Finding the Spirit of Nature “on the Cheap”

Finding the Spirit of Nature “on the Cheap”

By Emma Lucchesi

Summer is usually filled with laughter, lake trips, boat rides, loads of sunscreen, town festivals and leisurely walks in the sunshine. With the age of social media on the rise,  we can’t ignore pictures and posts of all of these summer activities as well as the extravagant trips and adventures our friends are taking. Whether it’s a family vacation, honeymoon or a trip with a group of friends, vacationers’ pictures always cause me to think of two adjectives: “fun” yet “expensive.”


Last year, my blog post focused on finding local places to explore. I ended my post with this advice,

            “There are always places to explore, you just might have to look a little harder.”

While true, many of us want to experience the awe of different landscapes. So how does one go about planning a trip without breaking the bank? Below are three pieces of advice that have helped me along my travels:


  1. Be Open to Simple Adventures

Your high school friend Hilary posing in front of Buckingham Palace in her recent Instagram post doesn’t mean you should book a plane ticket to London. I’m guessing a spontaneous trip to England isn’t in your budget right now. Instead, look for neat national parks near you and take a road trip or hop on a cheap bus to a park in the region. I use the REI Co-op National Parks Guide app to plan my adventures. The app shows you parks in your vicinity. Summer is a time to know your limits in terms of time and budget, but still go on adventures!


  1. Airbnb is Your New Best Friend

Move over, Airbnb is taking your spot! Airbnb is a great traveling tool that shouldn’t be overlooked. is a website that allows travelers to find affordable, fun places to stay. Most Airbnbs are cheaper to stay at than hotels and are sometimes closer to your destination. Staying at an Airbnb can be an adventure in itself! Stay in a yurt or go glamping for a change. When looking at Airbnbs, be sure to check out the reviews and comments of past travelers who stayed there.


  1. Be an Adventurous Penny Pincher

You can be adventurous while being budget conscious. Instead of making impulse buys throughout your trip, be smart and plan ahead. Buy that pack of gum before you get to the airport. Bring an empty water bottle through airport security so you can fill it up afterwards. See if your Airbnb has a kitchen, and if so, eat out one night and plan meals for the rest! Make a tentative itinerary with all of the activities available and their price ranges. While one should be a penny pincher, allow yourself to splurge on some fun activities as well. Just know that everything is a tradeoff. The kayak rental may be great, but you might have to give up snorkeling for it.


Every trip has opportunity costs whether it is your time, money, or sanity. Just know your limits, and plan a trip around your desires. This summer, I traveled to Zion National Park in Utah. All of the pictures on this blog post are activities and places I was able to see without breaking the bank. The three tips listed above allowed me to explore while staying under my budget. I hope they do the same for you!

Safe and Cheap Travels,

~Emma Lucchesi



The Ever Patient Fisherman: a Father’s Day Tribute

The Ever Patient Fisherman: a Father’s Day Tribute

By: Jessie Jensen

Growing up, I had the most excellent nature teacher; I called him, “The Ever Patient Fisherman,” a.k.a. my dad. Through years of lessons, my dad was there to equip me with all kinds of outdoor skills, which now translate into my everyday life. What is so cool about working at The Outdoor Campus, is that I have been given the opportunity to share these talents with the next generation of families. And to think it all started 22 years ago with me, as a kid, fishing with my dad.


As father’s day approaches, I am even more aware of what I have learned from my dad. Busy fishing, canoeing, hiking and teaching this summer, I put together a photo gallery and appreciation letter for my dad this father’s day, to show him how his lessons (have and will) stick with me forever.

Dear Dad,

Thank you. For as long as I can remember, all of our free time has been spent together, in the great outdoors. I wouldn’t change that for the world. You were there for my first fish, my first deer, and everything after that. If I remember correctly, I was NOT the quietest child growing up. Even though fishing and hunting should be relatively silent activities, you always encouraged my creative stories and never complained about my constant conversation. One of my favorite memories growing up was catching fish, and then naming them. I would name almost every fish that came onto the boat! Remember, “Billy the Bass” or “Walter the Walleye”?  They always had lively conversations and you heard them all! Rather than getting frustrated or annoyed with me, you would just smile and keep on fishing.


