A Snapping Turtle Rendezvous

22 Aug

P1130613By Matthew Stoffel

Outdoor University is our favorite time of year for many reasons, one being that it brings together our own staff and the staff of The Outdoor Campus-West. This provides an opportunity to do what TOC staff –East and West river – do best: Teach and learn about the outdoors.

On this occasion, Keith Wintersteen, the Group Program Naturalist of TOC-West, had requested a lesson from our own Derek Klawitter. The subject? How to harvest a snapping turtle.

The snapping turtle came from TOC-West, along with their rock wall.

The snapping turtle came from TOC-West, along with their rock wall.

For those who don’t know, Derek is huge on hunting. If people kill it and harvest the meat somewhere in the world, he probably knows a thing or two about it. In the case of snapping turtles, he learned from his uncle when he was a teenager.

Keith had heard interest from several visitors in learning how to clean a turtle for turtle soup or other recipes. In South Dakota, anyone with a fishing license can reel in, trap or simply grab turtles for consumption. There is a daily limit of two turtles of each species and a possession limit of four of each species, with False Map turtles being protected. (Because turtles are long-lived animals and take time to reach sexual maturity, turtles can only be taken for personal consumption.)

Derek sharpening the filet knife.

Derek sharpening the filet knife.

In any case, Keith set out to create a class on the subject, and will also integrate a demonstration into his “Taste the Black Hills” TOC-West class on legal foods that can be forage in the Rapid City area.

The details of how you clean the turtle are a bit gory for our normal blog content, but interested readers can take a look at this article from The Rapid City Journal, featuring both Derek and Keith: http://rapidcityjournal.com/sports/great-outdoors/feature/snapping-turtle-a-delicacy-but-not-a-delicate-cleaning-job/article_0e8ac9c9-6efd-5cbf-8df5-fba997d774b5.html

What made me proud was seeing that the turtle Derek demonstrated on was not only handled respectfully and used for educational gain, but also knowing that every useful part of the turtle was spoken for before the lesson even began. Nothing was going to go to waste. The claws are being made into a necklace, the shell and skull have been set aside for education at TOC-West and the meat will be… Well, meat.

Derek has his turtle-cleaning method down to a science.

Derek has his turtle-cleaning method down to a science.

Overall, it was a cool experience, and it helped establish a bit of comradery between the two campuses before our biggest day of the year.

Outdoor Painting: Using Nature’s Resources

18 Aug Outdoor Campus Nature Painting

Outdoor Campus nature painting 3By: Erica Jurgensen, naturalist intern

For one of my “Pop Up” classes I decided to lead a group in using nature’s resources to paint. The original plan was to be outside to do all the artwork, but rainy weather said otherwise. We still made it work and had lots of fun!

The first objective of the class was to go over a few basic elements of art, such as primary and secondary colors. We then discussed what kinds of materials one might use to paint, without having paper or a paintbrush. The class was spot on when they started naming different natural resources such as rocks, leafs, sticks and other plants. This was the purpose of the class: to explore different ways to use nature’s resources in art. I had already done a few examples of my own to spark the class’s imagination. The only requirement was everybody had to create something using only what they found in nature.Outdoor Campus nature painting 2

I had already collected a few supplies due to the rain, but the class went out on their own to find supplies as well. The natural supplies we used were leafs, flowers, grass, bark, pine cones, pine needles and twigs. I supplied string for them to tie supplies to a twig to create a paintbrush. I also supplied paints, paper and hot glue guns. (I wish we would have had enough time to make homemade paint as well!) Later, after they created a project from nature, I allowed them to use everyday materials, like the paintbrushes we are used to today. Few projects were created that didn’t use at least one natural element.Outdoor Campus nature painting 1

The class consisted of all ages and experience levels, which sparked a lot of creativity. I even had a younger girl tell me she was taking lots of art classes in school so she knew exactly what she was doing. I often reminded my class if their painting didn’t turn out the way they wanted it to, to use their imagination and turn it into something else. We had everything from kids spray-painting leaf impressions, to gluing sticks together, and even finger painting for the little ones. It was great having a class full of positive energy and students eager to discover different ways to use nature’s resources.Outdoor Campus nature painting 4

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A Day in the Life of a Sprouts Teacher…

13 Aug

By Ali Ramsley, naturalist intern

Ali has been a naturalist intern with TOC since this past spring.

Ali has been a naturalist intern with TOC since this past spring.

I have become smitten with teaching Sprouts classes. Something about the excitement these kids bring into the classroom brightens my day and readies me to teach.

