09.07.2019 – – Science Saturday: Colorado River – Fish and Watersheds

Blog Post written by Willow Bend Intern Xander Wille

Over the weekend, Willow bend hosted its monthly event, Science Saturday. The theme of this month: The Colorado River, including its fish and surrounding watersheds! We spent the day learning about the water cycle, as well as native and invasive aquatic species. This is important information that we are happy to share with the public because Flagstaff is located on the watershed lower basin of the Little Colorado River!

Families familiar with Willow Bend, as well as some passersby, were excited to see some visitors from just out of town. The guests included a variety of small fish, a 30-pound catfish (which will grow 3x its current size!), and even a painted turtle. After spending some time with the animals, kids could craft a nature journal, color some fish, and design a color coded paper watershed meant to educate the youth about how a watershed could potentially carry mine debris into a nearby city or farm. Additionally, many people volunteered to help outdoors for some upcoming garden projects.

Although it was fascinating to be able to look at and touch some of the creatures of the Colorado River, we learned there are rules against transporting animals around the state, especially invasive species such as the catfish. Why not keep them as pets? Well, because catfish are not from the Colorado River, so when they get too big to live at home, people might release them into the wild, which can have catastrophic effects on the delicately balanced ecosystem. The problem with catfish in Arizona is that they will eat the native species and eventually take over the environment, but the good news, humans can eat them in an effort to protect the native species.

Science Saturdays at Willow Bend are always very informative, and usually pretty crafty, they’re sure to be a great time. If you missed our September event, be sure to stop by between 9 am and 1 pm next month. October 5th is all about Bats! We’ll have AZ bat displays, research information, and of course, lots of crafts!


8.24.19 Annual Celebration Waste Report

Being an environmental center we do our very best to walk the walk not just talk the talk. This holds true not only to our programs, but to events as well. This year for our Annual Celebration we were excited to partner with Parxis Waste Solutions. 

Events, as enjoyable as they are, tend to produce a lot of waste. We already apply many aspects of the zero waste philosophy by using reusable plates and cups (from Friends of Flagstaff’s Future), composting, and recycling. However, this year the Parxis team took it to a new level. By physically setting up a waste collection station, they added an important educational piece to our waste reduction efforts and did a great job targeting the areas we overlooked.

After collecting, sorting, and weighing our waste Praxis created a waste diversion chart for us. This kind of information is very helpful. We can now assess what is working well and where we can improve.

If you have an event coming up we HIGHLY recommend working with Praxis to reduce and divert as much waste as possible and educate participants about waste solutions and options.

Below if our waste diversion information, or “score sheet”. We did pretty well 95.2% of waste diverted!


8.17.19 Annual Celebration and 40th Anniversary

On Saturday 8.17.19 we hosted our Annual Celebration and fundraiser. This year was extra special because it was also our 40th Anniversary. We recognized the volunteer (Holly Taylor), members (Kathleen Satterfield and Andy Gould), and business (Prometheus Solar) of the year. And being our 40th, we also acknowledged past executive directors and Willow Bend’s founder, Jim David.

A number of current and former public officials, including County Supervisors Jim Parks and Art Babbott, City Council member Charlie Odegaard and CNRCD Chair Paul Babbitt gave wonderful speeches covering Willow Bend’s history and accomplishments.

Some of the event’s highlights were of course Raduka the camel, live music by Bright Angel, delicious food sponsored by the Himalayan Grill, fun kids activities and face painting, a silent auction with over 50 amazing items, a raffle, and a great time with wonderful people!

In addition to being a fun celebration of Willow Bend’s accomplishments, the event is also a fundraiser. As of now, we are about $650 short from our $4000 event goal. Consider making a DONATION or BECOMING A MEMBER and help us reach our goal!

Missed it, or want to find yourself in the pictures? Check out the 4 minute video from the event and the great coverage in the AZ Daily Sun.




