Nature Tykes & Little Naturalists

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Spiders, bugs, and the great outdoors…does this sound like something your child would enjoy? Have them explore nature with the Forest Preserve District of Kane County! Our programs “Nature Tykes” and “Little Naturalists” are designed for young children who enjoy learning about the natural world.

At these hour long programs, we will focus on a different theme each month. Every session will begin with a short introduction to the topic, and feature a combination of games, stories, crafts, or nature hikes that are led by a District Naturalist. 3 year olds are invited to attend Nature Tykes, and Little Naturalists is geared for 4 and 5 year olds. Spiders, insects, and leaves are the topics we’ll be focusing on this fall.

A parent or caregiver must be present at Nature Tykes throughout the program. Little Naturalists is a “drop-off” program, and adults and siblings are welcome to wait in the nature center or enjoy the trails during the class. The sessions are listed below and are held at Creek Bend Nature Center:

  • Thursday, September 26: Insect Wonderland. Nature Tykes 9:30- 10:30 a.m., Little Naturalists 1- 2 p.m.
  • Thursday, October 24. Spider Mania. Nature Tykes 9:30- 10:30 a.m., Little Naturalists 1- 2 p.m.
  • Thursday, November 21. Leaf-O-Rama. Nature Tykes 9:30- 10:30 a.m., Little Naturalists 1- 2 p.m.

 

There is a fee of $5 per child, per session. To register for a session, call 630-444-3190 or email programs@kaneforest.com. Creek Bend Nature Center is located at 37W700 Dean Street, St. Charles.

Creek Day: A Summer Camp Special

The best part of summer?  It depends on who you ask, but many would answer summer camp! A popular warm weather activity for generations both young and mature, camp has always been a time to explore nature and meet new friends. At the Forest Preserve District’s Week in the Woods summer camp, this still holds true! Throughout our week-long camps, there are a variety of activities every day such as crafts, outdoor games, and hikes that encourage kids to explore the natural world. A popular favorite activity of campers is Creek day, where they grab their bathing suits and head to Ferson Creek to play for the day. The creek is home to all kinds of aquatic creatures, such as crayfish, frogs, water skaters, and more; many of which we found on the most recent creek trip!

 

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Our Naturalists and their campers search the water with their nets

 

We had a gorgeous, sunny day to get out and explore the creek with our nets! The water was perfect to splash around in and yielded many different creatures that we caught to examine then release back into the creek. When we weren’t searching for the next best creature to drift along, the campers enjoyed swimming and learning to skip rocks; many of them showed awesome talent with it! At the end of the trip, it was clear that the campers had learned so much and gained an amazing appreciation of the creek as a not just a fun place to play, but also a habitat for the many creatures they found! Enjoy the pictures below of the trip and some of their finds! Keep scrolling for information on how to give your kids the opportunity to explore this summer…

 

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A tiny leopard frog

 

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Our nets caught many crayfish!

 

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A small nymph.

 

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A crayfish inside our “specimen bin” that was shortly after returned to it’s habitat.

 

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Another crayfish- these little guys were everywhere!

 

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Fish on! This little one was quickly returned to the water after swimming into our nets.

 

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One of our last finds of the day- a beautiful pair of shells.

 

Want your kids to explore the marvels of nature? Sign them up for Week in the Woods summer camp! Each nature camp runs for five days each, Monday through Friday. The dates are as follows:  “Summer Unplugged” August 5-August 9. Camp is for kids entering 1st-6th grade, and there is a fee of $175/child for the week. Advance registration is required, register by calling 630-444-3190 or email programs@kaneforest.com. 

Get to Know a Naturalist: Ben Katzen

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Ben at Harvest of the Acorn Moon

Name:  Ben Katzen

Alma Mater: University of Florida

Hometown: Downers Grove, IL

Years worked at the Forest Preserve District: 19

How and when did you become interested in being a naturalist?

In college, as a sophomore business major, I realized the importance of doing what you love. I changed my major to Forest Resources and Conservation.

What is your favorite part about being a naturalist?

Working with people from all walks of life throughout the County.

What is the most important skill you have acquired through your career?

How to effectively communicate with people of various age levels and backgrounds.

If you could take a hike anywhere in the world, where would it be?

The Canadian Rockies.

What is one item you can’t live without?

