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:

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


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.


Spinach sprouting


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!

Early April garden report

IMG_0554Greetings! While I have spent the last few months doing garden planning and staring outside wishing for spring, the time is finally here to get going on our garden. In the last two weeks we added a hefty layer of aged manure to the beds, turned the soil, weeded, and then spread a final layer of mulch. Located on the east side of Willow Bend, the beds are very warm and sunny, but the soil quality is quite sandy and nutrient poor. I’m determined to give the youth I’m working with an experience of harvesting by May, which is a push in Flagstaff’s climate, so we’ll be doing everything we can to set the plants up for successful growing.

IMG_0557Right now if you stop by, I encourage you to look for rosy colored beet seedlings outside, although I fear those may soon succumb to the hungry jaws of freshly hatched grasshoppers that abound in the meadow landscape of Sawmill Park. IMG_0563You can also check out the tray of seed starts that are warming outside on the south side of the building. Right now there are tomatoes, peppers, kale, chard, and arugula sprouting.

If you find the strawberry bed, you might even be able to find the first white flowers of future berries.

Gardening is possible in Flagstaff; check back in to see it in action!


Spring Arrives at Willow Bend



Happy spring from Willow Bend Environmental Education Center!  We’re excited to announce our new blog. Make sure to check back for the latest news and special updates.

Despite our recent snowy day, the birds are chirping, lizards are sunning, and the first flowers are blooming at Willow Bend, signaling the arrival of spring! This is a great time to come explore the seasonal changes at Coconino County’s Sawmill Park surrounding Willow Bend. You can even take a path down to the Flagstaff Urban Trail System along the Rio De Flag; head east to find great marshland bird watching. Stop in to say hello and check out a bird guide and binoculars from us to borrow.

IMG_0521Thanks to Norm Lowe, we have completed some improvements to our rainwater catchment system – just in time to catch the recent rain and snow.  This water will irrigate some of our gardens.   Norm is on the Board of Supervisors of the Coconino Natural Resource Conservation District – our founding organization.

Come check out how simple and easy a rainwater catchment system can be, and better yet, come to our Sustainability Series talk on residential rainwater harvesting to learn more: Thursday, April 18th, presented by David McKee – City of Flagstaff Watershed Specialist. (

Did you know that Willow Bend features a variety of native landscaped gardens, all with interpretive signs and many plant labels? The gardens are a great place to wander and learn. This year our vegetable garden is expanding with the help of our AmeriCorps Educator Lisa Eldredge, and youth from the Juvenile Court school from down the road. Lisa brings many years of farming and gardening knowledge from Flagstaff and beyond, and is dedicated to empowering youth through hands-on experiences in food systems, gardening, community, and sustainability. She will be posting updates throughout the season here on this blog. Make sure to come and check out how the garden is growing.

Registration for Outdoor Adventure Camps Now Open

camp one page colorWillow Bend Environmental Education Center is pleased to announce our partnership with The Arboretum at Flagstaff  on NEW Outdoor Adventure Camps from June 17 through July 26 for children ages 5-13.

Experienced educators will offer hands-on learning opportunities in a variety of programs that include: wildlife of the area, live study of insects, our amazing weather, science and art, plant survival, and wilderness survival skills. All campers will enjoy daily hikes, guest teachers, and science projects. Visit for more details, or call 928-774-1442, ext. 110.

Come Explore the Natural World!