1/31/2018 – January Highlights!

January is over already?!  Willow Bend had a very eventful first month of 2018 and we would love to share some of our highlights!


This January we visited (or hosted a field trip for) 11 different schools in Flagstaff and provided environmental education for over 500 students with fun and interactive programs focusing on recycling, food waste, habitats and more!



Willow Bend has been working with 6th graders from Alpine Leadership Academy on a pilot food waste program supported by the City of Flagstaff Sustainability Section. This month, students made their concluding presentations about what they learned, what behavior changes they made, and showed us their new compost station that was a direct result of the project!

This project has paved the way for another food waste project supported by the City of Flagstaff Sustainability Section! Fourth and Fifth Graders at Marshall Elementary  are correctly collecting data on food that gets wasted during school lunch and looking for creative ways to reduce that waste. Their food waste warrior training started this month and will conclude in early February, so updates to come!


Elementary school students are prepping for a Frances Short Pond field trip in the spring by learning about habitats of various insects, birds, plants, fish and mammals in and around the pond! The lesson includes a song on habitat that means Melissa bringing her ukulele to school! The song was a hit!



Adult Workshop: Wildlife Tracking

Lynne Nemeth, Executive Director of The Arboretum at Flagstaff facilitated a great Adult Workshop this month covering the basics of wildlife tracking. We found coyote, raccoon, skunk and plenty of dog tracks on a hike and learned other ways to spot wildlife activity while out in nature!

Science Saturday: The Art and Science of Water

Our Science Saturday this month was a blast! The event was held in partnership with the Colorado Plateau Watershed Council and and we had watershed models, water cycle games, and the 2017 4th grade Water Ethics Contest posters. Thank you to all the families who made it out and to FALA Grand Canyon Youth students for volunteering their time to help out (see them below celebrating water through song)!


Annual Eagle Celebration!

Our Annual Eagle Celebration was an amazing event. Thanks to ALL the event partners: Arizona Game and Fish Flagstaff Region, Arizona Watchable Wildlife Experience and Liberty Wildlife. Big shout out to everyone who helped organize, the biologists and field trip leaders who lead a morning field trip,  the presenters, and of course a BIG big thank you to Joe and Jan from Liberty Wildlife for bringing up Aurora the bald eagle and Anasazi the golden eagle, and sharing important information about eagle conservation. Also, thank you to everyone who attended and supported the event. Program fees go directly towards eagle conservation and rehabilitation and to future wildlife focused programming.

A huge thank you from Willow Bend to everyone who made January a success, and we are so excited for February!

Announcing the Winners of the 2017 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 8th 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.

Five schools participated in this year’s contest, and the winning students came from Mrs. Mimran’s class at Sechrist Elementary. An Award of Merit goes to Mrs. Federio-Carolus from DeMiguel Elementary, Mrs. Fisk from Marshall Elementary, Ms. Brosius from Montessori School, and Ms. Bolden from Thomas Elementary.

Contest Winners:

Best Overall- Isabella S., Sechrist

2nd Place Art- Lily H. and Lily S., Sechrist

2nd Place Essay- Camden K., Sechrist

3rd Place Art- Helena C. and Cora J., Sechrist

3rd Place Essay- Helena C. and Cora J., Sechrist

The winning class will 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 also 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 teacher of the winning entries receives a $900 cash prize for their inclusion of award winning water education into their curriculum.

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.

This year’s submissions will also be featured at the Coconino Center for the Arts Fall 2019 special water exhibition. The exhibit will incorporate professional artists who have participated in programs geared towards education on water awareness hosted by the Coconino Plateau Watershed Partnership and other community partners. This is an exciting opportunity for all participating students to have their art reach an even wider audience in an effort to educate visitors on water awareness.


Welcome to the Board Whitney!

The Willow Bend board is excited to welcome our newest board member, Whitney Tapia.

Whitney received her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, Master’s degree in Educational Foundations, and her Principal Certification from Northern Arizona University. Whitney has taught for 11 years, mainly in the Flagstaff Unified School District. Currently, she teaches Introduction to Education at NAU. Whitney was the 2010 recipient of the Sustainability in Education for the 21st Century Award. In 2015, she was recognized as the Coconino County Teacher of the year, and was a semifinalist for the 2016 Arizona Teacher of the Year. A native of Flagstaff, Whitney has great pride in this mountain town, and she cannot imagine a better place to build a life with her husband, and to raise her two children.

