EECO Conference 2014

This past weekend, our Field Instructor Interns traveled to Deer Creek State Park for the 47th annual Environmental Education Council of Ohio (EECO) Conference. While there, they presented their final poster project; the last step needed to earn their official Environmental Education Certification for the state of Ohio. During the Saturday evening poster session, the interns and their fellow classmates talked to EECO conference participants and lodge visitors about the merits of their individual program. Each intern’s poster showcased a personally developed lesson plan which correlated to the core competencies of environmental education.

Interns Maddie and Mysha (from left) prepare for their poster presentations. Maddie’s poster outlines her lesson on discovering pond life. Photo Credit: Kate Lowry

Interns Maddie and Mysha (from left) prepare for their poster presentations. Maddie’s poster outlines her lesson on discovering pond life.
Photo Credit: Kate Lowry

Susan, a first year intern, explains the ins and outs of her bird program “For the Birds” to a viewer. Photo credit: Josh Angelini

Susan, a first year intern, explains the ins and outs of her bird program “For the Birds” to a viewer. Photo credit: Josh Angelini

Our intern Kyle (at center) gathering a crowd at his poster presentation, entitled “Lewis and Clark and You.” Photo credit: Josh Angelini

Our intern Kyle (at center) gathering a crowd at his poster presentation, entitled “Lewis and Clark and You.” Photo credit: Josh Angelini

There was more to the conference than just the poster session, however.  EECO conference attendees also sat in on educational sessions that were supported by the conference board. The interns were able to chat with educators and individuals in environmentally-related fields of work from all over the state and gain new perspectives from their experience.

Interns Desirae and Kate (from left) bond with an eastern fox snake and Lake Erie watersnake at one of the educational sessions provided at the EECO conference. The Lake Erie watersnake was recently removed from of the list of federally endangered and threatened species on August 16, 2011. Photo Credit: Kate Lowry

Interns Desirae and Kate (from left) bond with an eastern fox snake and Lake Erie watersnake at one of the educational sessions provided at the EECO conference. The Lake Erie watersnake was recently removed from of the list of federally endangered and threatened species on August 16, 2011. Photo Credit: Kate Lowry

 Our third year intern, Julia Kokavec, was one of the session presenters.  She prepared and delivered a presentation highlighting the CVEEC’s hoop house and farm school programming.  Fellow teachers and environmental educators picked up lesson ideas to use back in their own classrooms.  Session attendees were able to build a miniature container garden to take home.

Overall, the weekend was a success. Our interns spent time teaching others about their poster program, and also spent time learning about new methods of implementing environmental education. Everyone learned a great deal, and it was amazing to see all of the wonderful, innovative environmental practices happening in the state of Ohio!

The Environmental Education Certification class of 2014, with their certificates to prove it! Photo credit: Josh Angelini

The Environmental Education Certification class of 2014, with their certificates to prove it!
Photo credit: Josh Angelini

Deer Creek also has large numbers of turkey vultures that congregate and roost in the area. Notice the black dots in the treeline and on the bank near the water. They are all vultures! Photo Credit: Kate Lowry

Deer Creek also has large numbers of turkey vultures that congregate and roost in the area. Notice the black dots in the treeline and on the bank near the water. They are all vultures! Photo Credit: Kate Lowry

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From Camper to Teacher

Colleen (in the bright yellow jacket) with some of her 7th grade students.

Colleen (in the bright yellow jacket) with some of her 7th grade students.

This week at the CVEEC, we were joined by 7th grade students from St. Paul Catholic School in North Canton, Ohio.  Colleen Justus, the lead school coordinator for their trip, is actually a former camper of our resident program!

Colleen made the trip out to camp as a 6th grader when she attended Urban Community School.  Ellie Reagan, Colleen’s former 6th grade science teacher at Urban, has been actively involved with the EEC since the 1994-1995 school year.  It is always fun to learn about these small-world connections.

In addition to bringing her students to the resident program, Ellie Reagan joined our summer staff as a Teacher Ranger Teacher in 2010. Also, her classroom students were the winners of our annual Adelstein Award in 2013.