You have always been encouraging and supportive of my outdoor endeavors, and I am forever grateful for you. As a dad teaching his daughter, you always made it clear that I could be just as successful in my fishing and hunting as any other person. You were so proud to raise me to be a strong outdoors woman. I want to be just like you when I grow up, and even now, I am starting to walk in your shoes.


I recognize that not everyone growing up had someone like you to introduce them to the great outdoors; and it is really unfortunate. Working as a Naturalist at The Outdoor Campus, it has become my goal to help everyone develop a love for the outdoors; sharing what is deeply instilled in my heart because of you.

I am so grateful now that it is my job to be the “Patient Fisherman” for other families. And it’s all thanks to you dad, you have me “hooked” on the outdoors forever.



Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you. Let’s go fishing.

– Jessie


Moths ARE Cool!

Moths ARE Cool!

By Chloe Litzen

Let’s talk about moths. When it comes to the Lepidoptera family, butterflies seem to get all the attention. We here at The Outdoor Campus think moths are just as special and cute as butterflies. Still not convinced? Take a moment to learn about our new moth friend we helped raise through the winter months.


Introducing the cutest, fuzziest (rarely seen by humans) cecropia moth. We met this one back in September when one of our young visitors brought it in as a caterpillar after finding it in his yard. “It was literally the biggest caterpillar I have ever seen,” said Naturalist Intern Emily Oyos. “Like, straight out of the movie Bugs Life!”

The cecropia moth has a very unique life cycle spanning one whole year. The moth undergoes five transformations as a caterpillar and spends a very long time in its cocoon. In the beginning of summer, cecropia moth eggs hatch about ten days after being laid. Very young cecropia caterpillars are black with yellow spores and black bristles.





*young cecropia caterpillars*

After eating a ridiculous amount of leaves (usually maple, apple or willow), the cecropia caterpillar becomes very fat and literally bursts out of its original skin, looking like a big green blob with red, blue and yellow horns.


*Adult cecropia caterpillar*

Imminently after being brought into our facility, the cecropia caterpillar began to build its new winter home. Once the cecropia caterpillar has stored enough fat, it begins to spin fine strands of silk for the cocoon from its jaw. Looking closely at the picture, you can start to see the beginning of this home-made cocoon.

Since the cecropia caterpillar is preparing for an entire winter in its cocoon, TOC Community & Special Events Coordinator Sandy Richter decided the best place for the moth was in the garden shed outside.

“This moth needed to develop in the environment it was designed to be in. That’s why I decided the garden shed would be a cold, safe place for our friend to temporarily occupy” said Richter.


As an adult, cecropia moths only goal is to mate; they are even born without mouths because they do not need to eat! It is rare to see these kinds of moths as they only live for about three days after leaving the cocoon. So, as you can imagine, this was a fun and exciting day for our staff at The Outdoor Campus.

A Hero for Deer

A Hero for Deer

By Chloe Litzen

Heather Taylor spotted something fuzzy and small nestled into the corner of her mother’s backyard. Driving a large, noisy lawn mower, Taylor could not believe the creature stayed still. She got a little closer to see if it was alive, and when she was close enough she finally saw what it was; In the grass was a very young baby fawn, all alone.

Growing up with a hunting background, Taylor was no stranger to deer and other prairie wildlife. She understood “there was probably a mom around,” so she decided to leave the baby fawn alone. She went on with the lawn care, all while the deer remained still and unfazed by the noisy environment. Getting as close as ten yards to the fawn, Taylor believed that the baby maybe thought it was invisible.

“When I got really close to it and looked it right in the eyes, the fawn stared back at me, completely still, only moving it’s nostrils.”

South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Regional Terrestrial Resource Supervisor, Josh Delger, explained that, “newborn fawns are left alone by design. Fawns have to hide from predators because they are not strong enough to outrun them yet. In fact, newborn fawns spend more than 95% of their time hiding, and the spotted coat of these fawns helps to keep them camouflaged.”

