I Don’t Know its Name, so I Call it Magic

As you (re)discover the wonders of spring, consider the following from The Secret Garden:

“The great scientific discoveries I am going to make, will be about Magic.  Magic is a great thing, and scarcely anyone knows anything about it except for a few people in old books… I am sure there is Magic in everything, only we have not sense enough to get hold of it and make it do things for us – like electricity and horses and steam.

When Mary found this garden it looked quite dead.  Then something began pushing things up out of the soil and making things out of nothing.  One day things weren’t there and another they were.  I have never watched things before, and it made me feel very curious.  Scientific people are always curious, and I am going to be scientific.  I keep saying to myself: “What is it? What is it?”  It’s something.  It can’t be nothing.  I don’t know its name, so I call it Magic.  I have never seen the sun rise, but Mary and Dickon have, and from what they tell me I am sure that is Magic, too.  Something pushes it up and draws it.  Sometimes since I’ve been in the garden I’ve looked up through the trees at the sky, and I have had a strange feeling of being happy as if something were pushing and drawing in my chest and making me breathe fast.  Magic is always pushing and drawing and making things out of nothing.  Everything is made out of Magic, leaves and trees, flowers and birds, badgers and foxes and squirrels and people.  So it must be all around us.  In this garden – in all the places.”

Burnett, FH (1911). The Secret Garden.(pp. 185-186 ). London, England: The Folio Society.


Make a “Flora Explora” notebook!

We continue our theme of discovering plants during spring during our second Emerging Naturalists post, with the creation of a “Flora Explora” notebook. Spring time offers wonderful opportunities to learn about the plants, or flora, that live all around us. This activity is designed to help emerging naturalists closely observe and record plants that are sprouting and flowering at this very moment. By focusing on the very tangible changes that are happening to plants this time of year, you develop a personal connection with the natural world that is all around us, while becoming an expert on your local flora!  All that is needed is a note pad, pencil, and enthusiasm!

1)      The Journal:

Start by making a personalized “Flora Explora” journal- decorate with markers, pictures, stickers, etc.- maybe even bind your own! Whatever you choose to do, make this a journal you want to write in, draw in, and one that you can easily tote around with you.


2)      Begin by exploring a section of your yard, park, school grounds, etc. and note the location (so that you can find the same plant again). You could also record the weather, time of day, and date of observation of at least two plants that you find interesting.

Record any characteristics that stand out to you when you observe individual plants. For example: height/leaf-length, color(s), shiny/dull, flowers, buds, scents, etc.  Trees are particularly interesting this time of year because leaves are emerging or about to emerge…very cool to watch in action. You can record as many as you wish, just try to use a new page for each new plant. Keep in mind that these plants will revisited and new observations will be made upon each new visit to the same plant.

3)      Continue to do this each day (or when possible), recording new observations upon each visit. You will be able to watch plants grow over a period of time.

4)      Throughout your discoveries, try to use field manuals and your recorded characteristics to identify these plants. Maybe you can answer the following question- what are some differences between evergreen and deciduous plants? After several weeks, or once you feel that the plant’s growth has slowed, you can bid your plant farewell until next year.

5)      Save this note book, and see if you find the same plants next year- did they emerge/flower at the same time? Why do you think this is so?

6)      Take pictures if you can, and paste them into your journal. Wouldn’t it be fun to create a flipbook using your pictures?!

7)      Enjoy your time outside!!!

Skunks for dinner

What animal is one of the only animals to regularly eat skunks?

The Great Horned Owl, or Bubo virginianus!

Read below to learn more about Great Horned Owls:

Photo by: K. Bradley

Call: Hoo-h-HOO-hoo-hoo

Size: Great horned owls are 22” long, have a 44” wingspan and weigh about 3.1 lbs

Habitat: Open forests, deserts, suburban and urban areas, and agricultural areas

Diet: Small mammals, rabbits, geese, herons, birds, other owls and raptors, amphibians, reptiles and some invertebrates.

