Spring is on its way. We have heard frogs in the ponds, the birds are singing happy tunes and the plants in the greenhouse have started sprouting. This weekend we held a Flying Wild workshop for educators, and the weather was fabulous. Our group took a hike to the Olin Nature Preserve to find and identify some birds, then we came back in and participated in a few activities from the guide that teach about bird bills and feathers.

One set of the questions that I have received many, many times since starting at TNI last April is, “Do you work all year?” and, “What do you do in the winter?” The answer to both questions is an easy one.

The staff at TNI works all year and the education staff has many programs and field trips during the winter. This winter, some of the programs that we coordinated include; Living History, Wreath Making, Winter Tree ID and Pruning, Maple Syrup Making, and Candy Cane Challenge. In addition to the public programs, we hosted many home school field trips and a few public school field trips. The season and the weather (for the most part) do not hinder our ability to teach about nature. There are some really great things we can see and do in the winter that are not possible any other time of year. Maple syrup making is the best example of that.

In addition to the programs that occur on property we participate in programs with other organizations and winter is a time of planning. Since it is slower than spring and fall, we are able to do most of our camp planning, and even some event planning for the next year.River Game

My special project this winter has been to create a new activity for TNI to share with the public. I am creating a game, called The Mississippi River Conservation Game (Mississippi Game for short), which will teach children and adults the challenges and concerns that living near a river causes. I have been gathering my materials, making the game cards, and painting the game mat. It is a large (nearly to scale) version of the confluence points of the Mississippi River, Illinois River and Missouri River.

This game will allow groups to act like a town hall meeting where they will be making decisions based on what the town needs. These students will have to decide if they will choose the easy or cheap solution or the solution that keeps the river healthy. A real town along a major river has to make these same decisions and it’s never easy.  I want to allow the students to have real discussion and realize that all decisions have consequences. Towns make decisions based on which consequences they can live with economically, environmentally and societally.

River game 2Look for the Mississippi Game at this year’s Riverbend Earth Day Festival on April 16 at Piasa Harbor.

Remember the trails are still closed and will reopen April 1st. The stewardship team has been working to restore the land by removing invasive species and conducting prescribed burns. You are welcome to come out to any TNI hosted events though. Some of the events coming up include Volunteer Workdays, workshops, Astronomy Association Meeting, Moonlight Hike and my personal favorite, the Owl Prowl. Check out the events calendar on our site.

Ramona Puskar

Education Assistant