In addition to bringing her students to the resident program, Ellie Reagan joined our summer staff as a Teacher Ranger Teacher in 2010. Also, her classroom students were the winners of our annual Adelstein Award in 2013.

Though it has been several years since Colleen attended CVEEC as a camper, there are definitely aspects of the program that stuck with her to today.  Coming to camp in 6th grade was Colleen’s very first camp experience; it is memories of the “traditional” camp activities that have stuck with her the most.  “I definitely remember the dorms from when I was a camper,” said Colleen, “the songs are all coming back to me as we sing them, and I definitely remember the campfire.”

Those same activities are highlights for the students she is now chaperoning.  “The kids were so excited to sleep in the dorms the first night we were here, and they certainly love the food.  One of the best parts of camp for me as a chaperone is to see my students in a different light.  You can learn so much about your students by playing Pictionary in the dorms that you would never see in an academic classroom.  We were all laughing and bonding, it was so much fun.”

Colleen also sees her students enjoying the academic aspect of their experience.  She states, “It’s wonderful how the EEC curriculum builds throughout the week.  Tonight and tomorrow, as we wrap things up, the kids will start to see how the classes we’ve been doing all week will build together for their final project.”

Students learn about the biodiversity of a headwaters stream.

Students learn about the biodiversity of a headwaters stream.

When asked if our resident program provided unique academic experiences for students, the answer was an overwhelming, “Yes!” Colleen said that even though she does many hands-on lab based science labs with her students, the CVEEC takes it one step further.  “I do a lot with my students in the lab, but I cannot take them to an actual stream and collect critters.  This outdoor experience has been wonderful and so much fun.  It also will tie in perfectly with our upcoming unit on biomes.”

Enjoying class in the great outdoors.

Enjoying class in the great outdoors.

When asked for final thoughts about the trip Colleen said, “It’s neat to see how much the kids are enjoying everything.  There are quiet kids who have opened up and are now joining in conversations at the lunch table and many kids who have made new friends.  Before we came on the trip there were concerned parents speculating that kids would become homesick; in reality, the kids are having a blast and do not want to leave!”

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Alternative Spring Break: Students Choose Restoration and Relaxation

College students often spend their spring breaks relaxing at the beach. The group that visited Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) had something different in mind. They wanted to make a difference! This past weekend, more than 30 college students from Ohio, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and New York, jump started their spring breaks by helping with vital tasks designed to support trail maintenance and habitat restoration at CVNP. It wasn’t all hard work for these dedicated students. As part of the Alternative Spring Break Program, the students were treated to guided hikes, guest speaker presentations, campfires and recreational activities. The Conservancy and CVNP partnered with the National Park Conservation Association (NPCA) on habitat restoration projects during Alternative Spring Break.  

Alternate spring Break participants near the Everett Covered Bridge.   Photo credit: Jamie Walters

Alternate spring Break participants near the Everett Covered Bridge.
Photo credit: Jamie Walters

At the CVEEC, college students helped clean up the pine forest area near the administration building. Due to safety concerns, several trees had to be cut down, leaving the pine forest area full of cut logs and other debris. The students who participated in the Alternative Spring Break program moved large logs and sticks to clean up the area, and then helped to split the logs for future campfire use at the Center. The pine forest is now cleaned up and looking better than ever!

Students are briefed on safety and objectives for the pine forest cleanup at the CVEEC. Photo credit: Denny Reiser

Students are briefed on safety and objectives for the pine forest cleanup at the CVEEC. Photo credit: Denny Reiser

Student Volunteers help to move large logs to another location, where they will be split into firewood and distributed between the White Pines and Lipscomb campuses.  Photo credit: Denny Reiser

Student volunteers help to move large logs to another location, where they will be split into firewood and distributed between the White Pines and Lipscomb campuses. Photo credit: Denny Reiser

A student volunteer moves newly split firewood. This firewood will be used during resident camp programs. Imagine how many amazing campfire experiences will come from their hard work! Photo credit: Denny Reiser

