Keeping Up With Education at DNR: September 2020

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Photo of child and dog by stream

September 2020

Welcome to Keeping up with Education, the email newsletter all about
environmental education at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources!

Thank you for signing up for our new newsletter! This quarterly digest will keep you informed about what the Conservation Education team at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources is offering. Environmental education is a collaborative effort within the department and we provide news from our many units: information on upcoming workshops and professional development opportunities, learning resources for educators, and some fun environmental facts.

This will be a single source to stay current with education in Parks, Wildlife, Geology, Aquatic Resources, Fishing, and more. We look forward to engaging with you in this new format.

A closeup image of hands holding a monarch that has a small tag on its wing.

Nature Happening Now:
Monarch Migrations

It's migration time in Maryland!

When you hear the word migrate, you probably think of birds, or maybe even fish, but did you know monarch butterflies are now conducting one of North America's biggest migrations? 

The monarch butterflies that you are seeing in Maryland during the late summer and early fall will likely spend their winter in Mexico! They've been tracked through a community science program called Monarch Watch -- for more than 20 years, scientists, teachers, park rangers, and people like you and me have been tagging butterflies by placing a tiny sticker with letters and numbers on them. Sure enough, the tagged butterflies have been recovered all the way down in Mexico! This data is helping scientists learn more about the monarch’s migration pathways, as well as about their overall populations. Only about 1 out of 1,000 monarch butterfly tags are recovered, as it is quite a long and sometimes tough journey to migrate more than 2,000 miles. To learn more about some of the threats to monarch migrations, try out the Monarch Migration Mania Game (it’s great fun for kids!)

If you would like to see these iconic orange and black butterflies in person you can visit a nearby natural area with meadows or you can encourage the butterflies to visit you at your home or schoolyard gardens! If you would like to have monarchs in your gardens, you will need to make sure that you have both the host plant for the caterpillars and nectar sources for the adult butterflies. If you plant it, they will come!

Learn more about monarch butterflies habitat needs on our Wildlife and Heritage Service page.

At-Home Learning

The department offers a variety of learning activities that can be done from home. Below you will find a list of websites and programs that our units have put together for educators. 

Photo of bluegill fish

Sunfish and Students

Join the Sunfish and Students program and raise bluegills with your class! Bluegills are a type of small, native sunfish found everywhere in Maryland. They can be used to make a direct connection for students or visitors between their own watershed and the health of the rivers and bay. This program is open to classroom teachers or outdoor/nature centers. The department supplies everything – equipment, fish, and food. A teachers’ manual is also provided, which includes information on aquarium set-up and maintenance, care and feeding of the fish, background information, and lesson plans.

Photo of park map

Create Your Own State Park

The Maryland Park Service has challenged you to Create Your Own State Park! If you are looking for something exciting to do with the kids from home, this is a great option! Explore nearby nature and transform your backyard into your very own state park. You will learn about native plants, become a birdwatcher, experience camping, and go picnicking! The challenge goes through November 30.

Photo of kids looking out over a river

Park Quest 2020

Join Park Quest 2020: DIY (Do-It-Yourself)"! In the 13th season of this popular program you will be challenged to visit and explore Maryland’s state parks and complete as many of the DIY Park Quest activities as you can. All activities are self-guided and can be done at your own pace with your family. Park Quest 2020 activities will be available until Oct. 31. If you complete 12 Park Quest activities, you can enter to win prizes!

Looking up at the tree canopy from the ground and all the trees have their fall leaf color

Credit: Janet Kerr

Funding Opportunities

Funding is available to support environmental education activities and educator professional development, especially to assist with transitioning to distance learning to keep students engaged. The department offers two opportunities: (1) through the Aquatic Resources Education Grants Program, with a rolling deadline for requests up to $2,500 or $5,000; (2) through the Grants Gateway, a new round of support for Outdoor Learning (Outcome 4) activities through June 2022, including distance learning alternatives, for requests $25K - $100K, with applications due by December 16, 2020.

Bring us your ideas for creative programs!

Professional Development Opportunities

Looking at a river through a tree branch with beautiful red and yellow leaves.

Growing Up WILD

Attention early childhood education providers! Check out our upcoming Growing Up WILD professional development course, which will be half self-paced and half on Zoom. The course will run self-paced Wednesday, September 16  and live on Friday, September 25 two times, from 10 a.m. - noon or 2- 4 p.m. 

Save the Date: Chesapeake Nature Play and Learning Conference

Thursday, October 22, 2020
Discover a range of outdoor learning environments and approaches to natural play space design during this one-of-a-kind virtual event! Enjoy a day full of engaging workshops that highlight ways to take learning outdoors. Topics included in the day will cover health, green fear, design, and maintenance of outdoor spaces. Case Studies will also be highlighted from Colorado and local projects.. Held virtually and free, find out more information here.

Wild Acres Public Events Series!

Learn about local wildlife and how to help them in your backyards through online talks by local biologists. Most talks are free or low cost. Register here.

Sept. 24, 7 p.m. | An Introduction to the Maryland & DC Breeding Bird Atlas 3

A wasp hovers above a purple flower

Educator Tip of the Season

Wasps serve important roles as predators, pollinators, and parasites. 

As nesting season winds down, social wasps like yellow jackets switch up their feeding strategies. Instead of consuming nectar, they tend to shift to scavenging, causing conflict if food is left out in the open outside. To prevent conflict, keep food covered when outdoors and be mindful of visiting wasps.

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