A day in the life of a Sprouts teacher goes like this: I scan our registration list, knowing which students will sit quietly, soaking up the information, and which ones will be shooting their hands up in the air for every question and the ones that will make hilarious statements throughout the class.

When kids start running through the doors before class, their faces light up when we already have a name tag made for them. Some of them give me a knowing smile and come running up to the registration desk. Others will look, give a shy smile and hide behind mom or dad – even when I know they’re one of the most talkative kids in the class.

The kids face the puppet show curtain expectantly, as I take a seat on the floor and begin talking about what we’re doing in class. My directions are drowned out by multiple little voices yelling the latest thing that has happened in their day. I may hear a love proclamation from one of the little boys. The puppets begin and the room fills with laughter. The kids are so involved in the show, there is no distracting them.

Ali helping a student during "H is for Hawks."

Ali helping a student during “H is for Hawks.”

During show and tell I get crazy stories. We’re learning about insects in Sprouts. When I ask the kids if they’ve seen an insect, I’ll get, “No!” or, “I’ve seen millions!” I ask how many insects they think we have in the world, and get replies like seven or eight. So, when I tell them there are billions and billions of insects, their jaws drop and I have them hooked for the rest of class.

Then, we head out to our picnic tables to do crafts. We color a picture of a prairie and then stamp pictures of animals and insects. I come up on one boy whose arm is completely covered in the ink that should be going onto his paper. I stifle a laugh as his father chuckles, explaining his son loves stamping more than coloring.

When we’re done, I lead them into the classroom. By this time the kids are getting antsy: When I ask if they can help tell which puppets are insects and which aren’t, they all say “No!” You have to just laugh and continue on anyways! We count the legs on the puppet to see if they’re an insect. Once, a little boy insisted that a bat was an insect.

We agreed to disagree.

My favorite part of a Sprouts class is when they come up to me after and say, “Thank you for teaching, Miss Ali.” The Sprouts kids inspire me each day. You never know what to expect with a Sprouts class. They have taught me to take life one day at a time and enjoy the simple things.

Survival Bracelets

8 Aug

Survival Bracelets were made at Women's Try-It Day last year.

Survival Bracelets were made at Women’s Try-It Day last year.

By Kahryn Ragsdale, naturalist intern

Survival bracelets, or paracord bracelets, have become very popular recently. You can see them on many people’s wrists. But one question many people ask about these bracelets is why exactly are they called “survival” bracelets? I think the best way to explain why exactly they are called survival bracelets is to start with a little background on the cord they are made from.

Back in World War II, paracord was used for the parachutes. Soldiers found that it was very durable and discovered that it was very reliable for many other uses. They used the cord for securing cargo, pitching tents and more.

BBracelets 2 The Outdoor Campus Women's Try It Day 2013ecause of its versatility, reliability and durability, the cord became common in the states. People found that they wanted an easy way to transport the cord with them everywhere they went in case of an emergency situation in which they needed to use it. That is when someone thought of the idea of braiding the cord into a bracelet.

A common braid is the Cobra braid; this is the braid that we use when teaching survival bracelets classes at TOC. Many people also make accessories such as belts, watches, dog collars, leashes and much more. The possibilities are endless!

There are many different types of paracord. The most popular type of paracord nowadays is known as 550 paracord. The “550” refers to the minimum break strength of the cord. The difference between the minimum break strengths of the cords is found within the colorful outside covering. If you cut a piece of paracord, you will find many small strands of cord within the covering; the more strands there are, the larger the minimum break strength is. Bracelets 12 The Outdoor Campus Women's Try It Day 2013

If you decide to take up the hobby of making your own survival bracelets or paracord accessories, there are a few things you will need to keep in mind. Since the cord has become so popular and open to the public, retailers have created a synthetic material for making the bracelets. If you are looking for the authentic paracord, you will need to be sure that it is specified as being 550 paracord. If it does not list that it is 550 paracord, it is not the same type of cord and does not have the same functions as true paracord. The authentic cord will be a little more spendy, so if you are looking to make something out of the cord solely for fashion, then the synthetic material will be perfect. But if you are looking to carry the cord and use it for emergencies, you will want to make sure that it is the true 550 paracord.

So if you ever find yourself needing to use the cord from your bracelet for any outdoor uses, all you have to do is undo your bracelet, and you will have a few feet of cord right there for you to use at anytime, anywhere!

Kahryn helping participants make the paracord accessory.

Kahryn helping participants make the paracord accessory.

