The Exploration Stations at Picnic Picnic Point, as part of the UW Science Expedition 2019, were meticulously planned and staffed with experts in many areas. The only thing that didn’t cooperate was the weather: a freak, weak front brought at times heavy rain, which ended promptly once the event was over. Nevertheless, about 30 nature enthusiasts ventured out in the rain to visit the five exploration stations. They learned from experts about rocks, trees, birds, pollinator plants, and effigy mounds in the Preserve. Each visitor received an 8-page booklet with explanations and hands-on activities at each station, for both children and adults.
Doris Dubielzig, president of the Friends, coordinated the work of the five Exploration Station leaders and Olympia Mathiaparanam organized the Bradley Hall student assistants. Tom Zinnen, UW organizer of this campus-wide event, strongly supported these efforts. Preserve staff was also participated in this event. All in all 25 volunteers contributed their time and talents.
Geologic Gems: David Mickelson, Scot Moss, Cameron Batchelor, Lisa Haas, Kai Hu
Tree Treasures: Matt Chotlos, Nate Chotlos
Birding Basics: Paul Noeldner, Galen Hasler
Butterfly Balls: Bryn Scriver, Eve Emshwiller
Mound Makers: Amy Rosebrough, Chuck Keleny
Organizer, Greeters: Doris Dubielzig, Olympia Mathiaparanam, Kennedy Gilchrist
Booklet, Photographer, Report: Gisela Kutzbach
Student volunteers from Bradley Hall: Ethan Budd, Yashodhara Dhariwai, Rahul Gulati, Tanner Houslet, Matt Knox, Robert Legastzke, Jaffna Mathiaparanam, Kelly Wegner
Station 1: Geologic Gems. Examples of rocks from around Wisconsin, including sedimentary rocks, volcanic rocks, metamorphic rocks, as well as iron ore, coral and more. There was also a key and bingo game to many types of rocks in the distinctive rock wall that frames the entrance of Picnic Point. Visitors showed great interest in the story of the massive wall and the nature and origin of rocks, as well as the impact of glaciation on the geology of the Picnic Point area.
Station 2: Tree Treasures. Visitors could hone their skills in identifying trees in winter, based on the appearance of tree trunks, the shape of small tree twigs and buds. While buds on the whitish White oak branches and reddish Red oak branches were still dormant, the large end bud on a twig of a Shaggy bark hickory was already opening. When the large compound leaves of the hickory tree fall off in autumn, they leave a scar like mark on the branch. New buds eventually develop above the scar. Visitors could also determine the age of cut cross sections of various tree by counting their rings, as well as estimate the age by measuring the circumference of the tree and applying a simple formula. Children enjoyed the necklaces with tree ring pendants.
Station 3. Birding Basics. Here adults and children alike enjoyed using the various types of binoculars to spot common birds out in the marsh cattails and on the lake. There were also several high power spotting scopes for a good steady look at birds, as well as handmade binoculars from toilet paper rolls. Visitors also learned a about calls and song patterns of various birds, and bird shapes. Even on this cold, rainy day, visitors could hear the Red-wing blackbirds o-ka-leees through the
Station 4. Butterfly Balls. The activity at this station gave a foretaste of summer. Both children and adult had much fun mixing and kneading clay, compost and seeds into marble sized balls. One could shape balls from five different seeds of prairie plants preferred by pollinators: Nodding onion, Bergamot, Black-eyed susan, Yellow coneflower, and Butterfly weed. The seeds were harvested in the Biocore Prairie and once watered and placed into the warm ground, they should bring color and butterflies to homes of our visitors.
Station 5. Mound Makers. This station was located at Fire circle 1, at the long linear mound along the path. All mounds were used to mark gravesites. The early mounds, mostly conical and linear, were used for burial of people of significance. Most of the effigy mounds, built in the shape of animals, birds, spirits and people from about 750-1000 AD, were used for burials of bone "bundles", representing the remains of up to 60 people. The prominent cone mound near the isthmus of Picnic Point was also used as a group "bundle" burial site for many people. The effigy mound builders were ancestors of today's Ho-Chunk and other nations. Because of the rain, visitors could not use the spotting scope to view the effigy mounds on observatory hill across the bay.