We are excited to have Whitney on board!

Thanks for a GREAT 2017!

Willow Bend would like to thank all the amazing partners, sponsors, donors, supporters, volunteers, students, teachers, families, community members, and visitors for making this an A-M-A-Z-I-N-G year!







Willow Bend tracks programs based on our fiscal year (July 1st-June 30th) but we release our year-end report in January (it’s coming soon!). In the mean time, here is a quick glimpse into our achievements this year: over 10,000 students and a total of 19,000 people reached through environmental education programs!

Looking forward to another great year, 2018 we are excited and ready! If you would like to help us start the New Year strong please consider making a DONATION. Your donation is tax deductible, and until Dec 31st, all donations over $50 receive a FREE limited edition Willow Bend T-shirt.

HAPPY NEAT YEAR from the Willow Bend team

2017 Program Report:

Willow Bend Report

June 2016-July 2017

Program/Event # Classes/Events People Reached
Classroom Programs 258 6,536
Field Trips 138 3,625
Family Science, Adult Education, Community Events, and Other Programs 119 9,140
Willow Bend Drop-In Visitors 231
TOTAL 515 19,532

Winter Appeal Letter

Hopefully you received our winter appeal letter in the mail. If not (are you on our snail mail list?), please click the link to read the pdf version Willow Bend Winter Appeal 2017, or scroll down to read below.

You can donate here today!


Dear Friends,

Make supporting Willow Bend a New Year’s resolution and give the gift of outdoor experiential education this holiday season. Don’t let science be silenced! With significant cuts to federal funding for environmental and science education, your contribution makes a big difference!

Willow Bend is Coconino County’s only year-round full-time environmental education center. Each year we deliver science based, outdoor experiential education programs to over 18,000 students, teachers, residents, and visitors.

Thanks to support from our partners, members and donors this year we led natural senses field trips for kindergarteners, tracked wildlife with 1st graders, taught 2nd graders about bats, took 3rd graders to Picture Canyon, delivered recycling programs to 4th graders, guided watershed field trips for 5th graders, went on expeditions with 6th graders, organized summer hikes for the Boys and Girls Club, planted a food garden with youth from the Juvenile Detention Center, hosted Science Saturday events and adult workshops and so much more!



Please consider making a tax deductible annual membership donation, or a one-time holiday gift. If you recently made a donation, please accept our gratitude.

Please help us reach our Year-End Appeal fundraising goal of $5,000*:
To make a contribution please use the enclosed envelope, visit our website willowbendcenter.org, or contact Moran Henn (928) 779-1745, moran@willowbendcenter.org.

On Behalf of Willow Bend, Wishing You Happy Holidays and a Meaningful New Year!

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


*Limited edition! FREE Willow Bend T-shirt with any donation/membership over $50
(pick up at Willow Bend, while supplies last). Willow Bend is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and your donations are tax-deductible.

Winter Appeal – Don’t Let Science Be Silenced!

Don’t let science be silenced! With significant cuts to federal funding for environmental and science education, this year your support is not just important, it’s critical!

Make supporting science education a New Year’s resolution and give the gift of outdoor experiential education this holiday season.

Willow Bend is Coconino County’s only year-round full-time environmental education center.  Each year we deliver science based, outdoor experiential education programs to over 18,000 students, teachers, residents, and visitors.

This year we led natural senses field trips for kindergartners, studied wildlife with 1st graders, taught 2nd graders about bats took 500+ 3rd graders to Picture Canyon, delivered recycling programs to 4th graders, went on watershed field trips with 5th graders, guided student led expeditions with 6th graders, hosted free science Saturday events, guided summer hikes for the Boys and Girls Club, planted a food garden with youth from the Juvenile Detention Center, hosted adult workshops and so much more!

We know you can’t be in the classroom or in the field with us, but thanks to your support we were able to achieve all this and more! Please consider making a tax deductible annual membership donation, or a one-time holiday gift.

Please help us reach our Year-End Appeal (Nov 28th-Dec 31st) fundraising goal of $5,000*:

  • Join at the Family Level ($50) and receive discounts or free admissions to many of our programs.
  • Join as a Sponsor ($100) and provide a free program for an entire classroom!
  • Are you a business owner? Join as a Business Partner! (More info on our website)
  • Or, make a one-time donation. No amount is too small.

DONATE ONLINE TODAY or contact Moran Henn (928) 779-1745,moran@willowbendcenter.org.

