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

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Chasing bugs at Ijams, yes we know, it's old school

The great Ijams Bug Safari was held this sunny afternoon. In all, 56 kids ranging in age from 4 to 66 chased insects and spiders around the grassy hillside near Jo's Grove. 

Using swept nets, plastic cups and raw enthusiasm the junior naturalists caught a table full of grasshoppers, cicadas, stinkbugs, butterflies, moths, crickets, katydids, leaf hoppers, beetles, roly-polies, dragonflies, damselflies, spiders and three pretty scary parasitic wasps. (The bug catchers were taught beforehand to avoid anything in the stinging Hymenoptera order but these, we guess, were just too tempting. Creepy is creepy, after all.)

Ijams has been a safe place for kids to connect with nature since the summer of 1923.

Next month we wade Toll Creek looking for crawdads and aquatic insects.

- Thank you Janet, Jen and Sara Cate for helping.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Adventure camp kids visit poetry-reading creek pirate on last day

The last day of Ijams summer Adventure Camp was bittersweet, but they had one last character encounter to cheer them up!

The adventurous kids found the hillbilly creek pirate Crawdad Willy guarding his lonely outpost on the eastern edge of the nature center.

When they came upon him, he was passing his time reading the "poyotree" of Miss Emily Dickinson. "The past is such a curious creature, To look her in the face, A transport may reward us, or a disgrace."

After they helped him decipher her cryptic words, he taught them a bit about the critters that share his "crick." Did he say, "sally-amander"? And notice the pickerel frog in a jar around his neck. That's his buddy.

To pass through the gate, the campers were each marked on the cheek with creek mud after giving Crawdad a gold coin...it is called Toll Creek, after all!

And Willy be the toll-taker.

Ijams is the home of imaginative learning.

- Jennifer Roder, education director

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Ijams Mindfulness Walk walks through field of dreams

Thank you to all who attended our Sunrise & Sunflowers meandering and mute mindfulness walk early one July morning.

We slowly serpentined in and around and through the sunflower and corn fields silently at Forks of the River WMA near the nature center, contemplating the moment—no talking, no cell phones, no hassle, no Facebook—each stroller lost in their own thoughts in the early morning sun.

We were living in the moment.


Based on the Japanese stress reducing, blood pressure lowering therapy called shinrin-yoku, or "forest bathing," mindfulness walks are short, slow, leisurely visits in nature that produce positive health benefits. NPR recently did a story about forest bathing, although since we were strolling through planted fields we should call it Sōgen-yoku, or meadow bathing.

With the stress of the modern world, mindfulness—being lost in the moment of the real world, not embedded in the electronic 24-hour news world—has become all the rage lately but we have been doing mindfulness walks for the past three years at the nature center.

Our next one will be Saturday morning, August 25 along Ten Mile Creek Greenway starting at Walker Springs Park. Wear old shoes because we may/will wade through calf deep water. To sign up, click: mindfulness.

And until then, go outside and sit under a tree quietly with absolutely NO electronics for one hour.

Mindfulness is all the rage across the country but we have been doing Mindfulness Walks at Ijams for three years.
Photo of our mellow strollers after we got back together as a group.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Campers visit old Sad Vlad and learn about trees

This past week, the summer Adventure Camp kids got to visit Ijams' senior resident shut-in, old Sad Vlad, the vegetarian vampire who lives in the Homesite basement. 

Time for breakfast. Is it dark yet?
Vlad is harmless to humans, he only drinks the blood of trees, a.k.a. sap, and the blood of fruit, a.k.a. juice. At night Vlad turns into a vampire fruit bat. This makes Vlad a frugivore not a carnivore.

Sad Vlad showed the young campers his leaf collection and gave them a copy of his nightly menu that has his favorite sipping trees: sugar maple, sweet gum, sassafras, tuliptree, wild cherry and red maple to name a few entrées. Or as he says, "Vlad eat ontrees.")

Ijams summer Adventure Camp specializes in outdoor adventure and imaginative learning; well, and it's fun too. (And, yes, Vlad knows Count von Count from Sesame Street.) 

Who will the kids meet this next week?

- Supplied photos by Christie Collins and Jack Gress.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Sunrise Stretches and Smoothies welcomes in the weekend

What a great way to start the weekend! 

Thank you to everyone who joined us for Sunrise Stretches and Smoothies hosted by Smoothie Queen Christie.

If you missed it today, we'll have additional dates coming soon. And heck. You know the sun rises every morning.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Ijams Hiking Club takes to the High Ground

Ignoring the heat—or maybe escaping from it—the Ijams Hiking Club ventured to higher ground, namely the Civil War site of Ft. Higley at High Ground Park and River Bluff Wildlife Area for the best view of downtown Knoxville and the river.

Ijams volunteer leaders were Amy Oakey and Eric Johnson

For Amy, it was a bit of a celebration/anniversary. She started hiking three years ago, tagging along with the Ijams Hiking Club to the same location. After that, she caught the hiking bug and has notched off all of the trails in the Knoxville Urban Wilderness twice and many of the trails in the Great Smokies.

Great hike. Thank you, Amy and Eric!

Ijams congratulates volunteer Amy Oakey for her life-changing accomplishment!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

TN Naturalists@Ijams spend a day for/with the birds

The 2017 edition of TN Naturalists@Ijams held its fifth class Saturday, May 20 at the nature center.  

This class was devoted to ornithology, the study of birds. Ijams' senior naturalist Stephen Lyn hosted the class

Because of the sultry forecast, the class started outdoors then moved inside to escape the heat. Under the shade of a sycamore, we talked basic bird-ology using a live red-tailed hawk as a teaching aid. What better way to learn about the different types of feathers—flight, contour, semiplume, down and modified—avian anatomy and field markings than looking at a gorgeous bird of prey close-up? 

And with titmice and Carolina wrens singing in the background, we learned about the different types of bird vocalizations. Not all bird calls are melodic. Warning calls are harsh and usually mean there is danger about, watch yourself. 

This is the fifth year the statewide program has been taught at Ijams. In all, it's 12 classes held once or twice a month until November. After students finish the 40 hours of classes and the required 40 hours of volunteer work, they become certified Tennessee Naturalists.

The next class focuses on herpetology: the study of reptiles and amphibians.

For a look back at our previous four classes, click:

- Supplied photos by naturalist student and commercial photographer 
Kristy Keel-Blackmon. Thank you, Kristy!