It’s hard to ignore the swelling in-box and urgent news reports regarding Covid-19 and the current pandemic. Nor should we ignore them. We at Nature Net hope that you and your family are safe and healthy. We wish peace and well-being for our global community, too, as we navigate these unprecedented times. 

I have found that my worries subside as I carry on with (virtual) meetings, plans for the future (the draft version on the 2020 Nature Passport is in the works), and walks outside. I don’t need to emphasize to the Nature Net readership the amazing healing powers of interacting with and being in nature. You likely already know that greenness can help protect children from asthma and hypertension. Or maybe you’ve read the recent Yale article which highlights research proving that people who get 120 minutes of outdoor time a week are “substantially more likely to report good health and psychological well-being than those who don’t.” 

So, let’s get out there. And let’s continue to celebrate events like Earth Day and World Water Day – which is Sunday, March 22, 2020 – even if we can’t do it in groups larger than 10. 

 

More About World Water Day: 

World Water Day was designated by the United Nations in 1993. On this day (but really, every day) people are invited to 1) learn about the importance of water in our lives and the issues the global community is grappling with, 2) organize an event or take some form of action, and 3) share such activities with the greater community. WorldWaterDay.org provides branded materials (like posters, social media resources, and certificates) and you create the event. 

Although many events are shifting to virtual spaces this year, examples include film screenings, debates, press conferences, or fun runs. The idea is to call attention to the water-related challenges we face, raise awareness with policy makers, and encourage others to act. Each year has a different theme. The 2020 theme is Climate Change; hence, messages of hope they are promoting are: 

  • Adapting to the water effects of climate change will protect health and save lives
  • Using water more efficiently will reduce greenhouse gases
  • We cannot afford to wait
  • Everyone has a role to play

Did You Know:

The United Nations has established 17 Sustainable Development Goals for people and the planet. Goal number 6 is clean water and sanitation for all. Find out more about why this matters (from the video below) and the UN’s targets for success at UN.org.  

To Do This Month:

  • Visit Cherokee Marsh, Dane County’s largest wetlands, to observe how the plants and animals utilize the marsh system.
  • Learn more about World Water Day and events going on around the world to support it at worldwaterday.org
  • Play games, learn water conservation tricks, and join the Home Water Challenge at wateruseitwisely.com
  • The Nature Net Calendar is updated monthly with activities happening at Nature Net sites, so you can visit our website to learn about upcoming nature-based and educational events for you and your family.

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For Educators:

EEK!

The EEK! website has been around for years. Nature Net News archives show a reference to the site back in 2007, although I would wager a bet it was in existence in the 90s. EEK stands for Environmental Education for Kids and it was originally created and curated by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR). During the Walker administration, when the DNR shifted away from nature education, the EEK! pages were acquisitioned by the Wisconsin Green Schools Network (WGSN). 

The WGSN has worked over the past few years to update the site (by eliminating the Comic Sans font for one) and add new, relevant content. The site, as originally designed, is still geared toward young readers and offers dozens of info pages on Wisconsin’s native plants, animals, and ecosystems. The new platform, which was released earlier this month, transforms the original information into a 21st century visual and technological experience. Students can easily research, for example, Wisconsin mammals while teachers can rest assured that the information found there is reliable, research-based, and readable. 

Given Nature Net’s March focus on water and water issues, it’s certainly worth mentioning that the WGSN team has added a new EEK! section dedicated to the Great Lakes. This in-depth portal includes information on the Great Lakes watershed, ecosystems, weather and climate, human impacts, and musings on the future of the Great Lakes. Check out the many articles and project ideas there and in the Water Wonders section to fill our classroom time with water education fun. 

And for education during the Covid-19 era, EEK! is a perfect resource to connect your students with virtual learning. 

For Families:

Water Appreciation 

Given that Wisconsin boasts more than 10,000 lakes – more than Minnesota, depending on how you define “lake” but hey, we’re not competitive with our neighbor to the west (well, okay maybe when it comes to football) – it should be easy to find a local lake or waterway in your community. And given that time in nature provides a critical boost to our mood and well-being, I’d say it’s time to get out and appreciate a local body of water as we celebrate World Water Day. 

Now that the ice is breaking up on the Madison lakes, it’s a perfect time to walk the shores to watch for muskrats enjoying some fresh air, and monitor the migratory waterfowl making a pitstop in the newly thawed waters.

Nature Net member, Cherokee Marsh (North Unit at 6098 N Sherman Ave.) has 2.6 miles of trails, including a boardwalk and two observation decks overlooking the Yahara River. And the newest site to join Nature Net, Pheasant Branch Conservancy (4864 Pheasant Branch Rd.) has a natural spring where water bubbles up through the sandy stream bottom. 

Check the Nature Net website for more waterways (and trails) to explore using our updated listing of trails that remain open during the Covid-19 shutdown. Stay healthy and get your VitaminN!


Betsy bylineCopy of Betsy bylineBetsy Parker is an environmental educator and Director of Nature Net.
She is a strong believer in the power of #VitaminN
Funding for Nature Net and the Nature Net News blog
is provided by American Girl Fund for Children.