Home Grown Stewards – Daily Activities

The third component of our new Home Grown Stewards program is our private Facebook group where we post daily activities for families.

For 9 weeks this summer, from June 15 – August 14,  participants can log in every weekday to find a new activity that can be completed at home, either with no materials needed or items you already have on hand. Each week has a different theme that the activities are based on.

Monday’s activities with Kim are aimed at our younger learners while Wednesdays with Ellie include a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) activity.

Finishing up our third week, we’ve already had some fantastic activities! The theme for the first week was birds, with followers encouraged to make a bird’s nest out of natural materials and other objects found around the house, engineer a bird that actually flies, craft silhouettes for their windows so birds don’t fly into them, and more!

Week two, which emphasized the importance of pollinators, had families fashioning a bee bath because bees and other pollinators need fresh water just as much as humans do, creating a butterfly feeder, and simulating pollination with a homemade bug.

Here’s a sample of the cool stuff you can find out in our daily activities group.

With many families out of town and busy with 4th of July festivities this, the third week, we issued daily outdoor challenges, such as going on a listening walk, observing and relaxing in nature, and picking up litter.

Eco Camp at Home

Eco Camp at Home is taking registrations now. You can register right now for July and August sessions.

For over ten years, Happy Dancing Turtle has been home to Eco Camp, week-long day camps focused on coaxing out a curiosity for sustainability and nature in young ones. It is, without a doubt, the highlight of our year. We love interacting with the kids, showing them new things, and just being goofy. Just look:

However, we made the prudent decision to suspend our in-person camping experiences this year, due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Staying distant at this time just makes sense even though it just breaks our hearts to be away from your smiling faces.

However, that does not mean we are going to suspend the mission of getting you an environmentally focused educational curriculum. Oh no! We’re not going to give up that easily.

That’s why we’ve designed our new program that gives you (essentially) the same experience of Eco Camp, only in the comfort and safety of your own home.

Introducing Eco Camp At Home, one our Home Grown Stewards programs. We will deliver to your home a box of activities that will bring the Eco Camp experience to you.

NoraReadingAtHomesmall

Our eco-counselors will give you the best environmental education…only from a safe distance.

Each morning, campers will have a chance to meet with their camp counselors in a brief Zoom meeting, where they’ll set the theme for the day, do a group activity, and connect with their fellow eco-campers to share what they’ve been working on.

Continue reading

Book Review – “Balanced and Barefoot” and “There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather

This week’s blog post is written by Kim Norman, who will be entering her 6th year as an eco-counselor at HDT for this summer.  For more information on Kim you can watch Kim’s introduction video. Head on over to our main page for more information on HDT summer programming, 

Last summer I began a mission to grow in my children a love for the outdoors. We are not adventurous in the realm of camping or hiking, but merely enjoy exploring the world outside our back door. In my seeking, I have come across a handful of books that are on my reading list.

balancebeam

Mason is mastering the balance beam.

Currently, two books have had a profound influence on me. I am a parent, but also an educator. I strive to communicate to parents the importance of unstructured play. I am adjusting my approach to include more physical movement and outdoor play to raise more confident, resilient, and healthy children.

The first title, “Balanced and Barefoot” is written by Angela J. Hanscom, a pediatric occupational therapist and founder of TimberNook (a nature-based developmental program). She describes, in easy to read terminology, the importance of unstructured, physical play. She moves beyond the playground and focuses on the need for children to challenge their bodies and engage the body and senses. She also examines how bodies grow and how a child’s environment can impact that growth. Active play is critical, and outdoor play is therapeutic.

Continue reading

World Environment Day – Teaching Our Children

It should never be understated the importance of raising awareness amongst future generations, our children, of sustainable practices. It is essential that future generations see our planet in a different way than we do, i.e. that they don’t see it as a source from which to extract any needed material to satisfy any slight desire.

worldendayToday, Friday, June 5 is World Environment Day. It’s a day that was created to bring political and social awareness to the environment on a global scale. It’s intention is to make aware that our planet is, indeed, all of ours. We are the planet’s caretakers.

daveecocam

Dave taking the time to show some gardening techniques.