On Behalf of Willow Bend, Wishing You Happy Holidays and a Meaningful New Year!

*Limited edition Willow Bend T shirts with every donation/membership over $50! Until supplies last.


11/1/2017 – October Highlights at Willow Bend

October was a busy month here at Willow Bend Environmental Center! Here are some of our October highlights:

                                                                                                                                   Science Saturday/Celebrating Bats! 

We kicked off the month with Science Saturday, celebrating our favorite flying mammals – BATS! Families visited the center and played bat jeopardy, created bat masks, and learned more about these mosquito-eating, fruit-pollinating, and overall important critters for ecosystems across the world! We had about 100 visitors of all ages at this event.

In addition to our Science Saturday on bats, we also celebrated BAT WEEK (October 25th-31st) by going to Kindergarten and 2nd grade classrooms at various schools to teach students about what bats eat, and how they aren’t so different from humans. “This is the first time I have EVER seen a bat!” exclaimed a very excited 2nd grader as we shared our taxidermied bats. By the end of the classes we watched as students who at the beginning of the lesson found bats to be scary, instead shouting, “BATS ARE AWESOME!”


Frances Short Pond Dedication 

Have you visited the fantastic outdoor classroom at Francis Short Pond yet? The outdoor classroom was designed by the city’s Community Design and Redevelopment staff and built by volunteers from the Flagstaff Rotary Club, with assistance from the city’s Parks Department and Willow Bend. Now students will have a beautiful place with a view of the Peaks and the pond to learn about watersheds and wildlife. Read more about the history of the project here.



Make a Difference Day 2017!

Wow! Make a Difference Day 2017 was inspiring and truly showed the collaborative, hard-working nature of the residents of Flagstaff! Some of the completed projects included picking up trash along the Rio de Flag, removing excess vegetation from Willow Bend’s small pond, removing invasive species in the gardens, and improving the FUTS connector trail.  We cannot express enough gratitude about how happy we were to see so many great projects be completed during just one morning! A BIG thanks to the City of Flagstaff, Coconino County Parks, Natural Channel Design, and everyone who came out to make a difference!


Acorn Processing Adult WorkshopWe had an exciting acorn processing adult workshop this month with herbalist, forager, and author John Slattery. John worked participants through the process of gathering acorns, drying them, and then preparing them into a flour. At the end of the workshop, he shared some delicious acorn flour bread that was enjoyed by all. John gave a thorough history of humans’ connection to the oak tree and the acorn that was educational for all.

Field trips Galore!

Willow Bend was pleased to get over 165 kids outside for some experiential education this month with various trips, including a bug themed field trip at Willow Bend Center, a walk with 3rd grade students learning about Picture Canyon, and downtown geology tours. We also had programming at Frances Short Pond for 4th graders where they learned about water quality, watersheds, and birds! We also hosted multiple groups at the Recycling Center where they learned how recycled is sorted to be shipped and processed into new products.

Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve Community Tour

We had our last community guided tour at Picture Canyon, and did a whole blog post on it here!


Willow Bend would like to thank all our partners, volunteers, and everyone in-between that made these awesome events possible! November has lots more exciting things in store for us—check out our calendar for more upcoming events!


Welcome Eric!

The Willow Bend board is excited to welcome new board member Eric Souders. Eric was invited as a guest to the October board meeting, and while he initially only came to “check it out” he was unanimously voted on as a new member when he expressed an interest to join. Eric is an Accredited Wealth Management Advisor at Ascendant Financial Solutions with a focus on socially responsible and fossil fuel free investing. He has been active in the community during 20 years of living in Flagstaff as a Big through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Flagstaff, past board member of Flagstaff Friends of Traditional Music, Friends of Flagstaff’s Future, and Townsite Community Land Trust. As a herder of llamas, he has been the Llama Superintendent at the Coconino County Fair Since 2000 and a 4H Llama Project leader since 2006.

Eric brings financial and community organizing experience to Willow Bend, as well as a true passion for the environment.

“I have had the pleasure of working with Eric when we served on other boards together, as well as organizing cleanup events, where his llamas helped carry out trash, Im so happy that he is joining the Willow Bend team” Said Moran Henn, WB Executive Director.

Welcome to the team Eric (and the llamas).

Read more about Eric on our board member page.