Fun Facts:

  • Great Horned Owls are nocturnal
  • Owls have binocular vision, and asymmetrical ear placement (one ear positioned higher than the other), allowing them to accurately pinpoint their prey, even in low light or darkness.
  • Due to soft fringed feather edges and wing shape, Great Horned Owls can fly nearly silently, allowing them to sneak up on their prey.
  • A common myth says that owls can turn their heads 360 degrees, but in reality they can only turn them 270 degrees (3/4 of a full circle).
  • Owls can rotate their heads 270 degrees because they have 14 cervical (neck) vertebrae, while humans and other mammals have only 7 vertebrae in their necks!
  • Great Horned Owls have 200-300 pounds of pressure per square inch (psi) in their talons…about three times greater psi than human jaws!
GHO Range


Finding Oregon: a video by Uncage the Soul

“We get so preoccupied with ourselves, the words we speak, the plans and projects we conceive, that we become immune to the glory of creation. We barely notice the cloud passing over the moon or the dewdrops clinging to the rose petals…we are so accustomed to buying prepackaged meats and fish and fowl in supermarkets. We grow complacent and lead practical lives. We miss the experience of awe, reverence, and wonder.”
Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel
A video to help you experience some awe:
From their website:
Finding Oregon is the compilation of six months of timelapse photography across the state of Oregon, punctuated by a 1600 mile road trip in September. We’ve filmed the Columbia River Gorge, Mt Hood, Mt Jefferson, the Southwestern Coast, the Alvord Desert, Leslie Gulch, Blue Mountains, Crater Lake, Eagle Cap Wilderness, Deschutes River, and more. We’re proud to have touched all four corners of the state; however Oregon is the kind of place that the more you see, the more places there are to still discover.

Fear of nature and environmental education

As part of an education class on human development, all of our graduate students complete a research project on a topic of our choice, related to environmental education, culture, and human development. I chose to do my research on ecophobia, or fear of nature, and have included a reasoning of why I chose this topic, as well as a summary of my results. My main method of research was reading articles and books and synthesizing the information presented. Works are cited at the end; if you are interested in this topic, I highly recommend these books.

Reasoning for researching this topic

As children grow up, they are influenced by the authority figures in their life, their own life experiences, and the time/place they grow up in. All of these influences play into the presence or absence of ecophobia (or ecophilia) in an individual’s life, and how those feelings are expressed. Ecophobia/ecophilia plays a huge role in environmental education, because whether in nature or not, how someone perceives the environment affects their reaction towards nature. This is important for environmental educators to keep in mind, since people’s reactions should factor into the design and delivery of a program.

Summary of findings

Influences/Causes of ecophobia:

  1. (Uncontrollable) frightening situation of object that individual experiences
  2. Seeing or hearing about #1 (above) from someone else
  3. Ignorance/misinformed/inexperience
  4. Cultural or religious belief

Wilderness and the American Mind

In this book, Nash tracks the American perceptions of nature, from colonial time to current time. In general, the greater the quantity of uncontrollable wilderness (nature) exists, the more Americans feared nature. As we developed into present times and began to live in cities or suburbs instead of fighting every day to survive in the wilderness, we began to perceive the same nature in a romanticized light. Additionally, as the “supply” of nature decreased, demand began t increase. Nash has a nice chart in one of the last chapters that diagrams this trend of valuation of nature based on supply and demand.

However, while this figure makes sense, it is impossible separate the progression of knowledge as it was gained over the years, and the migration of most Americans from living with nature to living on the edges of nature. The idea of the progression of knowledge and understanding of nature is important  as it relates back to the third cause of ecophobias (see above), but as it happened at the same time as the migration away from living in wilderness, it is hard to distinguish what actually led to the Romantic movement.

Beyond Ecophobia and Last Child in the Woods

The premise of Beyond Ecophobia is that we need to provide developmentally appropriate environmental education, and cultivating a sense of place and wonder before we ask youth to “save the world”.  Richard Louv also echoes these ideas in his book Last Child in the Woods, as well as the idea of crime as a deterrent to spending time in nature, and accessibility problems in getting to nature. All of this, he argues, has led to a generation that is completely out of touch with their natural world, and this has led to a whole host of problems in school, with environmental degradation, with relationships, and more. Louv would say that the main cause of ecophobia is inexperience with nature. This is a developmental topic because it influences so much more than just interactions with nature. It is also a cultural issue, as the place you live in and the people you are surrounded by, influence perceptions of nature.


I think it is important to distinguish between fear of nature and fearlessness, because while some degree of fear is healthy in helping people to avoid dangerous situations (like our ancestors did with snakes and lightning), it is not healthy if our actions and responses are out of our control, or irrational. The result of such fear is not healthy for us, the environment, or our society. Knowing the causes and trends of ecophobias, it makes it easier to appropriately design and deliver an environmental education program that will be successful, as in the Listening to Children article.