Curious, Taylor decided to document the fawn with several pictures throughout the day. The first picture was taken around 10 a.m. and the second picture was taken at 4 p.m.





The whole day went by and there was no sign of the fawn moving or a mother. When neighbor kids came over after school, their first reaction was “the fawn has been abandoned! Let’s go feed it.”

“I remember my friend Thea at The Outdoor Campus telling me about all the kids picking up baby animals. The best thing to do for these babies is to NOT touch them, and leave them be,” Taylor said.

Then, at 8 p.m., something beautiful and natural happened. The mother of the fawn returned to gather and feed its baby. The two walked off in bliss towards the shelter belt of trees surrounding the property.




“It’s solid proof that animals are designed to survive in the wild,” said Taylor. “I had fun telling my kids, ‘See, listen to your mom when she puts you somewhere,’ because that’s exactly what this fawn did and it remained safe and hidden for ten hours.”

The documentation of this natural process was fun and exciting for Taylor. “If you have wildlife in your area, don’t bug it, keep watching it. It’s a really great experience.”

These are the types of stories we like to hear at The Outdoor Campus. 

SD Game, Fish and Parks always encourages people to leave baby animals in the wild. “If you care, leave it there,” Delger said. “This is a perfect example. People left the baby alone and the mother came back to get it. That’s what’s supposed to happen.”




Our Fishing Friends

What does The Outdoor Campus love more than fishing? Teaching people to fish! Being able to organize and support fishing lessons for all ages has been such a rewarding experience for us. Sharing that moment with someone who has just hooked a fish is exhilarating; and the gratitude people share with us is so special.

Kids are especially fun during this time, and we receive a lot of cute and giggle worthy thank you letters from these young anglers. Let’s take a look at some example of why we here at The Outdoor Campus love our jobs!

This letter came from one of our young anglers who had a hard time practicing patience.


“Dear Outdoor Campus, what I learned is how to fish. You haved to wat intell the fish gets the hook you can’t just ceep on taking it out of the water.”


This young angler was so excited to learn something new because it will make her smarter and be successful in her life. #TheMoreYouKnow


“Dear, outdoor campus, Thank you for teaching me how to fish. I learned you have to wher sunglase’s to proctect your eye’s. anyway that I didin’t catch any fish I still had lot’s of fun, because I learned something new and that thing that I learned  is fishing. I like to learn new thing’s every day, because then when I grow up I will have a good job. And I will be smart.”


This kid learned all about fishing safety and proper eye protection. He also made it known that his brother doesn’t always follow the rules!


“Dear Outdoor Campus, thank you for teaching us how to fish. I Learned that you half to where sun glasses or glasses when you go fishing so you don’t get stabed in the eye while you are fishing. P.S. My brother doesen’t where glasses when he’s fishing.”


We also get excited when kids remember the types of fish we teach. This student listed four types of fish in our pond, as well as an illustration of each!

“Dear Outdoor campus, some thing I liked is when we practiced fishing. There are four fish I rememder small mouth Bass and Big mouth Bouth. also the sun fish and the catfish. that is what I liked.”


Also, we get some incredible, original artwork from these students. Did we hear someone say Picasso?

We can’t wait to meet all the new young and old anglers this summer! Thank you all for the continuous support and gratitude; now, it’s time to go fishing! #YoungAnglers #Fishing #MySDTradition

We Can’t Wait for Pheasant Fest – What Can We Do NOW?

We Can’t Wait for Pheasant Fest – What Can We Do NOW?

Sioux Falls is hosting the National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic February 16 to 18 at the Denny Sanford Premier Center and Convention Center complex. We are just like a kid studying a map of Disneyworld before the big trip – we want to know what we can do before the big event. We can’t get enough pheasants!

The Old Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls created a pop up exhibit on pheasants and pheasant hunting in South Dakota. In addition to their featured one room school house exhibit and Falls Fuel exhibit, see a few cases of mounted varieties of pheasants and the historic gear and gadgets they collected.  The exhibit and the rest of the quartzite courthouse is free to visit.

