TOC at Sanford Children’s Hospital

By Matthew Stoffel

Since 2011, The Outdoor Campus has partnered with Sanford Children’s Hospital in Sioux Falls, bringing programs to children who can’t visit us here in Sertoma Park. We alternate Fridays with South Dakota State Parks doing similar programs. The programs are different from much of what we do at The Outdoor Campus because they are usually one-on-one, as many of the kids can’t leave their beds or can’t be around other patients.

And honestly, it’s a different experience all-together. On campus, kids are ready to have fun and run around. Leading a class is as much about corralling excitement as it is about creating it. The kids at The Outdoor Campus are just being kids.P1120573

But the kids at Sanford have to be patients, too. Walking into a room is tough, because you don’t know what to expect. You don’t know how much pain a kid is in or whether their condition will affect how the visit runs. Sometimes they’re sleeping, they just got food or they don’t want to partake in a program.

The mission of The Outdoor Campus is “to provide education about outdoor skills, wildlife, conservation and management practices of South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks to all ages in order to preserve our outdoor heritage.” We strive to do that. But it’s clear when we walk in to some of these hospital rooms, the mission statement is a little shorter.
To provide a distraction for them in order to try making them smile.

And when they aren’t too tired and they don’t think they’re too old, we’re pretty good at that mission. The kids do light up for the stimulation of learning about different kinds of fish or how a beaver uses its teeth. The younger kids enjoy the craft and even the older kids can get into it sometimes. For some of them it is a distraction from pain, but in a lot of cases it is simply a distraction from the monotony of the hospital. It’s not always patients, either. We’ve done programs for siblings who are waiting for a brother or sister to get well.P1120299

And if that short visit also manages to distract the parents, that’s a win. If it makes the kid more interested in the South Dakota outdoors or learning about us gives them a place to go when they visit Sioux Falls for treatment, that’s fantastic too.

But at the end of the day, we do it for the smiles of some brave kids who really deserve to smile.



1 Fish, 2 Fish, Flying Fish, Nuisance Fish

By Chad Tussing, Director of The Outdoor Campus-West

Last week, while attending a staff conference in Yankton, I had the opportunity to participate in a new experience… going on a flying carp tour. No, this isn’t like snipe hunting (which is a real hunting season, by the way). GFP fisheries biologists took us out to see firsthand the phenomena of Asian carp, aka the flying carp. For reasons not fully understood, these fish become agitated by the sound/vibrations from boat motors and leap into the air.

And sometimes into boats.

Photo by Sam Stukel
Photo by Sam Stukel

There are two species of Asian carp of current concern in South Dakota, the silver carp and bighead carp. Neither are native to North America. They were originally used in the deep south to keep aquaculture ponds clean, but escaped during a flood. They have since spread throughout the Mississippi River system, including the Missouri River up to Gavin’s Point Dam (and nearby tributary streams such as the James River).

One of the reasons these fish cause a great deal of worry to fisheries biologists is their voracious feeding habits. Both feed on the microscopic plants and animals found naturally in rivers and lakes. The carp are very efficient feeders and are also very fertile, reproducing by the thousands and growing quickly. In the Illinois River, one of the main hot spots for Asian carp in the US, an estimated 90% of the biomass in the river is Asian carp. An estimated $16 million per year is spent to maintain an electric barrier to prevent the carp from entering the Great Lakes via a channel constructed to connect the Great Lakes and Mississippi shipping routes.

Introduced species often become nuisances quickly and populations explode when removed from their natural predators and controls. Prevention of the spread of these nuisance species is the best way to control their spread as it is virtually impossible to remove the animal or plant once it has become established. That’s why many states, including South Dakota, have rules and laws in place to prevent the spread of nuisance species. Some easy practices at home can help in the fight against these unwanted creatures:


• Remove aquatic plants and animals before leaving any waterbody.

• Drain water from bait bucket, live well, bilge and motor before leaving any waterbody.

• Dispose of unwanted bait, fish parts, and worms in the trash.

• Spray/wash boat, trailer, and equipment with high pressure hot water on your way home or at home –Or dry everything for at least 5 days.

• Always report questionable species.


Never release live animals or plants – this includes all aquarium species, bait, pets or water garden plants. Do not release these into the wild. If you cannot find another home for animals, dispose of them in a trash can or bury them. Seal plants in plastic bags and dispose.

If we all do our part, we can help keep these nuisances from ruining the fisheries and habitats throughout the state.

For more information about these flying nuisances, check out the GFP web page:

Photo by Sam Stukel
Photo by Sam Stukel

Diary of a Campus Kid

20130911_132306By Thea Miller Ryan

Kids say the craziest things. I know that doesn’t surprise any of you. You’ve heard some great things come out of kids’ mouths.

We love this time of year when all our summer class kids turn in their Campus Grad books – a book that documents all the classes they took over the summer. Turning it in earns kids a t-shirt and a chance at some really cool prizes like BB guns, fishing poles, tents and other outdoor items. Kids turned in 316 booklets this summer!

In each book, kids must document the classes they attended and tell us what they learned. Sometimes it’s the sentence that cracks us up, and sometimes it’s just trying to figure out their handwriting.

I’m posting a few of our summer favorites below. Read them and smile. Kids learn a lot here.

Easton learned some gun terminology.
Easton learned some gun terminology.
This was one of the activities Parker did on his own. We're wondering what happened!
This was one of the activities Parker did on his own. We’re wondering what happened!
We're very glad Nathan learned this item in his BB gun safety class!
We’re very glad Nathan learned this item in his BB gun safety class!
Good plan!
Good plan!
Poor dad!
Poor dad!
Butterfly cell phones?
Butterfly cell phones?

Learning from a Storm

There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.
Willa Cather

By Thea
“When you work with nature, you work with nature,” one of my colleagues told me today. It’s true. Mother Nature gave us a wild challenge last weekend. We had a big storm hit us.


Todd Heitkamp of the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls stopped by yesterday because he wanted to set the record straight. “It wasn’t a tornado,” he said. “I stopped by because two ladies basically called me a liar,” he laughed.

20130901_143115Ok. So what the heck was the storm that threw a HUGE picnic table into a tree, bulldozed tons of older shade trees, made a pile of picnic tables into a metal tangle, drove a fiberglass piece several inches into our building and broke 14 windows?

“I’d call it a micro burst – straight line winds,” Todd said. He said he was noting that the winds were likely 70 to 80 miles per hour.

Wow. Now I know what wind like that can do.

Nobody was hurt. Everything is repairable or replaceable. For that, I’m very thankful. I learned I can be sad about the trees I planted in our fire pit area 20 years ago that were finally providing the shade I dreamed about at the time. I can be sad about the missing forts, the vine-covered arbor and the shade sails that blew away from our nature playscape. I learned I work with a lot of amazing people who come running when called to help.

I also learned we will be fine. We’re prairie people, KELO TV recorded me saying. We will be fine.