A student volunteer moves newly split firewood. This firewood will be used during resident camp programs. Imagine how many amazing campfire experiences will come from their hard work! Photo credit: Denny Reiser

After an afternoon of volunteering and a hearty meal, the college students were led on a night hike by several of our Field Instructor Interns. During the Night Hike, these college students were able to experience what a typical night hike would be like for the students who come to learn at the CVEEC. They participated in a Seton Walk, listened to night sounds, and some even got to hear the story of the moonrock! Student volunteers delighted in hearing a pack of coyotes conversing with a domestic dog, and even heard the echoing call of a barred owl near the Outer Rim Trail! 

Just before the night hike, the nearly-full moon was shining bright! The light of the moon was so bright during the night hike, that several students were excited to find that they could see their shadows! Photo credit: Kate Lowry

Just before the night hike, the nearly-full moon was shining bright! The light of the moon was so bright during the night hike, that several students were excited to find that they could see their shadows! Photo credit: Kate Lowry

And what better way to wrap up a great day of volunteering and an exciting night hike, than with some s’mores! Photo credit: Kate Lowry

And what better way to wrap up a great day of volunteering and an exciting night hike, than with some s’mores! Photo credit: Kate Lowry

We appreciate the hard work these students did at the CVEEC, and hope they will cherish fond memories from their Alternative Spring Break.

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5 Things You Might Not Know About the CVEEC

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1. The CVEEC has been hosting school groups since 1994.

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Cuyahoga Valley Association (CVA), a non-profit organization consisting of two employees at the time, agreed to operate the Environmental Education Center in 1993.  They partnered with the National Park Service and began writing curriculum for the center.  CVEEC officially opened in 1994 and began hosting students.  After several merges, CVA eventually became the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  Pictured above are EEC staff preparing for one of the first opening ceremonies at the Everett Road Covered Bridge (notice the familiar ranger!) and interns from the very first intern class experimenting with water quality tests in the Lipscomb Lab.  (Check back soon for a post on the schools who have been coming to the EEC for 20 years!)

 

2. The cement benches on campus were installed by Arts LIFT.

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Operated through the University of Akron, Arts LIFT is a summer arts apprenticeship program allowing high school students from Akron Public Schools to work with local area artists.  The director of Arts LIFT, Eliza Gargarella, is a former EEC intern and helped to coordinate this 2010 project. The benches installed at the CVEEC were designed to showcase the ecological components of the ecosystems in which they are placed; buttery garden, woodlands, and wetland.  Learn more about the project here.

 

3. There was once a tennis court on campus.

tennis court

This tennis court was installed before the park acquired EEC land.  It was removed in 1999 during the construction of the November Lodge, as it was no longer in use and was near the lodge construction site.  Though the court is gone, the pine trees in the picture remain and shield the Lodge from the west winds.

 

4. We have a partnership with a park in Slovakia.

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As part of the National Park Service Sister Park Program, Cuyahoga Valley has formed a connection with Zahorie Protected Landscape Area in Slovakia.  Over the years, CVEEC has recruited several interns through this partnership.   Pictured above are Barbora and Martin, part of the 2012-2013 intern team.  Barbora and Martin worked with the Daphne Institute of Applied Ecology in Slovakia before coming to the CVEEC.  (Check back soon for a full post on our Slovakian partnership!)

 

5. Lipscomb barn was once an artist studio.

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John Gilson was the first documented land owner of the Lipscomb campus property.  In 1841, Gilson bought approximately 100 acres of land for the equivalent of $120 U.S. dollars.  The Lipscomb House was built in 1854 and the barn followed later in 1870.  After Gilson’s departure, the land had many owners through the 1900s, the most recent being an interior designer who used the barn as her studio.  Today, the renovated barn is used as our main kitchen and dining hall.  Pictured above is the barn during the initial EEC construction.

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Akron Public Schools’ Winter Excursion

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Twenty eight students joined us for a wonderful winter day excursion in the park.  Though we were hoping the snow would stick around for a day of sledding, Mother Nature had other plans.  Instead, we set Akron Public Schools (APS) C-TAG (Closing the Achievement Gap) staff and students on a four-part challenge extravaganza.