Since World Environment Day’s inception, and it’s grand motivation, many great things have been done to help ensure that we can live in symbiosis with our planet. Awareness has risen on the importance of our place in the environment. Worldwide campaigns against deforestation, global warming, food waste, and air pollution have brought these concerns front and center. However, in the last several years, there have been political and commercial agencies that have disregarded these lesson.

Continue reading

Home Grown Stewards Program

homegrownstewardslogodraft3For over a decade, we’ve been home to the sustainability-based children-focused Eco Camp. It’s our favorite time of the year, to be honest. Getting to interact with kids just discovering the wonder and awe that is found on our planet is definitely a highlight.

Unfortunately, with considerations to distancing guidelines, we have decided to give our in-person programming a break while everyone is able to socially distance.

However, that leaves us with an opportunity to try something we haven’t done before:

We’re very excited to introduce our new virtual summer programs: Home Grown Stewards.

We’ve put together three programs that can best help you on your sustainability journey, and they all can be done remotely, virtually, or digitally.

We’ve been working hard on designing an alternative to our in-person programming. We want you to be able to continue to explore our great outdoors, create that delicious feast from your own garden, and learn all about our wonderful planet, from the safety of your own home.

Program Coordinator Michelle Hoefs describes how difficult making the change was for her and the rest of our staff, “Obviously, we would so much rather be spending the summer with campers in person. Kids need interactions with other kids and also adults that aren’t their parents. It’s good for their development. So, we designed programming that allows for a small part of that interaction.”

Continue reading

Fighting Food Insecurity at the Local Level

Food insecurity is already more widespread in this country than most know. On a daily basis, one in seven households with children are affected by the lack of access to food, or food insecurity. The majority of these children depend on meals that they receive at school from the School Breakfast Program and the National School Lunch Program. There are over 14 million children that benefit from the school breakfast program, and almost 30 million children benefit from the National School Lunch Program.

Moreover, now that schools are wisely closing their doors in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, these programs are no longer a viable way to ensure food insecure families are able to procure the much need nutrition.

Even during this economic and public health crisis, the US is making more than enough food to feed all its residents. Getting as much of it as possible to those in needs is the challenge, but one that can be met with swift and creative action.

fulltummmies

Full Tummies is an effort in the Brainerd Lakes Area to feed families.

Food banks, food shelves, and charitable food distribution centers are ramping up to fill that gap. Unfortunately, these food banks are already reporting increased demand while seeing operational challenges, such as fewer volunteers being able to step up and fewer donations from retail sources. Demand for charitable food assistance is expected to remain at elevated levels for the foreseeable future.

So, what can we do about it now?

If you have the ability, volunteer at your local charitable food assistance program. They need the help. If you have the means, donate spare food or dollars. They will have the ability to make it spread as far as it can go.

Locally, I’ve found no fewer than four organizations in our tiny community that are putting together food distribution services for families in need and they all need help.

Check out Full Tummies, organized by The Baxter Cafe and teamed up with The Raboin & Francis Law Firm, Pan-O-Gold Bakery, and Hubbard Radio to get food to kids who need it. They offer pickup on the weekends at the Baxter Cafe during the hours of 8am-11:30, but you need to call first (218-829-1739). What a tremendous effort!

popuppantry

Another organization doing its part to help in the area is The Journey North’s Ruby Pantry. The next Pop-up Pantry food distribution is Tuesday, May 12 at the church’s parking lot. You’ll want to show up early to avoid the crowds as it is always a busy time. They are looking for volunteers, as well. So if you’ve healthy and looking to give time during the pandemic, here’s a way to make a difference.

operationsandwich

Operation Sandwich more than sandwiches!

One more program called Operation Sandwich, organized by Bridges of Hope, is offering one meal a week to families in need. Simply go and pick up at the Sharing Bread Soup Kitchen on Oak Street. In the past, they have offered daily pickups during the summer for children without lunch, but have pivoted to helping entire families in need.

prbcommunitymeal

The PR-B Community Meal has had to change up it’s service to a delivery and takeaway program, but it’s meeting the needs to an increased clientele base. What a service!

