By Julie Melton, Sunday Assembly, Friends of Wisdom Prairie
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After a year-long break due to Covid-19, Kids On the Prairie returned in April and May. What a great return it has been! More than 20 adults and children participated each month. Care for the Earth is a Benedictine value enacted at Holy Wisdom Monastery by the Friends of Wisdom Prairie and many others. Kids On the Prairie is one of the environmental education activities that we support to promote this value because Earth’s future depends on children respecting the environment. We want to nurture in them a love of nature and an awareness of the connections between all living beings and the environment.
We’ve had two sessions full of excitement and wonder. In April we explored the woods and newly burned areas of the restored oak savanna. We expected to see blooming shrubs, a few woodland wildflowers and some owl pellets left by the nesting great horned owls. Imagine everyone’s surprise when owls flew through the woods! One adult great horned owl flew to a perch right before our eyes! It was a moment to remember always. There were other highlights including the full deer carcass showing lots of bones, turtles by the barn pond and a very large woodchuck excavation. We were privileged to walk through an area of savanna restoration that had recently been burned. We saw and felt the ground as it might have appeared in the early 1800s when ancestors of the Ho-Chunk used fire as a management tool and aid to hunting. This area hadn’t been burned since European settlers began farming here.
Taking photos at the May event
In May we explored some of the area around Lost Lake. Thanks to professional photographer Sandy Wojtal-Weber, each child was able to use a digital camera to take pictures of their discoveries. They recorded blossoms, fungal growths, bugs, butterflies and feathers. The ducks stayed just out of range of their cameras. When we finally got to the lake, we explored a deer path that led right to the water. Turtles dove off their resting place as we crowded around to look at the duckweed and algae from a duck’s perspective. The biggest find was a turtle shell and carapace (the bottom half of the turtles covering). We speculated that this turtle was dinner for a hungry racoon, mink or fox. We ended the exploration looking at small dishes of lake water full of microscopic pond life that feeds everything else. Sandy graciously developed some of each child’s pictures for them to take home.
Parents, grandparents, and friends are welcome to join us for the next Kids On the Prairie on June 27, from 10:15-11:30 am. We will meet at the parking lot by the kiosk. This month we are exploring early summer prairie flowers and other life on the prairie. Special thanks to the volunteers that help ensure that each child is supported in their exploration: Judy Troia, Sue and Charles Bradley, Maia McNamara, Rita Emmenegger and Sandy Wojtal-Weber.