Special thanks to the Himalayan Grill for sponsoring the food, Joy Cone for providing the cones for the ice cream, Majestic Marketplace for the beer, Bright Angel for the live music, over 50 businesses, artists and individual who donated auction items, and of course all our amazing volunteers, interns and board members who worked hard to get the gardens, center, and event ready for the big day.

07.24.2019 – Meet our Current Willow Bend Interns!

Willow Bend Environmental Education Center has 2-4 NAU/CCC interns at any given time. Interns run our Science Saturday events,  help out in the Willow Bend gardens, assist with social media, and more! Formal NAU/CCC interns receive college credit for their internship.  We are currently full for the 2019 year, but accepting applications for the Spring 2020 semester. Please reach out if you’re interested in interning at Willow Bend.

Laura Sherrill

Hello all! My name is Laura and I am a Senior at NAU majoring in Environmental and Sustainability Studies with a minor in Civic Engagement. I am passionate about yoga, sautéing vegetables, and hanging out with dogs. I am so excited to work with kids in the Flagstaff community and to get to teach them about the earth that I love so much.

Adeline Gruber

My name is Adeline Gruber, but people call me Addy. I am about to start my senior year at Northern Arizona University and I am studying environmental science with an emphasis in communication. When I graduate in May 2020 I plan to pursue a career with Game and Fish Department. I am also have been the given the amazing opportunity to become an intern at Willow Bend.

I am very excited to be a part of this amazing team and to be able to spread knowledge of environmental sustainability to the Flagstaff community. Every program that Willow Bend presents brings new awareness about how the environment to the community and I am very happy to be able to spread my knowledge to the public.

Alexander “Xander” Wille

I am Alexander “Xander” Wille, and I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona. I moved to Flagstaff about 3 years ago to get out of the big city and grow closer to the plant world. I’m going into my fourth year at NAU, where I’ve been majoring in environmental science with an emphasis in global sustainability, and working toward a minor in Spanish.

This summer I was accepted as an intern at Willow Bend and I am so excited for this opportunity. While teaching myself more about the environment, I get to engage with the Flagstaff community on a deeper level. I am especially looking forward to teaching children about sustainability through art and field trips. As humans, we have an obligation to care for the energy on this planet in all forms, whether it be our own bodies, our family, our furry or feathered friends, and beyond. I believe, ultimately, we are all one, and love is all there is.




7.11.2019 – A Day at NAU Bug Camp

Blog post written by Willow Bend intern Laura Sherrill


Last week, Northern Arizona University’s Summer Bug Camp was held at Willow Bend’s center for the fifth consecutive year. This week long camp allows participants aged 6-10 to explore the captivating world of bugs, and introduces them to skills necessary for young entomologists in the making.

A typical day at bug camp is jam-packed with activities. Bright and early at 9 am sharp, we began with some time in which the campers were able to interact with their new cockroach pets provided by the camp. The campers are able to take their cockroaches home at the end of the week, and they were so excited to spend time in the morning studying their new friends.

After spending some up close and personal time with the critters, we headed outside to collect bug samples along the trail bordering Willow Bend. Armed with nets and sunscreen, the campers captured everything from grasshoppers to paper wasps. There was certainly no shortage of bugs on this early morning summer day, and each camper left the field with a ziplock bag full of insects to be studied.

After heading inside for a quick snack, it was time to identify and pin the various bugs that were caught in the field. Paige, the camp’s leader, has been involved with NAU’s Summer Bug Camp for the past three years and values the camp’s ability to introduce campers to scientific skills. In particular, her favorite activity to do with the campers is pinning the bugs that were collected in the field. The campers take their collection of pinned insects home, which serves as a reminder of their entomology experience long after camp has ended.

Through data collecting experience and visually stimulating lectures, NAU’s Summer Bug Camp leaves campers with newfound knowledge of the importance of insects within ecosystems, and awareness of how vital biodiversity is. If you know a mini-entomologist that would benefit from this experience, keep an eye out for next years camp. There are two weeklong sessions, one in June and another in July, that will be happening during Summer of 2020 and for many years to come. Until then, check out Willow Bend’s upcoming events for adults, children and families alike.


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.