Part one of the challenges had teams racing to build the tallest free-standing tower.  Given only a calendar and a strand of tape, students worked together to build a structurally sound edifice.  By the end of the day, it was the self-named “Dream Team’s” tower that earned the tallest, free-standing prize.

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After completing the first challenge, teams were given a campus map and were asked to navigate their way to the other activity stations.  As teams were comprised of students from four different high schools, learning to work with unfamiliar peers was part of the task.

Upon arriving at a second challenge, teams raced to test their map reading skills.  Given envelopes with specific prompts such as “find and circle two park ranger stations” or “find and circle two places where visitors can fish in the park,” students raced to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park map, one at a time, to complete the task.  When all team members found and circled their items, they could then move on to the next challenge.

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Skins and bones greeted APS students at a third challenge in the race.  Given cards with photographed animals, animal pelts, and animal skulls, students were challenged with matching the similar animal items together (ex. Deer picture, with deer pelt, and deer skull).  When all items were correctly matched, students could move on to the next challenge.

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The final challenge was for students to take a picture of their team at the campus scenic overlook.  Cardboard Ranger P. Danger greeted students along their journey and prompted them to follow the correct trail.  All three teams completed the challenge and hiked up and down the steep terrain.  Teams were so efficient that all three made it back to the finish line at exactly the same time!  We are proud of each and every one of the students.

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After a delicious lunch provided by our EEC chefs, students were joined by Kyle Snyder from the WICK poetry center in Kent.  He led students through a guided poetry exercise which had students think and write about winter.  Many students stood up and shared their poetry for the group; we were thoroughly impressed with the wonderful words the students wrote.

And, what better way to end the day, than with everyone making and eating s’mores.  Though it was too cold for an outdoor fire, we built a nice and toasty one in the Legacy Room fireplace.  All in all, it was a beautiful day to be out and exploring the wonders of Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  We look forward to having APS students out again for our spring excursion.

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Missed our previous posts on APS Summer Environmental Education Academy and excursions?  Follow the links to read more!

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Festival of Lights 2013

Luminary lined path.  Credit: Tim Fenner

Luminary lined path. Credit: Tim Fenner

On the longest night of the year, when all is dark, celebrations of light and thanksgiving erupt through cultures across the globe.  Scientifically known as the winter solstice, as the Earth’s northern hemisphere tilts away from the sun, this night, though dark and cold, is filled with warmth and cheer as we celebrate our annual Festival of Lights event.

Lighting the Hanukkah menorah.  Credit: Tim Fenner

Lighting the Hanukkah menorah. Credit: Tim Fenner

Now, more than seven years running, our Festival of Lights tradition has increasingly grown in popularity.  To accommodate the rising number of ticket sales, this year we expanded the event to include two nights.  Totaling 322 in all, our guests were comprised of families, local business folks, Conservancy members, new faces and familiar friends.  A fabulous time was had by all.

The Christmas tree, generously donated by Heritage Farms in Peninsula, was gifted to a local Akron family.  Credit: Tim Fenner

The Christmas tree, generously donated by Heritage Farms in Peninsula, was gifted to a local Akron family. Credit: Tim Fenner

Ranger Margaret and Intern Mysha teach guests about Kwanzaa.  Credit: Tim Fenner

Ranger Margaret and Intern Mysha teach guests about Kwanzaa. Credit: Tim Fenner

Following luminary-lined paths through the forests on the EEC campus, guests visited eight different stations; each one highlighting a different global solstice celebration.  Each stop provided guests with information about the tradition, a game or craft, and a taste of a traditional dessert from that part of the world.  Guests had a blast gambling with toga clad interns at Saturnalia, writing wishes on Loy Krathong’s floating wreaths, tasting dumplings at Dong Zhi, and enjoying the warmth of the bon fire at Yule Log.  Other represented traditions included Christmas Tree, Chanukah, Kwanza, and Yalda.

