Maura Denman

March 2019 Wired to Nature

Duran, E. (3/2019) Look! Up in the sky! Our spring bird migration has begun.  Essentials, p. 15

Wired to Nature is the Nature Discovery Center’s regular column in Essentials, a monthly magazine published by InstantNewsNetwork that covers the Bellaire and West University communities. Essentials may be read online at https://current.essentialsmagazines.com/

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New Small Mammal Added to our Menagerie

Our new male Lesser Hedgehog Tenrec at the nature Discovery Center.

We’re super excited to announce a new addition to our menagerie of live animals at the Center, a super adorable male Lesser Hedgehog Tenrec. Our little guy doesn’t have a name yet and we are open to suggestions! You can leave a comment here or look out for a Facebook Live video later this week and add your name ideas to the comments then. Note that he isn’t quite ready for visitors, but we’ll be sure to tell you when he is! 🙂

Lesser Hedgehog Tenrec (Echinops telfairi)

Tenrecs are found on the island of Madagascar. Though they look and act very much like hedgehogs, they are actually not closely related to them. They are nocturnal, wandering the night in search of insects, worms, and other small invertebrates. If bothered, they will roll into a ball, exposing only their pointy spines. Tenrecs are good climbers, and will make their dens in tree cavities, as well as in and under logs. They mark their territories and communicate by scent marking objects.

Many thanks to Charity Tutt (https://www.facebook.com/charity.tutt) for placing this sweet rescue animal with us!

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Center Welcomes Ranger to Staff

Ranger (pictured at right) with a group of Spring Break Campers at Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary.

NDC staff are pleased to welcome a new team member to the Center. Ranger has joined us to help with the day to day management of Russ Pitman Park, our nature park and outdoor classroom, as Park Steward Apprentice. Ranger will be working closely in this role with Mary Ann Beauchemin, our Park Steward and Senior Naturalist. In addition to her work with park maintenance, Ranger will also draw on her experience in environmental education to assist with programs at the Center from time to time. In fact, Ranger just taught our Wild Weather Spring Break Camp last Friday.

Her whole life, Ranger hoped to work at a nature center. She grew up on the outskirts of Kalamazoo, Michigan, next door to corn fields and sheep pasture, making frequent trips to the local nature center. Ranger studied biology (BA) and entomology (MS) as well as animal behavior (PhD work) and Library and Information Science (MLIS), so as a naturalist she is always ready to research and learn more about plants and animals. She worked as the birthday party naturalist and camp teacher at the Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary for six years and has many more years of experience teaching, both in the classroom and in outdoor settings. She is excited to continue her study of native plants and to add to her knowledge of Houston insects and other fauna. Ranger has a fondness for wasps and all creatures buzzy and slithery. She enjoys running, walking her dogs, gardening, reading, and playing board games.

Please join us in welcoming Ranger to the Center!

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New Tween Summer Camp Offered!

We are pleased to announce that kids ages 11 to 12 will have a new option for summer fun this year at the Nature Discovery Center! Our new Survivor Camp (offered August 5 – 9) is going to be an incredible opportunity for tweens to learn and test new skills in outdoor survival, from shelter building, to filtering water, finding edible plants and insects, and starting a fire without a match or cooking with the sun. This camp is all about finding out if you have what it takes to survive alone in the woods and learning new strategies to ensure that you can! Advance registration is required. You can register your tween online here.

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Nature Discovery Center Welcomes Bethany Foshée as New Executive Director

Bethany Foshée, an avid birder and naturalist, a driven educator, and a devoted conservationist, has spent her entire adult life preparing to be the director of a nature center, a passion she hoped to eventually pursue. Today, Tuesday, January 29, 2019, the Nature Discovery Center will welcome her as their new Executive Director. Foshée brings with her 20 years of experience in animal care, environmental education, volunteer and community outreach programs, and project management. Foshée has spent the last 5.5 years as Edith L. Moore Sanctuary Manager for the Houston Audubon Society, and has spent the past 11 years as the Director of the Houston Audubon Docent Guild. Before her time with Houston Audubon, Foshée worked locally with YES Prep Public Schools, Buffalo Bayou Partnership, Memorial Park Conservancy, and the Houston Zoo.