Pheasant EXhibit
Pheasant Exhibit at The Old Courthouse Museum (photo courtesy Alison Eden)










Eastbank Art Gallery on the east side of the Big Sioux River, downtown, is featuring pheasant art in the month of February. The art cooperative brought all their members together for a show featuring South Dakota’s state bird. See everything from detailed oils, acrylics and even mixed media pheasant art there this month.

Art by Amy Kasten
East Bank Art Gallery







Shantel Wittstruck and family

Sioux Falls Woman Magazine is found in almost every store, shop and grocery in the Sioux Falls area. This month’s magazine features a story about the chefs who will be on stage at Pheasant Fest, in addition to a story about a local pheasant hunter who is helping women pick up hunting and fishing for the first time; Shantel Wittstruck started a new organization called Outdoor Women of the Midwest.

Painting by Anna Youngers, Sioux Falls


Local art, vintage rug and relic dealer, Rug & Relic on the eastbank of the Big Sioux River downtown is featuring art by Anna Youngers during Pheasant Fest. Youngers is classical atelier trained and apprenticed. Her work shows and sells all over the world.




Some other pheasant related fun in Sioux Falls: 

27503339_888117781368311_3139357864374050386_oIf you can’t get to Sioux Falls early, there are a few places rolling out the orange carpet as well. One includes the Comfort Inn and Suites on Avera Drive who are inviting Pheasant Fest attendees, whether they are staying at their hotel or not, to enjoy some pheasant appetizers from 3 to 8 p.m., on Friday, February 16. “Please stop by, even if you aren’t an overnight guest, to enjoy some Pheasant-themed appetizers,” Sara McMahon, manager, said. “This is an informal, FREE event and will last until approximately 8 or 9 pm or until the food is gone. ”  They would appreciate an RSVP on their Facebook event if possible.


Pheasant Chowder and Fernson Lions Paw Beer 2-2-18
Sheraton Hotel: Pheasant Chowder and Fernson Beer

The Sheraton, connected to the Sioux Falls Convention Center, will add pheasant chowder to their menu, paired with local brew, Lions Paw by Fernson Brewing Company.




Want to WIN some tickets to Pheasant Fest? Billion Auto is giving away four one day tickets to the person who tells the best hunting story on their social media. Check it out!

Changing Things Up a Little

Changing Things Up a Little

Hey, fans and followers – we’re changing things up a little in 2018. You’ll notice some gradual changes and some that might cause a big stir! Either way, we’re committed to bringing you the best in outdoor education programming!

Our first change of the new year is staff duties. We’re shifting around a few responsibilities, so you may have a new contact for the type of programs you take here.

Sandy Richter

Sandy Richter –

  • Community programs: family classes, advanced family classes, advanced adult classes and Junior, Young and Sprouts classes.
  • Garden and Playscape
  • Special Events: Women’s Try-It Day, Halloween Hike, others
  • Contact: or 605.362.2777



Derek Klawitter

Derek Klawitter –

  • Group Programs: Scouts, church groups, Lifescape, other groups
  • Home School Programming: our regular slate of home school classes, plus new multi-class sections and a form of Harvest SD for home schoolers
  • or 605.362.2732




Shelly Pierson

Shelly Pierson –

  • School and Preschool programs: Sioux Falls and surrounding schools that can come to TOC for programming. Elementary, middle school, preschool and high school
  • Contact: or 605.362.2777



Jason Nelson
Jason Nelson

Jason Nelson –

  • Outreach
    • Schools outside of Sioux Falls
    • CO assistance with programming in summer
    • Harvest SD
    • Sanford Children’s Hospital
    • Colleges
    • Some advanced programming with community and group
    • Contact: 605.362.3524


Kyle Grogan

Kyle Grogan-

  • Volunteers: recruit, train retain
  • Assist with school programming
  • Contact: or 605.362.2728



Thea, Lynn and Tonna are still here, too… we’re just doing our same jobs. Find us at 605.362.2777.