Dreidel dreidel dreidel I made it out of clay.  Credit: Tim Fenner

Dreidel dreidel dreidel I made it out of clay. Credit: Tim Fenner

Amy and Maureen entertain guests with their lovely music.  Credit: Tim Fenner

Amy and Maureen entertain guests with their lovely music on Thursday night. Credit: Tim Fenner

Admission also included a beautiful pork dinner prepared by our Conservancy catering staff.  Since the dining halls were decorated with greenery, bows, lights, and cranberry centerpieces, you almost forgot you were eating at a camp.  Guests raved about the delicious food, saying it may have been the highlight of their night.

The Yule Log fire was a great place to warm up on these chilly nights.  Credit: Tim Fenner

The Yule Log fire was a great place to warm up on those chilly nights. Credit: Tim Fenner

A huge thank you goes out to all of our volunteers and Conservancy staff that helped make this event possible.  To those who attended the event, we truly appreciate your support and hope to see you again next year!

Krathongs floating on the pond.  Credit: Tim Fenner

Krathongs floating on the pond. Credit: Tim Fenner

Loy Krathong station.  Credit: Tim Fenner

Loy Krathong station. Credit: Tim Fenner

 

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Winter at the CVEEC

It’s easy to imagine camp in the summer time; sunny skies, green grass, t-shirts, bugs, and frogs galore.  So… what do we do here in the winter?  Though the skies are often gray, the grass is dead and covered in snow, t-shirts are buried beneath layers of winter coats and most animals are stowed away for the winter, we are still out exploring the wonders of nature with our students.

We still learn about watersheds, even if they are covered in snow!

We still learn about watersheds, even if they are covered in snow!

While the day to day activities of each class may change with the seasons, the themes of our classes remain the same.  When learning about ecosystems in the summer, we catch critters in the pond.  In the winter, we discuss animal winter adaptations like hibernation, migration, and cold coping mechanisms.  And, though some animals may be seldom seen in the winter, they leave us clues to remind us they are here.

Beavers stockpile logs beneath the ice on a frozen pond so they have access to food all winter long.  Beaver dens are nice and toasty on the inside and keep the beaver families warm during the cold months.

Beavers stockpile logs beneath the ice on a frozen pond so they have access to food all winter long. Beaver lodges are nice and toasty on the inside and keep the beaver families warm during the cold months.

Though it is cold in the winter, the Cuyahoga River rarely freezes.  Flowing water contains more energy than still water and is therefore more resistant to crystallization.  Lucky for us, it means we can still test water samples for our class Journey to the River.

We just have to take extra precautions to make sure the test tube samples don’t freeze!

We just have to take extra precautions to make sure the test tube samples don’t freeze!

In some cases, the snow can be an asset to our classes.  There are many interesting discoveries to be made amongst the ice and snow…

Ice crystals are awesome!

Ice crystals are awesome!

After learning about the artist Andrew Goldsworthy, these students felt inspired to make some nature art of their own.

After learning about the artist Andrew Goldsworthy, these students felt inspired to make some nature art of their own.

The hollow tree is a great shelter from the cold.  Animals find similar places to hide during the winter months.

The hollow tree is a great shelter from the cold. Animals find similar places to hide during the winter months.

Some birds migrate, but some stick around for the winter.  Bird watching is a great activity to try all year long.

Some birds migrate, but some stick around for the winter. Bird watching is a great activity to try all year long.

Spice bush has an interesting smell even when the leaves have fallen.

Spice bush has an interesting smell even when the leaves have fallen.

Of course on super cold days, we do have to spend more time learning inside.  And though we sometimes get a little stir crazy…

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… it makes outdoor exploration time even more enjoyable!

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The Story of the Stonecutter

(adapted from a Chinese fable)

Stonecutter

Stonecutter

Once upon a time, there lived a stonecutter.  His job, all day long, was to hike through the mountains, break off slabs of rock, and carry the slabs back down to the village.  Though stonecutting was strenuous work, the stonecutter was happily satisfied with his life.  He had what he needed, and needed what he had.