 

One program that has been offering hundreds of meals for months (even before the pandemic became widespread) is the Pine River/Backus Community Meal Night. Increase in demand has risen four fold in the tiny area, but this organization is meeting the need. Delivery to isolated people in need has been added to the already busy take-away efforts. If you are able to volunteer to this worthwhile endeavor, give Chef Brian a message at the local Facebook group.

If you are looking for more ways to help, check out this flyer for food options in the Brainerd area. 

Food insecurity doesn’t have to be an issue in our abundant country. We just need help in packaging and distribution. One good way to make sure our surplus of food gets into the system is by buying local. Shop through your local farmers and producers. CSAs and Farmer’s Markets are opening up now and can use your support, as well. Close that loop Keep the food close. We can all get through this.

Arbor Day 101

Arbor Day is an international holiday that encourages celebrating participants to plant and care for their trees. Did you know that the word arbor is the latin word for tree. The first Arbor Day celebration was organized in a small town in Spain in 1594, but the first recognized celebration in the United States was in the Kansas Territory in 1872 where an estimated 1 million trees were planted.

Across the world, Arbor Day has been celebrated at different times due to the rotating nature of the seasons affecting the prime date for planting trees. For example, New Zealand honors Arbor Day on June 5, while in Namibia, the holiday isn’t celebrated until October 8.

jimagroforestry

Jim will be the first to tell you the importance of trees, whether they’re incorporated in your farm via agroforestry practices or simply providing shade on a hot day.

In fact, Arbor Day was only considered a regional holiday in the US until 1970, when, of all people, Richard Nixon initiated a national observance to take place on the last Friday in April (for this year, April 24, 2020).

*On a local note, late April is a perfect time to plant trees in Minnesota.*

Continue reading

Finding Wonder in the Small Things: A Social Distancing Blog, Part 2

Things are different. It’s okay to feel different. If you need help, the National Alliance on Mental Health is a great resource and can help put you on a path back to feeling more like yourself. 

Nowadays, it is so easy to just get caught up in the big picture. Practicing safe protocols and doing what you can to “flatten the curve” has probably taken over a large section of your day. To be safe, we need to keep abreast of health protocols and guidelines. It’s just smart to do that. However, it’s really easy to get wrapped up in the stress.

The fear and the unknown can feel real.

So, the purpose of this article is to help remind you to take the time to focus on the something “close to home”, the something “small”.

The something “small” can be something that brings you joy. It can be the silver lining. It can be the touchstone that helps bring you to center, away from the fear and unknown.

One thing we do during our weekly virtual meetings is help bring everything to center. One of the techniques we practiced is the Awareness of the Five Senses.

This is a guided meditation script that helps to bring mindfulness to your five senses and I’ve found it helps to bring you to the here and now. It’s good for when you’re feeling overwhelmed or uncomfortable and can really center you.

Once you’re centered, you should be able to get a grasp of the little things that make your day.

Here’s what our crew has been doing to help center themselves.

Shop Engineer Simon (Hunt Utilities Group), from over in the Mani shop, shared with me that he’s taking more time with his kids (as they’re home for school), going for bike rides and walks in the forest. He’s even been able to get a few board games in with them.

Resized_20200411_112516

Dave snapped this pic on one of the nicer days

Food Production Coordinator Dave (HDT-Pine River) has been working with his hands in this time, which is to say he’s still been wrist deep in seedlings and raised beds. He has been able to get out and paddle around in his kayak, though.

Continue reading

We’re All in this Together: A Social Distancing Blog, Part 1

This is an unprecedented time. If you need help with your mental health, here are a list of numbers from the Minnesota Department of Health that are searchable for your county. For more information on mental health preparedness, here’s a good article from PBS

We are individuals. We are separate. We’re being asked to stay away from friends, family members, worshipers, and colleagues.

But, humans are social creatures. It’s in our nature to be in close contact with others. We love our get-togethers, our barbecues, our baseball games. Our society we fashion our lives around these social interactions.

However, for now and the near future we are being asked to run counter to what’s in our biological programing, what we’ve done in the past. Now, we are being asked to distance ourselves from each other.

Data is showing that people are doing this in Minnesota. You are flattening the curve and we are so proud of you because it is so hard!  That’s why we wanted to show you that you are not alone, not really. We are all in this together.