“We are thrilled to have Bethany join the Nature Discovery Center team,” said Nature Discovery Center Board President Jennifer Nelsen. “Her breadth of experience, from grant writing to maintenance of facilities and grounds, from direction of environmental education programs to volunteer coordination and the development of community partnerships, make her uniquely qualified to lead and support the team in igniting lifelong curiosity, understanding, and respect for nature through education.”

As our world becomes increasingly urbanized and our climate increasingly imperiled, reconnecting people with nature is more imperative than ever. Foshée believes that by delivering meaningful outdoor recreation and interpretive opportunities, and by reminding people of the joy that can only be found in nature, we can engage our community in ways that foster a true appreciation for protecting our natural spaces.

Foshée’s passion for providing all people with the opportunity to connect with nature grew from her own childhood discoveries. “Growing up in the urban complex of Houston, my earliest experiences in nature included exploring our city’s channeled bayous, vacant lots and utility easements. While these settings might not sound picturesque or even truly ‘natural,’ they informed me of one powerful lesson: we are part of nature. ” When asked about her new role as Executive Director of the Nature Discovery Center, Foshée said “The Center offers families and children a chance to be present… present to nature around them and to each other… vital joys in life that are often lacking in our modern, urban lives. I am humbled and excited to join the NDC team to continue our great work together.”

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Center Seeks Head Counselor for Summer Science Camp

We are looking for a Head Counselor for our Summer Science Day Camp for children (ages 5 to 11). Our camp runs weekly from June 4 to August 20th, and is Monday through Friday from 8:30 to 5:30. You may apply for the job even if you cannot commit to all camp weeks. (We may have two Head Counselors during the summer.)

The Head Counselor helps the camp teacher manage camper behavior and engagement in camp activities and helps guide volunteer teen counselors (age 13 to 17). The teacher and campers may need help with crafts, hikes, snacks, play time and clean up. The teacher will be in charge of the camp curriculum, but the Head Counselor will be in charge of all the activities for our after care program from 3:30 to 5:30. This job responsibility includes coming up with group games, supervising nature play and Discovery Room visits, and more.

 

Head Counselor requirements:

Some experience at a camp or school for children.
Ability to delegate to other counselors.
Willingness and ability to create activities for aftercare.
Patience, energetic and upbeat attitude, leadership skills, and ability to multitask.

Head Counselor Pay: $10 per hour

To apply for this position: submit a cover letter and resume to the attention of Anne Eisner, Program Coordinator at Nature Discovery Center, 7112 Newcastle, Bellaire, Texas 77401. Applications will be reviewed as they are received starting today. Please submit your application by May 1, 2018.

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Volunteer Opportunity: Field Trip Guides Needed

Make a difference in kids’ lives, volunteer with our field trip program this year!

We are gearing up for our school field trip programs and are looking to recruit a few volunteer “Field Trip Guides” to help lead small groups of elementary school students through our nature park. This is a weekday morning volunteer opportunity.

This is a great opportunity for you to make an impact on children’s lives by helping them to connect with nature through our field trip program.

 

Primary Responsibilities:

  • Co-teach our discovery-based field trip program Nature at Your Doorstep.
  • Provide interactive hands-on experiences in our science based Discovery Rooms.
  • Volunteer Teachers will lead a tour of the nature center and park to a small group (8-12) of early elementary students and their adult chaperones.
  • Training is provided.
  • Field trips are scheduled weekday mornings. Volunteers are needed for 2-hour time blocks.
  • Frequency is flexible, weekly or monthly.

 

Please see this role description for more details. And view this short video to learn about the impact of the Nature Discovery Center from one of our NAYD School Field Trip Volunteers.