However, one day, as the stonecutter ate his lunch, he peered down at the village below and saw something he had never seen before; the emperor.  The stonecutter got to thinking, wow, wouldn’t it be nice to be the emperor; no more heavy lifting, no more slabs of rock, infinite funds, servants to do your work for you.  It seemed like the perfect life.  As the stonecutter sat there, staring down at the emperor, he wished and he wished, and then the magic happened…

Emperor

Emperor

All of a sudden, the stonecutter became the emperor!  And life was great!  When the emperor was hungry, food appeared before his eyes.  When the emperor was tired, his pillows were fluffed.  When the emperor was bored, people entertained him.  He thought to himself, I doubt life could be any better than this.

But, one day, as the emperor was walking amongst his extensive fields of crops, he noticed something.  The crops were having a particularly rough year; they looked all puny and fried from the hot sun.  And come to think of it, that sun was pretty annoying shining down from the sky, scorching the earth and burning the back of the emperor’s neck.  Though life as the emperor was pretty fantastic, he got to thinking, what would it like to be the sun?  And the more the emperor thought, his thoughts became a wish, so he wished and he wished, and then the magic happened…

Sun

Sun

Before he knew it, the emperor became the sun!  And life was fabulous.  It was great to float around all day in the sky, shining down upon the earth and the life upon it.  As the sun, he could make photosynthesis happen and grow plants on all the earth.  When people annoyed him, he could send a few extra UVs their way and give them a little sunburn.  But mostly, he enjoyed the happiness that ensued when his beautiful sunny rays shone down upon the earth.

One day, when the sun was shining down over his village, something strange happened.  His rays were being blocked by something; there were big shadows appearing beneath him.  Try as he might, his rays were just not getting through.  Why was this happening?  As the sun began to think, his thinking turned to wishing and he wished and he wished and then the magic happened…

Cloud

Cloud

Suddenly, the sun became a cloud, and life was fantastic!  As a cloud, he could block all of the sun’s rays from reaching the earth.  He could shape shift into all kinds of interesting shapes and sizes much to the amusement of the village children.  And, perhaps his favorite activity of all; making it rain!  The cloud loved seeing the plants grow bigger after a rain storm, he felt important knowing that life could not survive without water, and when he was feeling especially temperamental, he sent down a few lightning bolts for good measure.  Life as a cloud was truly amazing; everything seemed to finally be set.

But, one day, when the cloud was floating about in the sky, he started drifting in a direction he had not planned.  What was happening?  Why could he not float in the direction of his choice?  Who was interfering with his beautiful life?  Though he couldn’t see the culprit, the cloud got to thinking, and the thinking turned to wishing.  So he wished and he wished and then the magic happened…

Wind

Wind

Soon enough, the cloud became the wind!  And life was even better!  What fun it was to push the clouds about.  He could make leaves blow off the trees, hair stand on end, and goosebumps appear on peoples’ arms.  Once in a while, he sent tornados across the earth because spinning in circles certainly was fun.

One day, as wind was zipping through the air, he crashed into something hard.  Wind circled around and tried to crash through with force; no such luck.  Whatever this structure was, it was too massive to try to break through.  What fun was it to be the wind if something was blocking your way?  So the wind got to thinking and thinking turned to wishing, so he wished and he wished and then the magic happened…

Mountain

Mountain

That is when the wind became a mountain.  And life was rockin’, seriously, he was made of rocks.  As the mountain, he felt more powerful and important than ever before.  Nothing could pass through him, not even the wind.  Only the most elite climbers could make it up to the top of his snowy peaks.  Artists painted his beauty, plants and animals lived among his base; life was practically perfect.  There couldn’t possibly be any life better or more satisfying than the life of a mountain.  It had been quite an interesting journey, and the mountain finally felt content.