Nash, Roderick Frazier. Wilderness and the American Mind. 4th ed. Yale University Press, 2001.

Sobel, David. Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education. The Orion Society, 1996.

Louv, Richard. Last Child in the Woods: Saving our children from nature deficit disorder. 2nd ed. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2008.

Burgess, Donald J., Jolie Mayer-Smith. Listening to Children: Perceptions of Nature. The Journal of Natural History Education and Experience, Volume 5 (2011).

April Showers Bring May Flowers

Almost every week, we will publish a “Emerging Naturalist” post- a fun and simple activity, experiment, or basic scientific principle, written for kids and kids-at-heart! These will require little to no materials, and are designed to be a fun activity for the classroom or as an at-home activity with the family. We hope you enjoy, and as always, if you have any suggestions, please feel free to comment on a post or email us at seec@sou.edu.


You have probably heard the saying, “April showers bring May flowers”.  And if you are lucky you may be noticing the first signs of spring flowers popping up in your neighborhood, parks and forests.  As the spring showers roll in we can begin to enjoy the flowers that thrive on seasonal rains here in the Pacific Northwest.  One way to remember and enjoy this season is by pressing and drying some of these flowers using a hand made flower press!

The Materials you will need to make your Flower Press:

  1. 8 four inch by four inch squares of cardboard
  2. 10 four inch by four inch squares of paper (maybe there is some in your recycling!)
  3. 4 rubber bands
  4. scissors
  5. a heavy book

What To Do:

  •  Cut your cardboard and paper into 4” x 4” squares or ask an adult to cut your cardboard and paper.
  • Layer one piece of paper between each piece of cardboard until you have an alternating stack.
  • Find the middle layer in your stack of cardboard and paper and add one or two extra pieces of paper.  This is the layer you will use to press your flower.
  • GO OUTSIDE!  Find a flower that it is OK to pick, you may need to check with an adult, and place it in the center section of your press.  Make sure your flower is flat and sandwiched between to pieces of paper.
  • Re-stack all of your cardboard and paper so that the flower is in the middle and rubber band your stack together, making a lattice or criss-cross pattern with the rubber bands.  If the bands are not tight enough, wrap them around your stack another time.  The tighter your press the better your flower will turn out.
  • Just to make sure, place a large heavy book on top of your flower press and let it sit for one week.
  • Once your week is up remove the book and rubber bands and gently remove your flower from your press.  Sometimes your flower still needs to dry a bit after pressing, so place it in a sunny window sill and enjoy its beauty.

Things You Can Do With Your Pressed Flowers:

*   Glue them to a card

*   Make a pressed flower collection

*   Identify the parts of flower using the diagram above

*   Glue them to the cover of your nature or writing journal

*   Give them to a friend or family member


Have fun, continue to go outside and seek natural discoveries!

Happenings (April 2012)

This will be the first of a bi-weekly event and news post of what’s going on in the Siskiyou Env. Ed. Center (SEEC), locally, regionally, or even nationally. If you’d like to see your event here, please email seec@sou.edu. Enjoy!



NAI Region 10 Workshop: Take Time to Share the Best Practices in Interpretation!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012. 9 am- 5pm, Pacific Time.

Various locations: Portage, AK; Vancouver, WA; Tacoma, WA; Bonneville Lock, OR.




Student Sustainability Educators Webinar

Wednesday, April 18, 2012. 2-3 pm, Eastern Time

Register at http://online.nwf.org/site/Calendar?id=105921&view=Detail

 Feast or Famine: Food Stories

Thursday, April 19, 2012. 7 pm, Pacific Time.

Ashland, OR.




Rogue Valley Earth Day: Giving Voice, Taking Action

Saturday, April 21, 2012. 11 am- 4 pm, Pacific Time

ScienceWorks Museum, Ashland, OR.




Bee School

Saturday, May 5th, 2012. 10am- 4pm, PT.

Central Point, OR.


For more information, or to register, contact: xminerj@aol.com, 541-592-0327.


Master Gardener Spring Fair

Saturday/Sunday, May 5-6th, 2012. 9 am- 4 pm, Pacific Time.

Central Point, OR.



Bear Creek Watershed Education Symposium

Thursday, May 17, 2012. 9 am- 2 pm, Pacific Time.

Kids Unlimited, Medford, OR.        




Introducing Ted-Ed: Lessons worth sharing


Discovering natural wonders with the Siskiyou Environmental Education Center (SEEC)