If you feel called to volunteer in this way, please email Anne Eisnerand we will schedule a time to bring you in for an interview and training.

Thank you for partnering with us to make a difference in kids’ lives.

 

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The Nature Discovery Center is “Just Right”

We are so pleased to be able to share this visitor letter with you and we hope that, in your own way, you find the Nature Discovery Center to be “Just right!”


Just Right

Gretchen is 3 years old. Our first trip to the Nature Discovery Center began at the playground. We meandered through what must have seemed to her like a magical forest right out of a favorite children’s book. The path invited her to explore the wooded area with lizards, frogs, dragonflies, and butterflies. There were quiet places to sit, and we saw birds, as well as the beloved bunnies. The path areas are not manicured or forced into landscaping, but instead they are tenderly tended to allow the plants, trees, and animals to be themselves. Gretchen was encouraged by her environment to touch and examine the wooded area and become part of nature.

The park is about the discovery of nature AND the nature of discovery.

The “magic forest” path opens to an old house that looks as though a kindly crone might be in residence. Once inside this old home, young children are at home. Every room feels like it could belong to the child, because indeed, they do belong to the children. Drawers with specimens to touch, prod, and caress are worn with age and sticky fingers. Children are invited to linger and learn in a room with child size furniture and books. And in addition, there is a whole ocean room that invites children to play hide and seek while matching names to sea creatures.

Gretchen opened drawers and carefully poked and petted fur, animal skeletons, and all manner of “stuff.” The room is set up to allow children to follow their own curiosity and learning timeline. Having a setting that is unhurried and filled with unlimited possibilities is a treasure. And everything is touchable!

Matthew is 6 years old. His trip to the Nature Discovery Center coincided with a birthday party that was ending. While the parents gathered and cleaned, Matthew made a new friend and the two boys romped up and down the stairs and played in the ocean room. Two little pirates sailed the seven seas of their imaginations. The same rooms in which Gretchen had quietly opened drawers and looked at books became an adventure playground to the little boys. The house and discovery rooms are built for multiple experiences.

My grandchildren live in Blacksburg, Virginia. I have memberships to the major museums in Houston, but they asked frequently if we’re going back to the house with the drawers this summer. Of course we are! Of all the museums and parks in Houston, the Nature Discovery Center is like “Goldilocks:” not too big, not too small, but just right. The home invites touch and play, sticky fingers and all. Children are part of the ocean and woods and open fields. The walk on the path, into the house, and up the stairs is, for a young child, a walk of wonder and excitement mixed with comfort.

Everything about the Nature Discovery Center is “just right.”

~ a local Grandparent


Please donate to our midyear appeal to help us help families like this Grandma’s, and like your own, continue to connect with nature.

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Help Wanted: City Nature Challenge Pits Houston Against Austin & Dallas

Join nature lovers across the city of Houston as they compete with residents of Austin and Dallas to document as many species as possible during a fun City Nature Challenge!

Texas Parks & Wildlife, the Audubon Society, Texas Master Naturalists and lots of volunteer citizen scientists like yourself will compete in this fun challenge to see which city can document a grater diversity of species. No prior experience necessary!

Challenge organizers say “It is easy to participate by joining an event, or making observations on your own using the iNaturalist app. With the iNaturalist app, you just take a picture of a plant or animal, and the community will help identify which species it is.”

Any observation in the greater Houston Area will count during the five day challenge. You can participate by exploring the life in your backyard, or anywhere you visit outside in Houston between April 14 – 18. But we’d love for you to make observations right here in our nature park and record them with iNaturalist.  So come out, enjoy our new park improvements, and record the plants and animals you find!

Let’s show Austin and Dallas what we’ve got here in Houston, and show our fellow Houstonians just how wildlife rich Russ Pitman Park is!

For more information about how to get involved visit:

Houston Challenge Page: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/city-nature-challenge-2017-houston

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/257551441366716/

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