Posts Tagged With: Willamette Valley

A Summer Outdoors

School’s out and Summer is upon us!
We know a fun way to keep your little ones busy outside in nature while engaging their young minds. Summer Day Camp is a great way for parents to get their children to be active while continuing to learn during the Summer. If you went to summer camp as a child then you no doubt have memories from the exciting days you spent there. Day camp allows your kiddos to stay busy during the day and you still get to spend time with them at night.  They also get to sleep in their own beds, which may make some of them feel more comfortable with going to camp.  There are many reasons why Summer Day Camp should be on your list of to dos’ this Summer.

 photo pearl_zps833fe8fa.jpgDay camp is often a child’s first opportunity to have an independent experience away from their parents. This can lead to a wide variety of skills learned.  It gives children an opportunity to make their own decisions and therefore leads to a boost in their self confidence and self esteem. In a survey done by the American Camp Association (ACA) 92% of the campers said that camp helped them feel good about themselves and 70% of parents say “my child gained self confidence at camp”.

 photo IMG_1092_zps7dee3ab2.jpgAnother awesome benefit to children attending summer camp is that they will spend their days being physically active.  During camp your child’s day will be filled with lots of fun activities keeping their bodies and minds busy. It also gives them an opportunity to connect with nature. In fact studies show that free play, in natural areas specifically, enhances a child’s cognitive flexibility, problem-solving ability, creativity, self-esteem, and self-discipline. Camp gives children a fun alternative to unplug from technology and get outside. So many kids are glued to their video games, cell phones, and TVs. Camp gives your child an opportunity to disconnect and explore nature. And, more than likely, your children will be making friends very quickly while in camp and they will be more than excited to step away from technology and go explore with their friends.

 photo IMG_1085_zpsc8e39699.jpgThis also shows how great camps are for a child’s social skills. They will be immersed with all types of children from different backgrounds. At camp they will learn how to communicate and solve problems for themselves and with other children. This will enable them to discover what friendship and working with others is all about. According to the ACA survey, 96% of campers say that camp helped them make new friends. The American Institute for Research also found that participating in outdoor project or issue based activities are able to communicate better with their peers. Camp is a great opportunity for your child to create and build friendships that have the potential to last a lifetime. A lot of camps have activities that require team work which is a great skill for children to learn at an early age as they will need it their entire lives. With these statistics its hard to say that camp is anything but beneficial to children.

Camp is a critical experience to the development of a child. Having that camp experience, and having it in nature, gives a child twice the benefit. Not only do they get to have some independence, build social connections, and build self-esteem, it also gives them the opportunity to connect to their local eco-systems. In his book Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv talks about how many young children can tell you about the Amazon Rainforest, but probably can’t tell you about the forest in their own backyard. Our children need to be able to sit outside under the shade of an Oregon White Oak and enjoy the sound of wind rustling the leaves and appreciate a tree that is so important in their local eco-system – their home.

nature canada Advanced Summer CampsUnlike camps whose goal it is to simply entertain your child while you’re at work, nature/outdoor camps offer entertainment and education. Children learn without even knowing they are being ‘educated’ through active games, journaling, guided exploration, free time in nature and reflective are projects. The University of Illinois found that children with ADHD focused their attention better after being in a natural setting, and other studies have shown that children who engage in authentic, hands on, inquiry-based learning misbehave less than other children and tend to have better behavior in school. In a world full of distraction, where so many are plugged in and checked out, the opportunity to have guided exploration and unstructured play in nature is invaluable. Several studies also show that nature play in childhood is a determining factor in their attitude toward environmental stewardship in adulthood. That’s an investment for the future!

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David Sobel said, “If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, then let us allow them to love the Earth before we ask them to save it.” Giving children an opportunity to have the camp experience in a natural setting definitely nourishes their already innate desire to connect with and love their natural surroundings. They’ll grow up remembering, cherishing and benefiting from a summer outdoors.

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Critter Snacks


Have you ever wondered what that thornless shrub with maple shaped leaves, a flower closely resembling blackberry flowers, and bearing red berries is? Thimbleberry blossoms in the Spring and Summer and is actually flowering right now! And while it’s scientific name means ‘small flower’ it actually has the largest flower of any other in the genus Rubus.  It has brilliant white petals that give way as the pale red fruit begins to grow. When ripened the fruit turns scarlet red in appearance. The bright flowers attract butterflies and birds find protection in the shrub’s cover and eat the berries as they begin to ripen.

Scientific Name: Rubus parviflorus

Common Name: Thimbleberry, Black Raspberry

Fun Facts: Thimbleberry gets it’s name from the thimble like shape of it’s fruit. While at first glance the berries don’t resemble thimbles at all, and look much like a typical raspberry, upon closer inspection of the actual fruits you will find a thimble like shape. Like other fruits in the genus Rubus, thimbleberries are not true berries, but an aggregate fruit composed of drupelets. If you carefully remove each of those drupelets, you will find a thimble shaped, hollow fruit! (Sounds like a fun experiment!)

