50 Years of a Wisconsin Legacy
Did you know that Earth Day was established with the help of a Wisconsin State Senator, Gaylord Nelson, back in 1970? Fifty years ago his vision and commitment to conservation in the state set an example for the nation, as he encouraged peers and inspired generations to act on behalf of our planet. He was instrumental in shifting power to the people to organize grassroots efforts across the nation for the betterment of our natural world. I would have loved to meet Nelson in person, and I still glean wisdom from his words, one of his favorite quotes that I strive to live by is below.
“The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.”- Gaylord Nelson
Happy Earth Day. Pay it forward. Commit to Conservation.
Make an Earth Week Pledge to Take Action
Kick off this week with making a pledge of one activity, a few, or one per day in celebration for Earth Day’s 50th Anniversary! These activities can be in your neighborhood or in your home. Share a sidewalk chalk message to inspire others for Earth Day. Check out the ideas we have gathered and shared with you. Here are a few ideas: Eat more fruits and veggies this week and learn how to compost the scraps. Plant some native seeds or trees. When it comes to cleaning- use washable rags instead of paper towels. Taking shorter showers- try to reduce by 2, 3, or even 5 minutes! Try reading more than streaming or screen time this week.
- Be the Change
- Fifty environmental activities kids can do at home
- 11 REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE LESSON IDEAS
Make a pledge and plan to take action
Writing down a commitment and making a plan are two actions that increase the likelihood there will be follow through and continued action. You can write it down on on paper, make a pretty sign, and/or post photos of your plan and actions on social media. If you want these Earth Day lessons to stick with any age, try this easy activity, it can incorporate a writing prompt and art project.
Earth Day Bingo
Games are a great way to pass the time during quarantine. Continue the fun playing Earth Week BINGO with the whole family! Get to know the outdoor spaces in your neighborhood, up-cycle something from the recycling, and observe nature from your own yard or patio. You could even win a basket of Riveredge goodies! Play Earth Week BINGO with your family. Get 4 in a row or aim to black out the whole card! Get outside, learn something new, use your senses, and have fun! Please remember to practice social distancing and Leave No Trace principles while exploring outside.
- Earth Week BINGO Card and Instructions
- Social Distancing in Nature Guidelines
- Leave No Trace Principles
Prep Your yard for Wildlife
Spring migrants are winging their way back and looking for safe places to live. Earth Day is a great time to prepare your yard for them. This is an activity the entire family can do. If you have already naturalized your yard you’re off to a good start. The native trees and flowers you’ve planted will provide wildlife with plenty of food and cover. The leaves and dead grass in your compost pile will give wildlife a lot of high quality nesting material. If you have feeders this is a good time to rake up the discarded seeds and sanitize the feeder with a diluted bleach solution. Now is also the time to remove the old nesting material from your bird houses and sanitize them as well. Orioles and hummingbirds will be back around May 1st so haul out your nectar and orange/jelly feeders but be sure to clean them thoroughly before hanging them too.
Try making your own bird bath!
Besides food and shelter, another thing that all living things need is water. If you don’t have a bird bath here’s a simple way to make one. All you need is a water-tight flower-pot tray or old flat cake pan that’s about 2 inches deep. Choose a safe place to put the bath where the ground is flat and there are shrubs (shelter) nearby. Fill the tray with water and place a few pebbles or a larger flat stone inside. The rocks will help the birds judge how deep the water is and give them confidence to get in and take a bath. Now find a good spot inside your house to enjoy watching wildlife playing the water in your new bird bath.
Include Older Adults in Your Earth Day Celebrations
Earth Day is celebrating its 50th year. That means that many older adults can remember when this celebration of environmental stewardship began. What are some ways that we can keep the older adults in our lives connected to stewardship during this time of social distancing? Here is a list of ten ways to connect with older adults for Earth Day.
- Drop off a seed starter tray and some seeds for an older neighbor or family member. They are easily available from online sources or your local garden center. Check for curbside pickup options.
- Stop by with a potted flower that is pollinator friendly. Leave a Bleeding Heart on the doorstep or a lovely potted Lilac bush for planting.
- Video chat with an older adult and take them on a garden tour of your own yard. Ask for their advice about planting and pruning.
- Choose a research project together, like creating a shade garden and then meet up virtually to discuss what tip and tricks you find out about.
- Volunteer to drop off birdseed or refill the bird feeders outside senior housing so residents can continue to watch the migrating birds.
- Create a family contract that states, moving forward, everyone will use reusable gift bags or recycled gift wrap to reduce the use of these unessential paper items. Purchase some gift bags and send them to your favorite older adult.
- Have your children make educational videos for their grandparents on subjects like plastic straws, styrofoam, and composting. This is a fabulous way to create intergenerational interactions.
- You or your family can create a slideshow of your favorite natural area to share with a skilled nursing facility. Add nature’s soundtrack with bird songs, frogs and other natural sounds like running river water. Check with the facility first to determine the best format to complete your slideshow.