AllCampusMeeting

Does this look familiar to you? Our crew has been social distancing for several weeks but we still need to keep in contact. Online is one of those ways. This is our monthly all-campus meeting…not held on campus, of course.

Our staff has been social distancing for close to a month, and we’ve each fallen into our own routines. We are keeping up our workload but we are finding ways to make our families and ourselves stronger.

Maybe reading how we are individually managing at our homes will give you the inspiration and strength to battle on and maybe also the solace in knowing that we are all in this together.

Executive Director Quinn

My days seem to be passing even more quickly. Are yours, too? Although I haven’t identified the reason, I think there are many contributing factors. At-home-working means less physical and mental separation between work and home so my “to do list” for home is growing all day waiting for lunch break or the end of the work day.

So far this morning water plants, empty dishwasher, kitchen clean, and deck sweeping have made the list. Plus, have you been seeing the myriad of amazing online opportunities being shared each day? Facebook Live and Zoom yoga classes, lectures/learning sessions on nearly any and every topic and so on!

*Note, I may never want to visit an in-person yoga class again; I am in love with yoga classes from afar.*

Also, it’s getting nicer outside! My husband and I take a near-daily walk. It used to be each weekday morning about 4:40am. Now it’s shifted to an afternoon/evening after he returns from work time-frame. As the days have grown lighter longer and snow has melted revealing litter the last few have been trash pickup walks.

roadsidepickup

We can find purpose even in an afternoon walk. Here Quinn shows off how she’s cleaning up her stretch of road.

Before that, I was searching for acorn “tops” on walks. In the evenings I enjoy craft endeavors and as of late, the craft project du jour has been felting “acorns” to set into the tops.

colorfulacorns

Quinn has been able to enjoy crafts with nature while at home.

I have been able to more frequently have catch ups with friends and family, utilizing calls, video chats, and texts, too. Typical or normal and new ways to while away time have made for quickly passing days.

Simply though, I recognize with deep gratitude, that I am fortunate to get to spend any day, let alone these days, in good health.

May we, looking back, find that these days were but quick, maybe productive, blips.

Program Coordinator Michelle

These last few weeks have been a big change for all of us. One of the things that have helped my family stay on track and maintain some sense of normalcy is having a schedule. Even before we started distance learning last week we made a schedule that included time for reading, writing, outside time, and STEAM games and activities. Now that they are doing formal schooling again, this schedule has helped my girls focus on their work and be productive.

betharchery

Getting outside is important.

swingset

Focusing on the good things is too.

traildog

Finding time to relax

We aren’t strict with our schedule, though. My girls are 8 and 10, in 2nd and 5th grade. Suddenly being home all the time and trying to figure out distance learning can be hard and stressful. Sometimes we need a break, even during our scheduled “work” time, so we take a break if we need to.

Getting outside is almost always what we need to regain focus. We’ve taken daily family walks, sometimes two or three times a day. There have been hula hoop contests, batting practice, and target practice with a bow and arrow. With the snow mostly gone, my youngest has finally been able to get to the swing set. She could swing for hours! My oldest and our puppy love to head off into the woods to explore and almost always come back with a pile of sticks to practice her fire building skills with.

homework

Routine is important.

computerhomework

Schoolwork can keep you busy.

The guidance and support we are receiving from our school is absolutely amazing, too! Their teachers have gone above and beyond in providing instruction and work for our students. Each of my girls have spoken on the phone with their teachers, more than once, and that is a huge morale booster for them. The teachers are delving into new, unknown territory right along with us and they have more than risen to the occasion.

We recently started receiving lunch and breakfast from the school that they deliver each day. We didn’t sign up for them at first because we didn’t think we needed them. That was before we tried to come up with something different for lunch every day! The girls so look forward to that walk to the end of the driveway every day to pick up lunch and there hasn’t been anything yet that they haven’t eaten!

All in all, while this is not an ideal situation and there are still a lot of unknowns, I am thankful to have this time with my family and incredibly thankful for all of the support and services that are available.

We hope you found a little inspiration today in reading this. We will drop another post next week where other members of our staff share what they are doing through this difficult time.