But, one day, as the mountain was relaxing and reflecting on his life, he felt a little tickle.  A few minutes later, he felt a little prick.  What was happening?  Being a mountain was supposed to be perfect, what was that uncomfortable annoyance?  Ouch!  Who was breaking off a chunk of his rock?  As the mountain got to thinking, the thinking turned to wishing, and he wished and he wished and then the magic happened…

Stonecutter

Stonecutter

To his astonishment, the mountain became the stonecutter once again.  He was back to his initial life of breaking off rock slabs and carrying them down the village.  However, for the rest of the day, and from that day onward, the stonecutter never wished again.  Though there were days he worked in the blazing sun, the wet rain, and the chilly wind, he never complained, for he was honestly quite content living life as the stonecutter.  The life he had to start with ended up being the most satisfying of them all.

 

**This is one way we incorporate the arts and storytelling into our Level I curriculum.  During Global Festival, students experience snapshots of different cultures around the world through games, crafts, and stories. Our stonecutter story is adapted from an old Chinese fable.

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Make New Friends but Keep the Old

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Photo credit: Ted Toth

Bonding around a campfire, sharing songs and stories, was a great way to kick off the fourth annual weekend for Cadette Girl Scouts.  72 girls, representing 15 different troops, participated in the action packed, educational weekend.

Through the course of the weekend, girls completed work to earn three different Cadette badges; Trees and Keys, Finding Common Ground, and Woodworking.

Since winter is approaching, and most leaves had already fallen, identifying trees proved a bit more challenging than in the summer months.  With guidance from the field instructor interns, the girls practiced using dichotomous keys as a tree identification tool.  While the class was designed to familiarize girls with roughly nine tree species, by the time girls ventured into the forest to ID trees, they began to recognize the diversity in tree bark well exceeded nine types.  It was great to see the girls’ increasing awe as they discovered the complexity of the forest ecosystem.

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Photo credit: Ted Toth

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Photo credit: Ted Toth

For woodworking, scouts learned how to safely operate a hammer, screwdriver, cordless drill, and tenon saw.  As using tools was a skill most of the girls had not previously tried, they all had great fun learning and laughing as they worked on their bird house projects.  A fair amount of crafts-woman-ship went into each design, as girls learned to keep the wood pieces square through assembly and how to properly drill holes and drive screws into the wood.  By the end of the session, each scout successfully assembled a high-quality bird house to take home.

The last badge, Finding Common Ground, was the highlight of the weekend for many.  Cadettes were challenged to find a practical solution to the issue of deer overpopulation.  To gain sufficient background knowledge, the scouts first completed the Wildlife Biology class.  Though a series of workbook activities, puzzles, and games, the girls studied population ecology.  Why do populations reach their carrying capacity?  What are limiting factors in an environment?  What happens when a predator, prey relationship becomes unbalanced?

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Photo credit: Ted Toth

After discovering the answers to these questions, the girls gathered in the evening for a mock town hall meeting.  Each troop chose one Cadette to be a part of the town commission board.  Then, Mayor Paul E. Tishen (remember him from our level II curriculum?), oversaw a healthy debate on how to solve the deer population crisis.  Representatives (field-instructor interns) from the fictitious town of Crystal Park voiced opinions about biodiversity, animal rights, car accident hazards, lyme disease, farm crop damage, local business, and more.

Having heard the multiple view points, girls broke out into troops and came up with a proposed solution to the overpopulation issue.  When the meeting reconvened, troops took turns sharing their proposed solutions.  Suggestions ranged from “controlled” mountain lion releases to closing the park temporarily and issuing licenses to trained hunters to shoot deer.

cadette town hall meeting josh

Photo credit: Josh Angelini

Once all proposed solutions were shared, the final step was to vote.  Commission members voted on a solution behind closed doors, while the audience had an open vote. When both parties reached a decision the Commissioners were asked to return and present their verdict on what solution should be implemented.  After all was said and done, it turned out that the commission and the townspeople ultimately chose different results; but that’s ok, it happens in real life too.

While the whole issue and meeting were set up to represent a fictitious town and fictitious park, by the end of the meeting, having become absorbed in the issue, girls and adults reported that it all seemed very real.  Overall, it was a great learning opportunity for the girls to learn about population dynamics in a hands-on, interactive way.

