Neighborhood Nature

Our Family's Nature Blog

Will Birds Be Migrating to Our Block Party? August 21, 2009

Filed under: Animals,Birds,Fall,Seasons,Summer,Upcoming Events — saltthesandbox @ 8:43 pm
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The boys and I just checked the weather radar to see if the rain will be ending soon — and to see if birds are migrating south towards our “No Child Left Inside” block party. If you look at this weather radar image from the Chicago Tribune‘s website, you’ll see the answer should be yes on both counts:

The animated version of this image shows the storms moving to the southeast, through Chicago.

The green-and-yellow streaks and blobs around and southeast of Chicago are rainstorms. The green circles north and west of Illinois are night-migrating birds taking off and flying south. The animated version of this image showed storms (and migrating birds) moving to the southeast, through Chicago.

Why are birds on the move? Because winds blowing from the north help migrating birds make their southward journeys. Here’s a wind map to show you what we mean:


This map shows wind patterns at about the same time as the radar image, above. By morning we may have five to ten mile-per-hour north winds blowing through our neighborhood, just west of Chicago.

Overnight north winds may bring smaller birds like warblers, flycatchers, and thrushes to our block party. The night-migrating birds will land near sunrise and then spend the morning searching for food. If north winds continue through the day we may see some hawks migrating overhead.

Of course, north winds bring cool air, so temperatures at tomorrow’s block party may only reach the low 70s. (The neighborhood kids won’t be running under the sprinklers like they have some years.) However, our 7:30 a.m. nature walk may turn up some interesting birds, and we’ll keep our eyes and ears open for fall migrants throughout the day.


To learn more:

You can study bird migration using radar images from WeatherUnderground (the source of the Tribune’s images) and the National Weather Service radar website.

The blog tracks bird migration of New Jersey (and other parts of the United States) using weather radar.

To learn more about using weather radar to track bird movements, try the Badbirdz – Reloaded blog, which includes a primer on using weather radar to track bird migration. For deeper explanations of bird migration and radar, try the New Jersey Audubon website.



Planning Our “No Child Left Inside” Block Party August 15, 2009

Yesterday I went door to door passing out preliminary schedules for this year’s summer block party. That’s a bit of an undertaking, since our block is really a block-and-a-half long, with closely spaced houses and two apartment buildings at one end. For orientation, the middle of our block looks like this:

My house is the third from the left. Many drivers consider the 25 mph speed limit an unwelcome suggestion. Most days, a kids front-yard life focuses on the sidewalk. On black party days, thew street is closed to traffic, and everyone's focus shifts to the asphalt street.

Here's our block in south Oak Park. My house is the third from the right. Many drivers consider the 25 mph speed limit an unwelcome suggestion, so most kids' front-yard life focuses on the concrete sidewalk. On block party days the street is closed to traffic, and everyone's focus shifts to the wide expanse of asphalt.

In addition to the 50 houses and 2 apartment buildings on our block, we also invite the west half of the next block over, since they live on a major road that can’t be closed for parties. I printed 90 schedules and had fewer than 10 left.

Preliminary Activity Schedule

Here’s the preliminary schedule for our block’s 40th summer party. (Yes, we really do have a small archive that goes back that far.) I’ll give some history, explanation, analysis, and commentary later in this post:

7:30 to 8:30 A.M.– Neighborhood Nature Walk: Look for birds, bugs, trees and more on our block (explorations for all ages)

9 A.M. to 11 P.M. – STREET CLOSES AT 9 A.M. Bikes, scooters, skateboards, and rollerblading in the street, along with sports and games, kids’ outdoor toys, and more

BREAKFAST at 9 A.M. near the middle of the block. Everyone is invited to enjoy donuts, bagels, rolls, coffee, juice, and conversation.

9:30 to 11:30 A.M.– Decorate trikes, bikes, and scooters in the middle of the block AND nature collecting & sidewalk chalk village at our house

10 to 11:30 A.M.– Nature Swap — Children can trade natural things that they have found for natural treasures from around the world

10 A.M. to 2 P.M. – DinoJump! (Kids climb inside and jump like crazy)

11:30 A.M.  Parade (decorated vehicles get a prize)

LUNCH: Everyone eats at their own house. (This makes it easier to get little kids down for their naps.)

