A walk in the woods

Published 10:10 am Thursday, March 29, 2012

[imagebrowser id=2883]

Nature Center bustling with warm spring weather

The scene at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center isn’t quite like it has been in past spring seasons, but that won’t get in the way of the educational opportunities.

“Yes, we have definitely seen a big increase for March for people walking and enjoying the Nature Center,” said Larry Dolphin, Nature Center director. “It’s been very busy on the trails and in the building, especially on the weekends.”

John Duren, intern at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center, shows Banfield fourth-graders a raspberry bush that has not matured. Area students have been learning about wildlife and tapping maple trees for sap to make syrup during the past few days, even though the temperature is now too warm to collect sap.

Email newsletter signup

But even on the weekdays people are buzzing around the facility and grounds, whether on lunch breaks or days off. Several people were out enjoying the sunshine on Wednesday, including Dan Raygor’s fourth-grade class from Banfield Elementary School. While the temperatures are already too warm for sap to run from trees, nature center employees and volunteers still taught plenty about tapping trees, making syrup and identifying wildlife.

While looking at trees riddled with holes, John Duren, Nature Center intern, asked fourth-graders, “What makes holes in trees?”

“Woodpeckers,” some replied in unison.

Duren further explained how yellow-bellied sapsuckers have been drilling those holes and looking for food.

Area elementary school classes have been visiting the Nature Center during the past few days, and Duren, Dolphin, Mike Goetz and Maria Anderson have been teaching them about natural processes that happen in southern Minnesota.

Furthermore, the Nature Center now has a slew of educational programs slated for the spring, summer and fall.

“There are a couple additional things like our art class,” Dolphin said.

“Birds and Bugs,” will be held by Christopher Tully, the same man who created the new welcome center display at the Nature Center. Tully will show kids how to craft dragonflies, ladybugs, hawks, owls and more out of styrofoam and other materials during a $20 class June 26-28.



Another program, “Give Me a Home Where the Buffalo Roam,” will be held on Aug. 6 and 7 for $15.

Among new programs, Dolphin said they will have several new hands-on displays, as well, including one that will accompany the buffalo program.

Yet the Nature Center is bringing back several hits from last year, including photography classes, geocaching, guest speakers Tom Pease, Ann Zimmerman and Keith Bear, along with the free, popular Thursday nature play days starting June 21. Whole families will be out and learning, Dolphin said.

“A lot of our programs are for ages early childhood to fifth, sixth grade,” he said. “There is an emphasis in that area.”

Passenger carts are also available for those who have trouble walking.

Dolphin said youngsters who write letters detailing why they want to attend certain events will be eligible for both half and full scholarships to the Nature Center’s programs. He added they now offers something for nearly everyone with its blend of instructional, hands-on and technology assisted programs.

“Diversity in what we offer can maybe touch people in different ways,” he said.

To see the Nature Center’s complete schedule of events, go to hormelnaturecenter.org, pick up their newsletter or check out the Daily Herald community calendar.