5 Helpful Hints for Taking a Kid Hunting

23 Jul 2013_08_03_9999_361
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Derek teaching shooting basics at this summer’s Women’s Try-It Day.

By Derek Klawitter

Here is a short list of helpful hints for taking a kid (or a rookie) out hunting. I find these hints also help for guiding aging hunters. For many years, my father did all he could to make sure my hunts were successful. Now the tides have turned, and I find myself going above and beyond to return years of favors as I never know when my dad will hang up his hunting hat.

1. Scouting – I personally have the attention span of a 3 year old, so when you are going to introduce someone new to hunting, it is good to have a “secret” spot where at least you will have a chance to see game. Spend some days ahead of time, checking the area to see if there is game present. Being in a game-rich environment will make the outing more enjoyable for everyone involved.

2. Preparing – Simple things like putting a snickers bar in your pocket or wearing an extra pair of socks on cold mornings make a difference. (Nothing can ruin a hunt faster than being cold!) Another way to be prepared is to bring a roll of toilet paper along. I know hunters are supposed to be rough and tough, but we all still have a tender side.

3. Time and Distance – It is always good to keep in mind how long you spend out in the field. Just because you can last 15 hours in a tree stand doesn’t mean others can or want to. At first, try to limit the time to no more than 2 to 3 hours. And little legs are not made for marathons, so keep the distance in perspective as well.

GFP's Chris Hull with a young hunter.

GFP’s Chris Hull with a young hunter.

4. Remember who the hunt is for – I find it easier for all involved to only have the child/rookie hunt. Stick to playing guide when you take out beginners. That way you can dedicate all of your knowledge to the new recruit and not worry about bagging an animal yourself. Also, after the hunt, let the hunter tell all of the stories to mom, dad, grandma or grandpa. Listening to how the child/rookie perceived the hunt is very educational.

5. Safety and Ethics – Safety while hunting is the number one concern. Risks with any dangerous activity are always higher with inexperience. Be a role model. New hunters are very moldable and if you take shortcuts and have questionable ethics, there is a great chance the child will pick up on these.

I hope all of these little hints help you introduce or reintroduce people to the great sport of hunting! If anyone has any other questions or concerns, visit me at The Outdoor Campus, and I would love to assist in any way I can.

Fostering Lifetime-Long Outdoor Memories

19 Jul

By Jessica Bogue, Naturalist Intern – July 16, 2014Jessica-archery

If one were to ask you about your favorite childhood memories, do you know how you would respond? Perhaps your most precious memories lie within the folds of a family vacation or a class field trip. Others may find their memories entangled with siblings or best friends. Or maybe a favorite pet or toy.

If one were to ask me, I would not need to ponder long before radiating a surplus of memories, all of which are close to my heart. There is a unique commonality to all my favorite childhood memories. Whether it was racing my siblings on horseback through our alfalfa field, walking with a friend down the gravel road to go fishing at the creek or tagging along with Grandpa on turkey hunts, each and every one of these cherished memories took place outside.

The Outdoor Campus - Caught a fishI want to be able to give children the same opportunity so they can create their own memories. And there’s no better place to start than The Outdoor Campus. Here learning, exploring and discovering are entwined in the outdoors. The laughter that can be heard from a wide-eyed child as they reel in their “river monster” of a fish from the pond is enough for anyone to plainly see that here—in the outdoors—is where many favorite childhood memories are fostered. I’m continually amazed by the excitement and joy that is brought forth when a child lifts a rock to discover a creepy, crawly bug underneath.

I hope every child has the opportunity to create memories in the outdoors that will last a lifetime. The Outdoor Campus provides that opportunity – promoting outdoor learning, advocate preservation of South Dakota’s great outdoors and ensuring the continual creation of children’s favorite memories.
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Sunshine in a Cloud

30 Jun
Everything you need for Sunshine in a Cloud

Everything you need for Sunshine in a Cloud

We know s’mores can get sticky and messy on your camping trip – that’s why we’re introducing you to Sunshine in a Cloud today! It’s a super yummy camping dessert that is fun to make and not too bad in the sticky-hands-problem category.

SUNSHINE IN A CLOUD
(Serves 6-8)

8 oz. tub of Cool Whip
1 sleeve cinnamon graham crackers
1 lb. can peach halves
6-8 sandwich size Ziploc bags
Put 1/2 cup of Cool Whip into a sandwich size Ziploc bag.
Add 1 peach half and one graham cracker.
Zip the bag closed and squeeze everything together.
Open a corner of the bag and slurp the “sunshine in a cloud” right out of the bag.

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