1 to 4 P.M. – Build a woodland fairy village and Invention Fair (build and display an invention using recycled stuff)

2 to 3 P.M. – Meet live animals: Tadpoles, toads, & turtles (just a few of our many pets)

2 to 4:30 P.M. – Nature crafts using shells, shark teeth and other natural treasures to make a collage (by my wife!)

3:30 to 5 P.M. – Bubble & water play

4 to 5 P.M. – Face painting by a young artist

SUPPER at about 5 P.M. in the middle of the street. Everyone grills their own main course; one side of the block brings salads and other side dishes, the other brings desserts.

After Dinner – Bingo! (with prizes for kids)

After Bingo – Live music by a neighborhood teen’s rock band

Two Critical Ingredients

Now, if you stumbled on this post while searching for ideas for your first block party, please don’t be intimidated by our busy schedule. In my experience, a block party has only two critical ingredients:

  • Street closed to traffic
  • Shared food

Closing the street to traffic changes everything for kids. Suddenly the neighborhood is many times more interesting, even to kids who usually spend many hours in front of screens. Of course, the other kids on the street are as much of an attraction as the open space. Shared food helps get the adults together doing what they’re supposed to do — talk to their neighbors. Breakfast seems to be the most important meal for this kind of mixing, since that’s when people converse with neighbors who they haven’t talked with in many months. Supper is shared but less effective, since many families spend that meal with friends from off the block.

The other activities help keep kids amused once the initial thrill of the street wears off, plus they provide secondary centers for adult conversation. For families with toddlers and preschoolers, having your kids safely busy gives you more time to talk with adults. The activities are fun and useful, but you could get by with just a few of them.

Developing Block Party Activities

I keep these things in mind as I develop the activity schedule:

Legacy activities. Many activities at our parties are legacies — we tried them once, and now they’re so popular that kids would cry if we tried to drop them. The DinoJump is a legacy; we stole the idea from another block about 10 years ago; now it’s incredibly popular with kids, less so with the adults who have to rent and supervise it. (Even the name “DinoJump” is a legacy, since it’s been years since our jump was actually shaped like a dinosaur.) Bingo is another legacy. In fact, our bingo leader was the recording secretary at that first block party planning meeting, 40 years ago.

Activities express their leaders’ interests. My wife, Gail, is an occupational therapist and artist, so it’s natural that she should lead the afternoon nature crafts. A sports-loving family down the block converts their section of street into a skateboarders’ paradise. And my agenda has long been helping kids build their interests in nature, science, and technology, so I do a bunch of activities on those themes. And now my agenda includes “No Child Left Inside.”

Recycling is good! Many of my activities date back to when I volunteered at Wonder Works, led a Camp Fire group, or ran a Nature and Science Club at our neighborhood school. And my kids and I have had many passionate interests over the years (from cars to dinosaurs to birds), so I tried many of our nature, science, and technology activities at home before taking them on the road. Also, we recycle many activities year-after-year; see Legacies, above.

Every block’s party is unique. There are lots of block parties in Oak Park, each with its own history and leaders. The activities at each party reflect the history, constraints, and current composition of its neighborhood. Planners from different blocks hear what’s going on elsewhere and steal ideas, but somehow every party stays unique. That’s the way it’s always been, but if you don’t like it, you can change it — all you have to do is say you’ll be in charge.

So, that’s the context I considered as I developed the “No Child Left Inside” block party.

This Year’s “No Child Left Inside” Activities

As I discussed in an earlier post (here), there’s a whole “No Child Left Inside” movement out there, and I see our block party as part of it. Of course, all block parties get kids outside, but I’ve been thinking of ways to extend the experience, giving families ideas they can use outside all year.

So, here are activities I’m trying for this year’s “No Child Left Inside” theme:

Neighborhood Nature Walk: The nature walk is new this year. Of course, it fits with the theme of this blog (Neighborhood Nature). We’ll concentrate on front-yard nature this year. If we attract an audience, we’ll try backyard and alley walks at later parties. I’ll help participants discover new animals and plants — things they’ve been walking past all summer but not noticing. We’ll also discuss what to look for as summer ends and fall begins.

