Bringing nature to your backyard

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New program connects families with nature

By A. Tischler 

It may be cold outside, but at the Monon Community Center, a new program is helping residents prepare for the warmer months and get back in touch with nature.

The Indiana Wildlife Federation, a state affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation, is partnering with Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation to pilot “What’s In Your WILD Backyard?” Kids and adults alike are welcome to attend the Saturday sessions scheduled from 10 to 11:30am on March 7, 14, 21 at the Monon Community Center. The cost will be $45 per family.

Attendees will learn about Indiana’s native plants and animals, explore the link between their backyards and larger habitats, and gain useful skills for creating a wildlife friendly backyard. Fun hands-on activities like crafts, play-acting and scientific discovery games will help children learn while adults develop customized landscape plans for their backyards.

At the end of the program, participants will receive a complimentary one year membership to the Indiana Wildlife Federation. Member benefits include seasonal field trips, a quarterly newsletter, invitations to membership appreciation events, updates on important state conservation issues, and more. Participants will also be given an in-depth guide to local resources that will be useful when they begin to transform their backyards.

Barb Simpson, IWF’s executive director, described the program as an opportunity to connect families with nature and address a major conservation issue simultaneously.

“It’s [the program]important because habitat loss is one of the greatest threats to wildlife. Many people don’t realize how significant their backyards are to the survival of native species, especially bees, butterflies, and other wildlife. Little patches of habitat can be stepping stones that create safe corridors for animals looking for food, water, and shelter. No backyard’s too small. We want to give people the tools to create those patches. At the same time, they get to enjoy beautiful backyards and take advantage of everything nature has to offer.”

Topics that will be covered include invasive species control, sustainable lawn maintenance, and ways to attract beneficial wildlife like pollinators. Whether first time explorers or seasoned outdoors people, everyone will be able to participate in the program which will also address common concerns like allergies and nuisance animals.

Kids and adults will learn about the same themes but will have different activities so that each group can learn at their pace and level.

At the end of every session, families will come together for engaging activities like a scavenger hunt and building bird and bughouses. Book recommendations and suggested at-home activities will be included so families can continue experiencing nature after class ends.

Simpson explained why the program emphasizes children’s activities and education. She said, “There is a growing movement to bring children and nature back together. Richard Louv’s book, “Last Child in the Woods,” brought a lot of attention to nature deficit disorder and got people thinking about how being in the outdoors affects behavior and health.  Our program taps into that and tries to improve kids’ lives and local communities.”

IWF previously worked with Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation to make Central Park a Certified Wildlife-Friendly Habitat. The park, home to the Monon Community Center, is an ideal location for the program as a result.

The certification process ensured that the park provides for wildlife’s four basic needs: food, water, shelter, and a place to raise young. Class participants will explore the park and see an example of wildlife friendly landscaping firsthand.

The program’s timing was chosen to help residents get ready for spring planting. However, for those with busy March schedules, two summer sessions will also be available in late May and early June. An adults-only version is also being developed for summer.

Registration for “What’s In Your WILD Backyard?” is open and can be completed online at www.carmelclayparks.com. Dates for the summer sessions will be available soon and will be posted at www.indianawildlife.org.


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