Though fast and furious, the weekend was a great opportunity to learn, earn badges, meet new people, and explore Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Wondering how you and your troop can join in the fun?  We are now offering a second weekend for Cadettes January 31st- February 2nd.  There are still spots available.

To register, call Connie in the EEC office 330-657-2796.

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Interview with Ranger Pam Barnes

Park service employees hold a wide variety of positions and expertise.  From law enforcement, to resource management, to administration, to maintenance, to interpretation, everyone has an important role to make the park function.  We’ve interviewed Pam Barnes, one of the Education Specialist rangers who works here at the CVEEC, about her job here in the park.

Pam

Pam, when did you first realize you wanted to be a park ranger?

I’ve always had a great interest in the outdoors.  I had a storybook-like childhood filled with memories of my brother and me playing in the stream at my Grandpa’s farm.  We used our imaginations, made mud pies, and just explored; typical kid stuff, but usually with an outdoor focus.

But, really, my first exposure to a park career happened when I was a teenager, maybe 15 years old. I went on a trip to visit national parks and met several rangers that had pretty cool jobs.  At the time, I had no idea how to pursue that career, so I just logged it in the back of my memory.

In high school, I was part of the eco-meet team, similar to envirothon here in Ohio.  It was a competition that required us to memorize species names, execute orienteering skills, and identify reptiles and amphibians, among other similar tasks.  Through this club, I realized other kids shared my interests; we even started a school newspaper with an environmental theme.

As far as taking formal steps toward environmental career, I really credit my high school guidance counselor.  She encouraged me to seek a degree in environmental education in college.  I had always considered teaching as a possible career, and guess I never had realized that you could teach environmental education specifically.  It seemed like a perfect fit for me.

When I graduated, and it was time to apply for jobs, I still didn’t know exactly what my career was going to be.  Then, one day, my husband reminded me of my trip to the parks, and how I had once considered becoming a park ranger.  He actually printed out the application for me and encouraged me to fill it out.  I’m really glad he did.

What parks have you worked in since becoming a park ranger?

I started out in Hopewell Culture National Historic Park in southern Ohio.  Most park rangers start out in the smaller, lesser known, parks.  I worked 3 seasons there before I applied to Cuyahoga Valley.  After 2 more seasonal positions here, a permanent job opened up, and I got it!  I’ve been here ever since.  I’ve worked at the EEC since 1991, so I guess that means 22 years.

What are the best and the worst parts of your job?

Tough question, I guess I love that every day here is different.  There really is no “typical day.”  And, I think not everyone can say they are working in a job that they truly love.  Every job has its downsides; here (besides furlough) I would say it’s the paperwork, and the other tasks that are necessary, but not truly what the job is all about.  The best parts are working with students, working with teachers, and just being outside in park.

For those students out there aspiring to become park rangers, do you have any advice?

Well, this sounds cliché, but stay in school.  It always helps to have a college degree.  The cool thing about the park service is they employ a wide variety of skill sets; you can apply science, history, political science, architecture, and engineering to different park jobs.  Science is especially applicable since we do wildlife monitoring and other surveys.  Collecting data is something we do on a regular basis.

Around the office, you are known for your puns and jokes.  Do you have any for us today?

What did the beaver say to the tree?

It’s been nice gnawing you.

 

How do you identify a dogwood tree?

By its bark.

What do you like to do when you aren’t on the job?

We always joke that when park rangers go on vacation, they go visit other national parks.  That’s true for me too.  I’ve been to Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Glacier, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Petrified Forest, Acadia, Everglades, and probably some others.  I still need to visit Yosemite though; I’ll get there someday.

Thank you so much, do you have any final thoughts?

Just that in the end, it’s amazing to find a job that perfectly fits your interests.  I love kids, and I love passing along my favorite childhood pastimes to the next generation of kids.  I always wanted a job teaching and I wanted to wear the uniform; as a park ranger I get to do both.

 

 

Missed our interview with Ranger Phil Molnar?  Check it out here!

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