10/21/2017 – Picture Canyon Community Tour: Community History

Today was the conclusion of Willow Bend’s free guided tours of Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve for 2017. Willow Bend offers monthly tours of Picture Canyon from May through October, each with various themes like archaeology or birding. These tours are made possible by our partnership with the City of Flagstaff Open Space Program. In fact, exactly five years ago, the City of Flagstaff purchased Picture Canyon, helping to restore and preserve it so that all citizens can now enjoy the space for generations to come! In addition to leading these monthly community tours, Willow Bend takes all 3rd grade students on field trips to Picture Canyon! At Picture Canyon, students get the chance to experience one of Flagstaff’s most significant cultural and historic landmarks, view the city’s only waterfall, and learn about Northern Sinagua petroglyphs. Hopefully, many of these students may very well be the environmental stewards of tomorrow, ensuring that future generations will also be able to experience and appreciate this remarkable and beautiful place.

It was a brisk and sunny autumn morning, and tour participants met at the Picture Canyon trailhead; today’s tour covered community history including the restoration and protection of this area. Tourgoers were fortunate enough to have archaeologist Peter Pilles in attendance, who gave an informative talk on rock-art, including the different ways in which these images are interpreted by different groups, as well as the techniques that were used to create petroglyphs. Pilles explained how archaeologists determine the rough age of the glyphs. After being etched out of the rock, petroglyphs’ color will begin to fade over time due to factors like sunlight, water and lichen. By comparing the color or patina of the glyphs to the rock and other glyphs around them, archaeologists can reason approximately when the petroglyphs were created. After all, “archaeologists will date any ol’ thing!” Pilles joked.

Picture Canyon tourgoers were also lucky to have geologist Marie Jackson in attendance, who taught them about the sedimentary and volcanic rocks that crop out along the Rio de Flag. The ancient lava flow which flowed through what is now Picture Canyon before cooling into rock, Jackson explained, now sits atop of a small fault line which runs along the Rio de Flag through Picture Canyon. This fault line, not previously identified on geological maps of the area, is what leads today to the deep-sided walls of Picture Canyon’s volcanic rock; the same rock which ancient native peoples used to etch the petroglyphs after which Picture Canyon is named.

For a handful on the tour, it was their first time visiting Picture Canyon, but many such as Members of the Picture Canyon Working Group were also present to share stories and pictures. Many return again and again to Picture Canyon not only to learn, but also to enjoy its beauty and peacefulness. Thanks go to all of the volunteer efforts which have taken place to help restore Picture Canyon to its present state today, to the community for making the preservation of Picture Canyon possible, and to all those who attended Willow Bend’s tours this year. More to come in 2018!






Can you spot the petroglyphs in this photograph (taken by the waterfall)?




















This tree on the trail is a woodpecker favorite.

Frances Short Pond Outdoor Classroom Dedication

Willow Bend is excited to join the city’s Community Design and Redevelopment Department as they announce the completion and dedication of the Outdoor Classroom at Frances Short Pond. The classroom is located next to the Veit cabin and both will be used for environmental education.

Willow Bend has been leading field trips for k-12 graders to the Pond for over 30 years. We were excited to initiate the outdoor classroom idea, and partner on it’s design and implementation. The classroom’s natural setting will help us deliver programs about the Rio de Flag riparian corridor as well as local flora and fauna.

Included by the city’s Beautification and Public Art Commission as one of several planned amenities to be installed in the park, the classroom’s amphitheater style seating and podium are oriented to take advantage of views to the Peaks. The classroom is constructed from local malpais boulders and planted with native grasses to revegetate the areas disturbed by construction.  Sustainability is promoted through the use of locally sourced building materials which contain only small amounts of embedded energy.

The completion of the classroom continues the work begun almost 50 years ago by Jim David and others, to preserve the pond’s natural history and ensure its availability as open space. Over the years, students have used the pond as an outdoor laboratory, developing and learning from dozens of environmental education projects and experiments in and around the pond including creating an archaeological dig near the pond, planting cottonwoods, willows, and junipers near its banks, and creating the island habitat in the middle of the pond.

This BBB funded project was designed by the city’s Community Design and Redevelopment staff and built by volunteers from the Flagstaff Rotary Club, with assistance from the city’s Parks Department and Willow Bend.

The outdoor classroom is free and open to the public on a first come first-served basis.

Dedication of the Classroom including short speeches, light refreshments, and a tour of the cabin and the Pond is set for noon, October 17, 2017,

Frances Short Pond Outdoor Classroom construction in progress