Nature Collecting: We’ll restock Collector’s Garden (which is open all year) and haul out a sandbox that we can “salt” with natural treasures. I may also enrich the local supply of acorns, winged seeds, and buckeyes on our street, just to see what happens.

Nature Swap: For the last few summers we’ve been setting up a table of natural treasures that kids can trade for — their natural finds for our natural treasures from around the world. This activity was inspired by the nature swap exhibits at Minnesota Museum of Science’s Collectors’ Corner, Brookfield Zoo’s Play Zoo, and elsewhere. This year I’m also going to encourage the kids to trade with each other.

Sidewalk Chalk Village: As we’ve been doing most years, we’ll be putting Aaron’s old toy car and wooden train sets out in the street for kids to play with. This year we’ll also use sidewalk chalk to draw train tracks, streets, buildings, rivers, and more on the pavement — just like we used to do with Aaron. It kept him outside and amused for hours — maybe other families will try it at their homes.

Nature Crafts: Gail plans to have cardboard patterns of butterflies that the kids can decorate with beads, stickers, and markers and also do nature collages on rectangles of poster boards, either making scenes, like a beach scene with shells, or just making a display of some of their favorite rocks, shells, shark teeth, leaves, sticks, flowers and more.

Woodland Fairy Village: The big trees on our street shed lots of twigs and bark, and these days most of it goes to waste — hauled away by the village when it would be lots of fun to play with. We’ll help kids use these natural materials to build a “fairyland” on some bare dirt in front of our house. They can revisit their constructions the next morning to discover rewards the no-longer-homeless fairies have left behind. (My parents used to leave candy, but we’ll probably leave polished rocks.)

Meet Live Animals: For years my family has displayed wild animal pets during our block party. This year I’m going to focus more on the animals that live right on our block — like soil animals and squirrels.

Those are the ideas I put in the preliminary schedule, but I’m already thinking of other activities. I’ll probably have a table of books — field guides for everyone, Richard Louv and David Sobel for the teachers and school volunteers who live on our block, nature story books for kids — along with blankets and beanbags to read on. I may bribe Ethan and Aaron to show the younger folks some outdoor games they can play on front yards and tree lawns, even after the street reopens. I’m sure we’ll come up with more activities before next Saturday.

Wait Until Next Year!

That’s what we’ve planned for our “No Child Left Inside” block party, but this year is just the beginning. I’m thinking next year’s block party should be earlier in the summer — not right before school starts — so families can discover outdoor ideas they can use all summer long. Also, I’ll recruit parents to the “No Child Left Behind” theme in advance — it didn’t occur to me until weeks after this year’s planning meeting. Maybe some younger families will be inspired to start a Nature Club (like this) for our block. (I’ve got a whole year to dream about next summer.)


Note added September 22, 2009: I used the social networking application Twitter to keep up a running commentary before, during, and after our block party. Now I have collected all the tweets in one place, so you can read it here. (This stream is no longer publicly available on Twitter.)


Of course, if I really want to dream big, I can think about ways to change the traffic pattern in our neighborhood. The Active Living Resource Center has some interesting ideas in this PDF file.


Block Parties: Outdoor and Nature Play, All Day Long! August 12, 2009

Over the next two weeks, I’ll be working with our neighbors to plan our summer block party. That’s the one day of the summer when all the neighborhood kids play outdoors throughout the day and into the night. On other days, most of the kids I see outside on our block seem to be walking to the nearby pool with their families or middle-school skateboarders reclaiming the street. (Full disclosure: I root for the skateboarders!)

So, this year I’m thinking about block party planning in the context of the movement to get more kids playing outside. Organizations involved in this movement include Children and Nature, Nature Rocks, Green Hour, and Chicago Wilderness, with its Leave No Child Inside campaign. There are also parent-to-parent bloggers helping families with activity and field trip ideas, like 5 Orange Potatoes, Double the Adventure, The Grass Stain Guru, Kids Off the Couch, and Kids Discover Nature. (My blog is kind of in the same vein, although our family has older children who are already obsessively interested in nature, or at least in birds.)