Thimbleberry’s roots, leaves and young shoots has also been used for several medicinal purposes and Native Americans would pick this fruit to dry and store for use in the Winter. Because it is a very tart yet sweet fruit it also makes for a delicious jam!

Where it grows: Typically you can find Thimbleberry in forest clearings, along railroad tracks and roadsides. In 220px-Thimbleberry_flower_(Rubus_parviflorus)clear cut or forest fire areas it is seen early on as part of ecological succession, giving way to more complex plant communities. Thimbleberry can also be found in Alaska, Ontario, Michigan, British Colombia, and as far South as California, New Mexico, and Northwesten Mexcio. It might also grow in your native plant garden, and could be an integral part of creating habitat for wildlife in your own backyard! Although edible to us, thimbleberries are very seed-like and is mostly popular for little critters. Chipmunks, squirrels, and birds love to munch on the fruit.

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Animal Medicine

“Animals play a significant role in the evolution of children’s care about the natural world and in their own emotional development,” says Joseph Chilton Pearce, author of Magical Child. Children have an innate relationship with domestic and wild animals. Their first instinct when approached by some animal is to pick them up, hold them close, take care of them, and become them. David Sobel believes that strong feelings towards Earth’s creatures during the younger years is an integral piece of our human development.  By being able to associate animals with feelings and human characteristics, it allows children to facilitate relationships. People and animals then become part of one larger family, allowing children to see the sharing and care taking that weaves all people and nature together. This in turn builds a strong sense of empathy in children as they learn that they are a part of nature and also with the animals that live in it.

Here at the Avery House we strongly believe this to be true and encourage children to play with and observe animals on a daily basis. When a child has hands-on experiences with living creatures it is beneficial to their social, emotional and cognitive development. At our house we have a wide range of native, non-native and even invasive animals for children to interact with- reptiles, mammals, amphibians, a bird, and even insects. And, of course, there are tons of critters running around Avery Park that we interact with as well.

During our programs, children have the chance to meet and greet with two amorous Rough Skinned Newts, two shy Pacific Chorus Frogs, a lazy Russian Tortoise, the friendliest rat you’ve ever met, James and Jacquizz (our resident marsupials), curious Clarice the European Starling, Spike the slithery Ball Python, and of course there are our two species of stick insects which the kiddos absolutely love to take out and interact with. And even though we really want you to come meet all our awesome animal friends, you don’t have to come to Avery House, or have a menagerie of your own in order to benefit from hands-on animal experiences.

Here are some ways you can get hands on experience with animals:

Get Outside Who says you can only have an interaction with animals that are ‘pets’ or live in cages? Go outside and see what you can see. Bird and squirrel watching is great idea! Also, digging in the dirt to see what insects are there, rolling over rotten logs, and netting in ponds are all great ways to get in touch with our animal friends in the great outdoors.

Watch Metamorphosis There are a couple ways to do this, and the children are usually pretty amazed an enthralled by the entire experience. If you go to standing water with a net and scoop out a bit of water you are sure to find the dreaded mosquito larvae! You might see them as black squirmy things on the surface of the water. Stick them in a jar, screw the lid on tight, and watch the magic happen. In no time at all you will get to see the pupating larvae as well as adult larvae. Go exploring and see what you find! If you stumble upon a cocoon do some research to see if you keep it alive at home, and voila! you’ve not only watched a cocoon grow, you can release the native species in the wild. You can also always order butterfly cocoons on the internet, but be sure not to get any invasive species that would disrupt our Willamette Valley home. Watching tadpoles grow is also fun, but keeping them alive is tricky. Fresh pond water needs to be added to them regularly, but the pay off is worth it to see it become an adult frog (and if it isn’t a bullfrog, you can release back where you found the tadpoles).

Adopt an Invasive Species We call this eradication by domestication! Found a bullfrog recently? Get those invasive critters out of our waters and into a terrarium for you to enjoy and learn from! Happen upon a Red-Eared Slider (invasive turtle)? That would also be a fun experience!It allows you to care for another living creature, without having to purchase a bred animal from a pet store, and without feeling too much guilt. In fact, you should feel good about it! You are helping native habitats and connecting with animals! You can find a list of invasives here.

Visit Local Animal Enthusiasts Do a little research to figure out local folks that can share their love of animals with you. Locally, some options might be having a tour/party at Brad’s World of Reptiles, visiting Chintimini Wildlife Center or Cascades Raptor Center, and the Oregon Zoo is never a bad idea either. I’m sure there’s even more, and if all else fails there is always the big box pet stores that usually offer opportunities to meet animals as well as the local animal shelters.