Tie between eyeglasses and shoes/boots.

Do you have any hobbies outside of work?

Car repair and electronics.

What is your favorite genre of music?

Progressive Rock.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Be yourself.

Do you have a favorite animal and/or plant species?

Wild Turkeys.

What has been your proudest moment in your career?

Having a child I taught in our preschool class come back 13 years later to be our college intern.

What is your favorite event at the Forest Preserve District?

Harvest of the Acorn Moon, our Fall festival.

What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring naturalist? 

Go on guided hikes to learn from other naturalists.

 

Camp is Calling: Tips to Make Your Camping Trip Run Smoothly

 

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Ah- the great outdoors! As the days get longer and the nights become warmer, many folks will be pulling out their tents and other gear to get ready for camping season. There’s nothing better than a few days spent in nature with your family, friends, or just yourself. As we gear up for camping season to come our way, here are some tips to help make your camping trip run smoothly.

Check all equipment. Nothing is worse than packing up, driving to the campsite, and realizing your gear is broken. Be sure to test out all equipment you plan to bring before you leave so that you’ll have proper shelter, food, and other items working properly.

Choose your campsite. This is one of the most important tips: know where you’re going before you leave. Sure, it can be fun to drive around and survey the sites, but it can also be stressful if you get lost or the campsites have little to no space left. The Forest Preserve District of Kane County has multiple campsites for you to enjoy: Big Rock Campground and Forest Preserve, Burnridge Forest Preserve and Paul Wolff, Camp Tomo Chi-Chi Knolls, and LeRoy Oakes. Some sites may require renting them before use, so be sure to check before you confirm plans.

Pack more than just your average camp food. Not all dinners have to be hot dogs and s’mores; branch out by trying recipes you can make ahead of time! By making a few campfire-ready meals ahead, you’ll cut down on prep time at the campsite and try recipes you never thought you could have while camping!

 Leave it how you found it. If you’ve generated any trash during your trip, be sure to dispose of it in the proper places as designated by the campground. This not only makes you a stellar citizen, but it also improves the experience for the campers arriving after you leave. Aside from that, it ensures our environment stays trash and pollution free so that we can all enjoy it for years to come. Win-win!

 

 Find and follow us on social by searching @forestpreserve. Visit our website at www.kaneforest.com for more information on our campsites and forest preserves.

A Week in the Woods

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Naturalist Ben Katzen leads campers on a hike through the prairie

Have your kids always wanted to learn how to survive in the woods, or learn how the field of STEM relates to nature? Or maybe their goal (or yours for them) this summer is to unplug from technology and immerse yourself in the great outdoors! Then we have great news: the Forest Preserve District’s summer camps are a perfect activity for your child. At our naturalist-led camps, kids will be able to get out of the house and into nature at LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve throughout the summer.

Survival skills are extremely important to both animals and humans who may venture into the woods! In the first week-long installment of summer camp, “Tracking and Survival”, kids will learn how to “read the woods” by searching the forest preserve for clues such as tracks and rubbings that will reveal the hidden world of animals and how they survive in the woods. Kids will also learn human survivals skills such as how to make a rope and build a shelter, among other lessons. It will be a week filled with games, crafts, and lots of hiking!

In July, we’ll discover the beauty of the natural world through STEM-based learning principles at “STEM in Nature”. With the help of naturalists, campers will discover that STEM is all around us in nature! There will be lessons around the architecture of a bird’s nest, the feat of an insect gall, the symmetry of beehives, and much more.

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Campers take a swim in the creek with Naturalist Josh Libman

In the last summer camp installment in August, we’ll focus on enjoying the beautiful weather and outdoors the best way possible; unplugged! At “Summer Unplugged”, kids will have the chance to experience the grandeur of the outdoors just like they did in the good old days. Getting in touch with nature will be the focus that week as campers will be able to play around the forest without any of the common distractions that come with everyday life. The woods, creek, and prairie are just waiting to be explored!

Each nature camp will run for five days each, Monday through Friday. The dates are as follows: “Tracking and Survival” June 24-June 28, “STEM in Nature” July 15-July 19, and “Summer Unplugged” August 5-August 9. Camp is for kids entering 1st-6th grade, and there is a fee of $175/child for the week. Advance registration is required, register by calling 630-444-3190 or email programs@kaneforest.com.