So, I’m thinking about things we can do to with the neighborhood kids that might inspire them to spend more time outside after the block party ends. For instance, we’ll restock our Collector’s Garden (see it here), which is already open spring through fall. We’ll show kids how they can play outside with their indoor toys, like my kids used to do with cars and trains and trucks. We’ll try to interest more kids in building with natural materials by helping them construct a “fairyland” with twigs and bark, and then encouraging them to revisit it the next day to see what rewards the no-longer-homeless fairies have left behind. (My parents used to leave candy, but we’ll probably leave polished rocks.)

I’m sure we’ll come up with many more ideas. I’ll post the best ones on this blog.


Be sure and read the comments section! Folks are adding more ideas for outdoor activities.

If you want to read about our applied philosophy and preliminary schedule for the “No Child Life Inside” block party, please go here.

I searched the Web for ideas for a nature-themed, no-child-left-inside block party. Earth Day on Your Block seemed useful, as did this No Child Left Inside PDF file by Sharron Krull, and some of the more general sites on organizing block parties. But I’ve still got lots more digging to do to develop this theme.


Happy Earth Day! We’re Off to Wonder Works April 22, 2009

The boys and I will spend the morning playing with nature with young visitors to Wonder Works, a Children’s Museum in Oak Park. We’ll be there from 10 a.m. to Noon. I’ll be writing more about our activities later. For now, here’s the text of the handout we’ll have available for caregivers:

Earth Day 2009 at Wonder Works:
Raising Nature-loving Kids

Organized by the Gyllenhaal Family of Oak Park, Illinois

In David Sobel’s new book, Childhood and Nature, he discusses ways that educators and parents can help kids connect with nature. Many adults trace their love of the natural world to childhood play in nature. Sobel’s design principles are inspired by the ways kids play when left alone in wooded settings: “Spend time at a safe, woodsy playground, and you’ll find children (1) making forts and special places; (2) playing hunting and gathering games; (3) shaping small worlds; (4) developing friendships with animals; (5) constructing adventures; (6) descending into fantasies; (7) and following paths and figuring out shortcuts” (Sobel, Childhood and Nature, 2008, page 20).

But, how do you raise nature-loving kids if you live in a densely populated place like Oak Park, where your backyard (if you have one) is not much larger than your living room, and the closest woods is more than a mile away? We’ve been exploring these issues on Neighborhood Nature, our family’s nature blog. (See our post on Raising Nature-loving Kids in an Urbanized Environment.)

Today’s Earth Day activities at Wonder Works explore some of the ways families can connect with the nature in their own urbanized neighborhood. They include:

Play in Forts and Dens. Kids love natural places where they can hide and play out fantasies. The Wonder Works tree house is our play fort for today, but you can also build a fort in your back yard using cardboard boxes, fallen branches, or other natural and unnatural objects.

Year ‘Round Water Play. Kids create their own adventures when they “play wet” with plastic dinosaurs, whales, and more. If you leave your plastic pool filled with water all year long, you can play with water and with ice. (This is great in neighborhoods with no natural streams or ponds.)

Build Small Worlds. Make tiny buildings with sticks and bark. (If it’s too muddy outside, then we’ll pretend our homemade play dough is soil.)

Play with Rocks and “Logs.” Load trains and dump trucks with rocks and sticks. Kids can incorporate natural materials into the small worlds they create with their toy versions of transportation technology.

Backyard Quarry. Load up the dump trucks with pebbles, and then haul them around – another example of fantasy play that engages kids with natural materials.

Keep a Pet. Taking care of small wild animals – or domesticated ones – helps kids learn to care for nature. We brought our pet toads as examples, and we show photos of the baby parakeets that Aaron raised.

Enjoy Your Backyard Mammals. Wonder Works staff uses puppets, plastic footprints, and real skins to introduce you to some mammals that may live near your home.

Dig for Bugs. At home you can look for sowbugs, millipedes, worms, and more in your garden. At Wonder Works, Ethan helps you explore soil from their garden, plus some rotten logs and forest soil imported for the day.