Pet Ownership  When a child develops positive feelings about a pet it can boost their self-confidence as well as their self-esteem. It can assist with the development of compassion, respect for other living things, empathy, loyalty, and non-verbal communication. Pets can also teach important life lessons about  reproduction, illness, accidents, death, and grieving.  A child may confide in their pets as a safe place for their private thoughts or secrets and may talk to them like they do to their stuffed animals. Remember pet ownership doesn’t mean getting a new puppy or kitten, that isn’t right for every home. Something as simple as a fish, gerbil, or grasshopper is just as beneficial. In fact our tray of meal worms (used mostly as food for our other animals) is quite popular and visited often by our students.

There is a widespread belief that when children interact with animals there are many benefits to their development and overall connection to nature.  Whether it be a family pet,  a class pet, wild animals, or animals found at a your local zoo or pet store, making a connection with animals is always a positive experience in a child’s life.

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Berry Bandits

Have you noticed this beautiful bird flying above the river or eating berries in your backyard?

The Cedar Waxwing makes the Pacific Northwest its home during the Spring and Summer and, like most birds, flies South for the Winter.  Cedar Waxwings are a medium sized bird with a short wide neck, large head, and short wide bill. They are a beautiful, brilliant mix of brown, gray, and bright yellow  a subdued crest, magnificent red wax droplets on their wing feathers and a black mask. Cedar Waxwings are often heard before they are seen with a very high pitch, lisping whistle like call noise. They like to hang out along rivers or in berry bushes and high up in the evergreen trees.

Scientific Name: Bombycilla cedrorum

Common Name: Cedar Waxwing

Fun Facts:  They are very social birds that like to travel in packs, especially during breeding season. In fact, you might see them doing a little dance in the treetops, hopping towards and then away from one another. It’s quite fun to see courting pairs pass a berry back and forth in, what seems like, an endless ritual. But, eventually the female will accept the berry (or leaf or insect) from the male. Breeding begins in May! So keep your eyes peeled for these special birds dancing in the trees and filling their bellies with tons of berries.

How to Attract Them:  Cedar Waxwings love to eat fruit. You will often see them flying in flocks devouring berries from bushes and trees. So if you would like to bring some Waxwings into your own backyard, try planting some native plants that have small fruits such as Serviceberry, Thimbleberry, Western Crabapple, Western Red Cedar, Madrone, Black Hawthorn, or Wild Strawberry.


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Stop to Smell the Flowers

Looking for a great place to take a leisurely stroll through natural meadows with upland prairie and riparian habitats?
Of course you are!
Sitting on 36 acres in Northwest Corvallis off of Walnut Blvd. lies Martin Luther King Jr. park, previously known as Walnut Park. The name of the park was changed in 2012 because the old Martin Luther King Jr. park was just a small bird park and the MLK commission felt that the old park was too isolated. They wanted a bigger, more well known park to recognize and celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. So, in June 2012 they raised funds to build a new kiosk with a mural to celebrate diversity and placed it in the new MLK, Jr. Park.

While I was there with my 13 month old son we took a walk along the meadow and explored what different plants and trees the park had to offer. We walked along the path up to the playground where my son and I swung on the swings and played in the sand. My son is still wavering on whether he is comfortable walking on grass so his confidence was found on the paved trail.

Many wildflowers can be seen here during Spring and Summer along this paved walkway with views of the meadows that run down to Ponderosa Avenue. You can also find a one-mile dirt and gravel trail that crosses over two bridges and leads to a stunning hill-top view. For more structured play, the park also has landscaped playing fields, including two softball fields, a volleyball/badminton field, two horseshoe pits and a nice sized playground, designed by local architect John Stuart. Corvallis Parks and Recreation is also working to raise funds for a new playground. And, if you are looking to host a big adventure here you can reserve the Walnut Barn. There’s even a designated area for pups to run without their leashes. We encountered many different dogs and their owners, which always entertains my son.  Here are some things you could do next time you visit Martin Luther King, Jr. Park:

-Enjoy the Flowers Get out for a walk and enjoy all the aromas that different flowers have. While discovering the wildflowers, you could even pick a few daisies or other ‘weed’ flowers  and make a pretty bouquet. A favorite of mine as a kid was to pick dandelions and blow on them as we made wishes.  Another fun activity is to make chains out of daisies.

Create a Colorful Collage While hiking/walking collect leaves, twigs, flowers, and when you get home create a collage to remember your nature walk. Although it’s not a good idea to pick native wildflowers, you may happen to find some petals or broken flowers on the ground, and they will add to your colorful collage.

Martin Luther King Jr. Park
4905 NW Walnut Blvd.
Corvallis, OR. 97330

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