Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 24, 2018

Tracks and Tales: Stating the Obvious

By Pam Holz

By the end of the hike, I kind of felt a little unnecessary.
“Hey, Pam, I just saw a green snake.  What kind is it?”  It’s a green snake.
“And the snake that lives in the water…?”  That’s a water snake.  Oh, wait, a northern water snake.
“That little bug that is hiding in that spit-looking stuff?”  That’s a spittle bug.  
“I hear something that sounds like a cat.  Looks like it’s coming from a bird, though.”  Catbird.  
“And these tiny flowers that look and feel like the toes on a cat?”  Pussytoes.  
It also made scientists sound, well, just a bit uncreative and boring.  Bluebird.  Red-winged blackbird.  Bluebell.  Bluegill.  Garden spider.  Gray treefrog.
I am sure I didn’t help my status of queen of the obvious:  don’t walk into the thorn bush; avoid poison ivy; don’t trip over that root.  Hmm, I think it was a bad idea to hide in the grass without checking for poison ivy first.  
I think, though, like common sense not being common, the obvious isn’t always so.  Should I actually need to tell a sixth-grader there’s a thorn branch in front of him at eye level?  Or that trees don’t naturally grown in nice, neat lines?
What if the obvious is contradictory?  Too much time unprotected in the sun can cause skin cancer.  But.  Too little time in the sun (like during a long, cold winter) can cause depressed moods.   
Maybe the obvious is, or can be, relative.  The sun on my skin felt wonderful as if I could actually feel the replenishment of vitamin D after such a long period of gray days.  Yet the class of fourth-graders all said they felt just plain hot.  
The obvious, perhaps, sometimes needs a little extra support.  Sure, we know kids need time to play outside.  However, doesn’t it help when we learn that scientific studies have shown that outdoor play increases attention, improves mood, develops creativity, and enhances social skills as well as provides healthy physical activity?  It certainly is good to know that what we think is good for our children really is.  
Again, this may be obvious, but I think we are fortunate in our county to have such a wide variety of recreational areas:  woods, rivers, ponds, prairies.  Areas that are developed, complete with trails, playgrounds, and other facilities (like Marr Park) and wilder areas, like Schmitter Heritage Area where you have to hike in.  Depending upon their interest, children may wish to bike the mostly level Kewash Trail or challenge themselves to the hills and valley at Sockum Ridge.  Maybe they want to target practice at Clemmons Creek (provided the adult is certified for the ranges) or just birdwatch at Hayes Timber.  Even hikes may be short or long, depending on where and which trail.  
Hopefully, our programs also add to the opportunities.  For example, this year, for free fishing days, instead of a pre-set program on our schedule, we are inviting you to come fish on your own.  During the weekend of June 6 – 8, fishing equipment and lessons, if desired, will be available at the Conservation Center at Marr Park.  Licenses are not required during this weekend, so it’s a perfect time for families to get their feet wet, so to speak, with fishing.  Borrow one of our poles and head down to the mini-lake to see what you can catch.  Equipment will be available during normal operating hours of the Center.  
If your kids desire more and wider opportunities to get outside this summer, we still have several openings in our day camps for all ages (preschool through seventh grade).  Registration forms are available at the Center or via e-mail wccbnaturalist@iowatelecom.net.  These three- or five-day camps explore Marr Park habitats and inhabitants in fun, hands-on ways.  Hopefully, not all we find is obvious.
Meanwhile, on my next hike, hopefully I will be able to sound a bit more creative and be able to use names like queen-of-the-prairie, shooting star, painted lady butterfly, kingbird or massasauga (OK, maybe not that last one).