Catch Plastic Bugs. Real bugs are great, but fantasy play with plastic bugs and other toys lets kids do things they can’t do in real life.

Search for Birds. Some are common, some are rare – but they’re all wonderful! The Gyllenhaal family shares its passion for birds by showing you some of our projects, and letting kids search for Aaron’s plush bird collection with pretend binoculars.

Salt Your Sandbox. You can take home up to 10 natural treasures from our salted sandbox – then you can salt your sandbox at home with tiny shells and rocks.

Count the Things You Find. This works well with many “nature smart” kids (kids who show a high level of Howard Gardner’s naturalist intelligence). You can count the sandbox treasures. Our family counts birds for Cornell University’s Project FeederWatch (as shown in posters we did for our school’s science fair).

Make Nature Crafts. Get creative with shells and other natural objects. We’ve set up a station where you can make a shell collage.

Read Books about Backyard Nature Play. Our book table has examples of books for educators, parents, and children. [We’ll post our reading list later.]


That’s it for now — have a happy Earth Day, and take some time to play outside in nature!


Raising Nature-loving Kids in an Urbanized Environment April 16, 2009

Next Wednesday, April 22, I’ll be putting on an Earth Day event at Wonder Works, a Children’s Museum in Oak Park. I’ll be using this blog to (1) write about and illustrate the principles that I’m using to design this program, (2) show examples of what we wind up doing at Wonder Works, and (3) give readers ideas about what they can do in their own neighborhoods to support the development of nature-loving kids.

In days to come I’ll expound on the history of the No Child Left Inside movement (which I seem to be a part of) and discuss some authors who have helped me develop my ideas (like Richard Louv, David Sobel, and others). For now, I’ll just spell out the most recent version of my own, personal, Principles for Raising Nature-loving Kids in an Urbanized Environment:

1. Appreciate the nature you’ve got. There’s probably a lot more nature in your neighborhood than you realize. Recognize what you’ve got, pay attention to it, appreciate it, incorporate it into your life and into your kids’ play. (This blog provides ideas of what to look for in your neighborhood.)

2. Make your neighborhood a better place for nature-loving kids. Grow a garden, feed the birds, salt your sandbox, keep outdoor containers filled with water all year ’round, give the kids a corner of your yard where they can build a fort or play in the dirt.

3. Bring the outdoors indoors — but do it as a beginning, not as an end in itself. Collect natural things and bring them home, fill the bathtub with snow, raise indoor plants, make sure the kids’ toy box includes sticks and rocks as well as plastic toys, start an aquarium, make home-made play dough when you can’t play in the mud, keep pets — small wild ones and larger domesticated ones. But realize that this is just a beginning — the real goal is to get back outside and experience nature in an outdoor setting.

4. Bring the indoors outdoors. Toy trucks and cars, wooden trains, and plastic dinosaurs are as much fun outdoors as they are inside — and maybe more! Back when my kids were passionately interested in these things, we used to move our play to the front sidewalk or our vest-pocket backyard once the weather turned warm. You can see examples here and here and here. (Oops, maybe skip the last one if you’re not used to having older b0ys around.)

5. Use all the resources available to you — people, print, and electronic. Find informal mentors in your neighborhood, at local organizations (like clubs and museums), or online. Visit your local library frequently and search the Web for more resources. (As your kids grow older and more media savvy, they may take over this role, like my boys did with our family’s birding interest.)

6. Be prepared to travel. The first four principles are about making your home and neighborhood a better place to raise nature-loving kids. If you are successful, they’ll outgrow the nature you can offer close to home. When my kids were young, we visited local parks, museums, zoos, and arboretums. Now we go still go to parks, but we also search out other places, where we make our own natural experiences. (You can see examples here and here.)

7. Understand and support whatever kinds of nature-loving kids you’ve got. Observe how your child interacts with nature, and start from there. Do they lead with their head or their heart? Do they seek adventure or avoid it? What attracts them, what disgusts or frightens them? Knowing these things will help you design a life-in-nature that builds on their interests and strengths.

That’s almost it for now — but I’ll be writing more over the next few weeks (both before and after Earth Day). Feel free to contribute your own thoughts!

