Bend Environmental Education Center are excited to announce this year’s winners of the 4th Grade Water Ethic Contest. The 9th annual contest was open to all 4th grade classes throughout Coconino County, including cities, towns, and tribal communities.

The contest creates a fun and rewarding opportunity to introduce children to the concept of ethical water use, including conserving, rainwater harvesting, and water reuse. It also provides an opportunity for the classrooms to discuss where our water comes from and the importance of healthy watersheds, clean waterways, and water for all living things and uses. Participating students demonstrate the principle of responsible water use through both artwork and essays.

10 schools and 14 classes participated in this year’s contest. The overall 1st place winner came from Mrs. Painter’s class at Sechrist Elementary. The 2nd place essay came from Mrs. Grimmett at Marshall Elementary and the 2nd place artwork came from Mr. Milios at Marshall Elementary. Winning students and their teachers will be recognized with certificates at the Coconino County Board of Supervisors meeting on January 15th at 6p.m.

Winning class will also be treated to an in-class pizza party, and all other participating classes will be treated to an ice-cream social. The winning students will receive additional prizes and all participating classes will be rewarded with Water Saver Superhero Toolkits that include rain gauges, water conservation coloring books, playing cards, and a reusable bag that has the winning students’ artwork displayed on them, and other fun prizes like stickers and magnets. The teachers of the winning entries will receive a checks for $300 for 1st place and $200 for 2nd place.

Another exciting aspect of the contest is that the 4th grader’s submissions are utilized for promoting water stewardship throughout Northern Arizona. Posters are created for classrooms, events, presentations, and are developed into bathroom water awareness signs. The bathroom signs have grown in popularity and can be seen at several public places such as the Grand Canyon South Rim Visitor’s Center, City of Flagstaff, Coconino County, City of Sedona, Northern Arizona University, Marshall Elementary, Grand Canyon School, and many more places throughout the community are in the process of obtaining the bathroom posters.