- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Stephen Lyn Bales, editor

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Ijams Family Nature Club meets for aquatics workshop

The 2016 Family Nature Club met last Sunday for their class and outdoor workshop on Aquatic Life. The seven families and  senior naturalist (the one with the gray beard) explored the Plaza Pond and Toll Creek looking for frogs, tadpoles, salamanders, newts, crawdads (are females called craw-moms?), fish, aquatic spiders, water striders and insect larva such as dragonflies, damselflies, mayflies, stoneflies, to name a few.

I offered a shiny new dime to anyone that found my favorite, the charismatic dobsonfly larva, commonly called a hellgrammite, but none were caught.

It was a very hot afternoon, and the best place to be was in knee-deep or for some of the junior naturalists, chest-deep cold creek water, where we found tray fulls of aquatic life. 

"Family Nature Club at Ijams has been a tremendous experience for all of us," writes Sue Goodall, the founding force behind the club.  "For any family that has ever questioned whether their kids might have what has been described as 'nature deficit disorder,' Ijams has the solution.  Substantial programming, full of information for all ages, taught by experts.  It's a perfect program."

Her son Judah adds, "Being in nature just makes learning more fun."

"Ijams Family Nature Club is an extension of our great times we have at Ijams," emails Sara McNally. "My children have been attending programs for years here as well as we occasionally get a chance to come to some of the mini nature programs. The family club though allows us all to be together learning and exploring. It also is scheduled family time, which is nice in this busy world we live in! So far it has been a fantastic experience and I look forward to the rest of the weeks to come!"

Family Nature Club consists of seven classes each covering a different nature topic plus a season ending canoe trip on the river. The classes are either Saturday or Sunday afternoons for parents or grandparents with their junior naturalist partners.  For information or to register for the 2017 edition, call Lauren at (865) 577-4717, ext. 135. 

And thanks to the junior naturalists (B.K.U.), the Best Kids in the Universe, for making the day so memorable. You know who you are.

For a look at our first meeting of the year, click: Birds. 

And our April meeting was also covered by the media, click: News-Sentinel

- Stephen Lyn Bales. Photos by Linda Knott and Sara McNally.

Kids being kids, exploring nature: newts, bugs and polliwogs

Damselfly and dragonfly nymphs

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Outdoor Adventure Camp began this week at Ijams

Summer is officially here because our Outdoor Adventure Camp began this week. That's eight weeks of activity-packed, fun-filled sessions of educational, environmental and outdoor activities. Wow! 

Roughly 60 kids a day for 40 days. Outside in the sun and water and fresh air where kids belong in summer.

Each week a different theme for campers ages 5 through 14. Most of the camps are full, but there are a few openings left.

WBIR Live@5@4 reporter Emily Stroud caught up with busy Camp Director Jennifer Roder today, outside with the kids having fun at Mead's Quarry Lake and Toll Creek

For Emily's report, click: Live@5@4

For more information, click: Outdoor Adventure Camp.

-Stephen Lyn Bales, text & photos 

One of our favorite campers with Jen Roder, Camp Director

Monday, May 23, 2016

Ijams Snake-ology class attracts curious naturalists, media

Ijams Snake-ologists

Ijams graduated a whole new group of snake-ologists yesterday afternoon.

Our Snake-ology workshop was great fun! After an indoor class where we learned how to identify the 12 most common snakes in our area and shared some snake-related yummy snacks, we ventured outside to look for snakes.

The mice-eating reptiles have been plentiful this season at the nature center, one even found its way into the Visitor Center. (But, naturalist tip #19: It's really hard to sneak up on a snake with 51 people.) Still yet, we managed to find one northern brown water snake in one of our ponds.

The -ology classes @ Ijams are light-hearted and informative for the young and young-at-heart. We schedule one a month on Sunday afternoons at the nature center

Correction: It was announced yesterday that in June it would be Hawk-ology, but the announcer (that would be moi) completely forgot about Turtle-ology. June is a very active month for the reptiles that carry their homes on their back. (And we thought we invented "mobile homes.")

Mark your calendar: Turtle-ology will be Sunday, June 26 at 2 p.m.   

 For the WBIR Channel 10 story about yesterday's Snake-ology class @ Ijams, click: Snake-ology!

Thank you, WBIR's Jerry Owens!

- Stephen Lyn Bales 

Young snake-ologists watch a rough green snake eat a cricket. Better than Animal Planet.

Northern brown watersnake

The great snake hunt begins!


Monday, May 16, 2016

Ijams Hiking Club meets to take on AC/DC

The Ijams Hiking Club met again yesterday to "Explore the Urban Wilderness!"

Volunteer naturalist Amy Oakey and Eric Johnson served as the hike's leaders; they picked the trail. And did they pick a doozie. The swirly, curvy AC/DC Trail, east of Ijams, which I am told was named by the bikers after the line from the quintessential rock group's 1979 hit, "Highway to...Hades." (Ijams is a family-oriented place, I can't say "Hell.")  AC/DC is a biker's roller coaster.

In all, there are now over 40 miles of trails built by the Appalachian Mountain Biking Club, and the Ijams Hiking Club plans to walk them all, yesterday we tallied 4.4 miles, on what my grandmother Pearl would have called a "drunkard's path." We also did a portion of Lost Chromosome and Chain Ring trails.

Our next hike will be on Sunday, June 19 at 2 p.m. And I'm sure Amy and Eric will find us a good one!

Thank you to all.

- Stephen Lyn Bales  

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Ijams Hiking Club explores the Urban Wilderness

Could the day have been more perfect for a five mile hike? 

I think not. A perfect day for the Ijams Hiking Club to meet. 

Ijams thanks volunteers Amy Oakey and Lisa Labine, both graduates of the TN Naturalist @ Ijams program, for leading the "Explore the Urban Wilderness" hike. 

We went to Forks of the River WMA and back, stopping to investigate all things great and small.

- Stephen Lyn Bales 

The inventor of the mobile home.

Kids grow up happier if they grow up outside, where they have space for their minds to roam.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

We practiced our nesting skills at Yardbird-ology

Thank you Sue and Judah for the wonderful strawberry-bird nests. Yum!

Last week's Ijams Yardbird-ology 101 class was great fun. We learned about the 15 most common year-round songbirds found near everyone's homes.

We also shared yardbird-themed snacks and went outside to build bird nests. And it is harder than it looks, and birds use only their feet and mouths. 

It was a perfect day.