For now, just one more thing: A link to a Pioneer Press article about our Earth Day plans for Wonder Works. (Thanks, Myrna!)


Note: Principles 5 and 6 were added on April 20, 2009. Principle 4 was added on August 11, 2009.


Upcoming Events: Science and Nature Activities by Neighborhood Nature March 13, 2009

Neighborhood Nature will bring hands-on science and nature activities to three events during March and April:

ESCONI Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Show: THIS WEEKEND, Saturday and Sunday, March 14 and 15, 2009. ESCONI is the Earth Science Club of Northern Illinois, and our annual show brings exhibitors and dealers from around the Midwest to the College of DuPage for two days. Gail’s favorite jewelry maker (Exclusive Inspiration) will be there, along with her Dad, who is Ethan’s favorite fossil dealer (Rib River Fossils). Our family will help run the ESCONI Juniors Kids’ Corner activities both days. We’ll have free collecting and craft activities for children and a sales area with inexpensive rocks, minerals, and fossils for sale just to children and teachers. Web address:

Earth Day at Wonder Works, Wednesday morning, April 22, 2009. We’ve done informal hands-on activities at Wonder Works since it first opened in north Oak Park. Our 2009 Earth Day activities are currently being designed to illustrate a  range of ways that adults can nurture young children’s love for the natural world, even if they live in a densely populated place like south Oak Park. (That’s been the story of my life for the past dozen years!) Many of the activities will be based on David Sobel’s design principles for helping children make connections with nature, but I’ll give them an urban spin. There are two basic ideas: (1) Adults should help children learn to love the natural world before they asking them to save it, and (2) children learn that love by play and exploration in natual settings. As summarized on a series of blog postings by a children’s garden educator, the ways children learn to love nature include: Adventure; Fantasy and Imagination; Animal Allies; Maps and Paths; Special Places; Small Worlds; and Hunting and Gathering. We’ll provide details about our Earth Day activities as we invent them during the weeks before the program.

Academic Fair at Washington Irving School in Oak Park, evening of Wednesday, April 22, 2009. We’ll run informal activites in the Mini-Gym while the main event — the student projects — are on display in the Main Gym. We’ll probably bring a combination of ESCONI and Earth Day activites, with some technology and physical science activities as well. (If Irving School families want us to bring back favorites from the past, please let us know as soon as possible.)

So, hope to see you at one of these events!


Finding Fossils We Can’t Collect March 12, 2009

Filed under: Fossils,Geology,Rocks,Soil,Upcoming Events — saltthesandbox @ 2:54 pm
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While living a life consumed with raising boys and exploring living things for this blog, part of me is always thinking of the past. Sure, I think about my childhood and how it compares with the ones my boys are living. I also think about folks who built and visited Columbus Park a century ago.  Heavy rains bring ancient lakes and beach ridges to mind. But some things take me even further back, like a certain gray stone found in many buildings in the Park:

These blocks of limestone make the brick building stronger and more attractive.

The blocks of limestone make the brick building stronger and more attractive.

Looking closely at the blocks of limestone, there are fossils — evidence of ancient life and clues to the origin of this stone:

The yellow arrow points to a fossil stick coral. The red arrow points to a cross-section view of a brachiopod shell.

The yellow arrow points to a fossil stick coral. The red arrow points to a cross-section view of a brachiopod shell.

The rock is limestone, made of tiny bits of broken fossil hashed together and then cemented with a mineral called calcite. Because the fossils, like corals and brachiopods, are only found in sea water, this rock must have formed on the bottom of an ancient sea. Because these particular fossils match extinct species that lived about 350 million years ago, we know that’s when this limestone formed.

This limestone has other uses in the Park. On the covered terrace of the Refectory, limestone has been carved into urns and made into steps and building decorations:

Limestone urns and steps on the Refectory's covered terrace.

Limestone urns and steps on the Refectory's covered terrace.

A closer look at this limestone reveals another common fossil from the ancient sea:

The blue arrows point to fossil crinoid stems. can you find more examples in this rock?

The blue arrows point to fossil crinoid stems. Can you find more examples in this rock?