- Ask the older adults in your life to write down some advice for planting, pruning and harvesting. This is the perfect time to connect and learn from our elders.
- Drop off or send an older adult a pair of binoculars and start a bird log. Together you could meet on the phone once a morning and catalog the birds you are seeing in your own yards. This is a great activity for older grandchildren to share with their grandparents too.
Invasive Mustard Removal
Most yards and natural areas in the Midwest now have invasive mustards such as Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) and Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis matronalis). They are less of a threat and more a symbol of historic disturbance and imbalanced plant communities. To correct this imbalance, we encourage you to seed other species after removal. More native diversity means fewer invasive species and greater wildlife opportunity.
- Pull garlic mustard and dame’s rocket from one area in your yard
- Make plans to seed native species, plant a tree, or convert into a mowable area to stop the spread of seed.
- Why Spring is Perfect for Pulling Garlic Mustard
- A Field guide to Invasive Plants in Wisconsin
Native Seed Nurseries: Agrecol (http://www.agrecol.com/), Prairie Moon (https://www.prairiemoon.com/), Prairie Nursery (https://www.prairienursery.com/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIsaWD47jr6AIVkv3jBx1zrA2BEAAYASAAEgIKtPD_BwE), Two Ferns (http://www.twofernsmadison.com/)
Support Our Pollinators
As plants wake up in spring, so too do our pollinators as they emerge and begin the cycle of finding flowers, collecting pollen and nectar, and pollinating plants in the process. Did you know pollinators help pollinate a third of the food we eat, and we have over 300 species of native bees here in Wisconsin alone? To help our important pollinators, they need lots of different kinds of flowers, so what better way to support them by creating habitat and providing lots of blooms by your home. And bonus is, it’s beautiful!
Lots of small steps can be done right now around your home and yard to help support our pollinators. Pick one (or several) of the following actions to help create a pollinator haven in your own backyard:
* Leave the dandelions. We know it’s hard, but welcome the weeds in your yard in early spring, especially dandelions. These early-blooming yellow flowers are some of the first food sources available to native bees.
* Plant some native wildflowers around your home. Not only are they beautiful, but native plants provide the best quality flowers for many of our native pollinators, and there are many to choose from. For a list of some of the best pollinator-friendly plants, check out:
- Pollinator plants for the Great Lakes Region (Xerces Society): https://xerces.org/sites/default/files/2018-05/17-047_03_XercesSoc_Pollinator-Plants_Great-Lakes-Region_web-3page_0.pdf
- Native Plants for Beginners (Wisconsin DNR): https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/endangeredresources/documents/NativePlantHandout.pdf
- Minimize pesticide use in and around your pollinator plantings.
Want a recap? Here are simple steps to help pollinators from the Wisconsin DNR: https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/endangeredresources/documents/pollinatorSF.pdf
Neighborhood Trash Clean Up
Spring is officially here and that means our winter litter is too! The litter we are now finding in our streets, yards, parks, and other public places is being washed into our streams and rivers with each spring rain. To help slow the spread of pollution, take some time today to go help clean up your neighborhood and our environment. Not only does cleaning up your neighborhood make it a safer and cleaner place for you and your neighbors, but by each of us working together, it makes a difference for our community as a whole.
Grab a bag or a bucket and some safe gloves to help pick up trash. Please make sure to maintain social distancing around others, wash your hands often, be safe and have fun!
After your neighborhood clean up mission is complete, tally the trash you collect and share a picture of your clean up efforts! Post a picture of your most interesting trash or the biggest piece you found with Riveredge Nature Center on Social Media with the hashtag #SharewithRiveredge.
Trash Scavenger Hunt sheet (younger children)
Seed Starting at Home
As winter is put to rest, plant life is itching to begin! A great way to kick off the growing season is to seed start. Seed starting puts you ahead of the game for when the weather is warm enough for young plant life to flourish. It’s easy, fun, and a wonderful activity to get people excited about food, flowers, and a more beautiful home. Ready to get started? Here’s what you need:
- You can use a multitude of containers to start seeds. Options include clean plastic containers, cardboard egg cartons, plant pots, and even toilet paper rolls. Be sure that all of your chosen containers have a form of drainage in them. You can alter containers with scissors to make holes and slits to provide an access route for excess water to leak out of.
- In a separate container, mix your soil with water just enough so that when you squeeze it, no water runs out of your soil, but it is clearly damp. Fill your containers with your mixed soil and pack it down so that the seed will have good contact and a healthy balance of air and water.
- Proceed to make a divot on your packed down soil to make a resting place for your seed. Depending on when the seed was bought, it is a safe bet to place more than one seed in each resting place so as to insure that at least one will germinate. Cover your seed(s) with soil and pack them down.
- Water your planted seeds gently so as to not upset the soil resulting in the seeds uncovering.
- Place in a sunny spot and keep an eye on your plants. Water them every couple days to once a week and watch as they grow bigger!
- Once they are ready and the weather is warm enough, plant your little sprout friends in your garden space. It is a very fulfilling activity that is perfect for all ages. Enjoy!