On a blustery Sunday afternoon about 90 enthusiastic nature friends and families attended the 6th Annual hands-on Nature Exploration Stations at Picnic Point, organized by the Friends of the Preserve. Visitors stopped at four exploration stations to learn from experts about rocks and fossils, trees, birds, and effigy mounds in the Preserve. Each visitor received an 8-page booklet with explanations and hands-on activities at each station. Children engaged in related activities at each station. Our expert leaders shared their knowledge and enthusiasm for the Preserve.
Doris Dubielzig of the Friends coordinated the work of the four Exploration Station leaders and their student assistants. Tom Zinnen, UW organizer of this campus-wide event, strongly supported our efforts. Preserve staff was also consulted in preparing for this event. All in all 20 volunteers contributed their time and talents. Report by Gisela Kutzbach
Geologic gems: David Mickelson and Carol McCartney, assisted by Scot Moss
Tree treasures: Diane Dempsey and Stefanie Wilbrand
Birding Basics: Carolyn Byers and Paul Noeldner
Mound makers: Amy Rosebrough
Greeters; Kennedy Gilchrist, Gisela Kutzbach
Student volunteers: Olympia Mathiaparanam plus 7 students from Bradley Hall: Paige Nelson (Geology station 1), Erik Zetina and Ekaterina Kabev (Tree station 2), Weijia Cao and Jacob Fauble (Birds station 3), Ron Li and Chris Massey (mound station 4)
Photographs Gisela Kutzbach and Paul Noeldner.
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. The exhibit also included bore samples of various types of rocks, which showed how rock layers were formed over time. Children enjoyed free samples of Wisconsin's state rock, which is granite. 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. Resources provided by UW Extension, Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey.
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, and leaf litter on the forest floor. Visitors also learned about how Native Americans used the tree treasurers of the forest and had a chance to built their on paper (birch) basket. Resources provided by Diane Dempsey, UW Arboretum naturalist.
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. Considering the cold, wintery day, and observations from the site of the station only, the list of birds for that day is impressive.
Station 4. Mound Makers. Located at Fire circle 2, just past the linear and conical mounds 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.