This type of limestone was quarried in Indiana and has an appropriate name: The Indiana Limestone. The fossils that we see today have been etched out in bas-relief as decades of acid rain dissolved the once-polished surface of the rock.  Go here for more information about fossils found in Indiana Limestone (photos half way down the Web page).

For the collectors in our family, finding fossils can be frustrating when we can’t take them home. So Dad’s found other ways to let kids collect fossils from the Indiana Limestone. Over years of collecting in southern Indiana, he’s scraped up several gallons of rusty-red soil from hilltops formed on Indiana Limestone. The dirt is filled with tiny fossils dissolved out of the rock over thousands of years (by rain less acid than what humans make today). Go here to see close-up views of the fossils we find.

Our family takes this “red dirt” to special events where kids collect its fossils. The next event will be the ESCONI Gem, Mineral, & Fossil Show on March 14-15, 2009:

ESCONI activity: Collecting fossil sealife from weathered Indiana Limestone.

ESCONI activity: Collecting fossil sea life from weathered Indiana Limestone.

Perhaps we’ll see you there?


Upcoming Events: Gulls, Pets, Dinosaurs, and Rocks February 18, 2009

Here are some events we will participate in during the next month:

Gull Frolic: Saturday, February 21. Starts 8:00 a.m. at the Winthrop Harbor Yacht Club at the North Point Marina in Winthrop Harbor, IL.  We should see rare gulls and ducks, in addition to more common winter birds. The best part is that when we get cold, we can go inside the warm building to eat, drink hot chocolate, talk to other birders, and see the exhibits. Web address:

Baby Shower at the Animal Care League in Oak Park: Sunday, February 22. The ACL holds their 3rd Annual Baby Shower on Sunday February 22nd from noon until 3 pm at the shelter. This shower is for the kittens and puppies that will soon start showing up at ACL’s doorstep, needing shelter and care as they prepare for adoption. They ask for items to be donated off their wish list (like food, toys, and supplies), but also appreciate monetary donations. (Full disclosure: We adopted our kittens from ACL, and we volunteer there as a family once or twice a week.) Web address:

Paleofest at Burpee Museum in Rockford, Illinois: Saturday and Sunday, March 7 and 8. OK, let it be known that Ethan and Dad still love dinosaurs, even the ones that didn’t evolve into birds. We’ll go for the lectures by paleontologists from around the country. Families with younger children will enjoy the workshops and museum exhibits. (We’ll look for Rough-legged Hawks and other living raptors as we drive I-290 to Rockford from Oak Park.) Web address:

ESCONI Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Show: Saturday and Sunday, March 14 and 15. ESCONI is the Earth Science Club of Northern Illinois, and our annual show brings exhibitors and dealers from around the Midwest to the College of DuPage for two days. Dad and one or more of the boys will help run the ESCONI Juniors activities booth days. (We’ll probably go birding on our lunch breaks.) Web address:


Will we see you at one of these events?


Learn about Nature in Our Extended Neighborhood February 3, 2009

We plan to learn more about Chicago-area nature at the following February events:

This Saturday, February 7: Wild Things: A Chicago Wilderness Conference for People and Nature. 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at University of Illinois at Chicago. Dad hopes to find out what’s been learned from bird monitoring in the Chicago area. Also, there are programs about how people relate to nature and environmental education in urban areas. Web address:


Saturday and Sunday, February 14-15: Meet the Scientists at AAAS Family Science Days. All events are free to the public and take place in the Riverside Center Exhibit Hall at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, 151 East Wacker Drive. Lots of the programs are about physical sciences, robots, and computers, but on Sunday a Field Museum researcher will talk about Peregrine Falcons. Web address:


Saturday, February 21: Gull Frolic. Starts 8:00 a.m. at the Winthrop Harbor Yacht Club at the  North Point Marina in Winthrop Harbor, IL.  We should see rare gulls and ducks, in addition to more common winter birds. The best part is that when you get cold, you can go inside the warm building to eat, drink hot chocolate, talk to other birders, and see the exhibits. Web address:


We also plan to count birds during the Great Backyard Bird Count, February 13-16. The theme this year is “Count for Fun, Count for the Future!” Web address:


Will we see you at one of these events?