CEED launches nature curriculum in classrooms for upcoming school year
Ranger Eric Powers slid over a glass jar containing a St. John’s Wort and calendula oil mixture, the result of a four-hour Friendly Foragers session with participants grazing wooded areas for herbs and tree barks, then making preparations. Powers’ colleague, Elettra Wiedemann, who also leads the groups, commented that a woman who signed up recently wrote her. “She said, ‘I took a bath using the St. John’s Wort and calendula oil and finally had a spa day,’” Wiedemann reported.
There are many resulting riches a forest can ultimately yield. That includes black cherry bark, used in black cherry syrup, a centuries-old respiratory remedy.
“All medicinal professionals in the 1700s were botanists,” shared Wiedemann, who is studying medicinal herbology. Plants and herbs were studied and used for ailments; white willow bark, for example, is the precursor to today’s aspirin. “I moved here from the city when my son was born and couldn’t orient myself to say, ‘oh, that’s an oak tree, that’s a certain bark,’” she said. “So I thought, how can I educate people like me?”
Powers, co-founder and program and site director of Center for Environmental Education & Discovery based in Brookhaven, and Rebecca Muellers, co-founder and executive director, have been working passionately along with Wiedemann this summer. That includes the Friendly Forager sessions but also CEED’s first four-day Summer Nature Experience classes for children in grades 2 to 6 at the Post-Morrow Foundation’s headquarters by Beaver Dam Creek in Brookhaven. Both co-founders emphasized that in the last couple of years, the focus has been on CEED’s organizational structure and festivals. Now they are pushing out programs while they raise money to renovate the old Washington Lodge so that it can become a full operational center.
CEED is located at 287 South Country Road.
Mobile nature programs for schools and libraries
CEED is launching an initiative for schools and libraries so students and young people can witness live animals up front, learn about their habits, diversity and camouflage, hear about rainforests and then connect their importance to local forests, as well as other nature topics. “In schools, we can base a program for one hour with a question-and-answer presentation; workshops would be two hours, say, building bat houses,” said Powers. “CEED can bring those programs to schools challenged to pay for field trips, or to those that may just find it easier, but field trips are also available to nearby parks.”
Unveiling CEED’s conservation program
“We’re switching from incubating chicks to quail for our wildlife studies,” Powers said. “Once they are ready, I can take the quail and release them to various locations. Students would be part of the release process as well as their teachers.” Powers has conducted a quail study for 17 years; their population has been reduced to alarming quantities. “They eat ticks and they are our front line of defense,” he pointed out.
Customizing programs with subjects
A math teacher in an elementary school asked about devising a math project in the forest. “So we developed this field trip where kids conducted tree density studies. They mapped out a quarter-acre, counted the trees, estimated how many were in the park, and then how they could calculate an area for a field.” In another example, after Superstorm Sandy, a William Floyd chemistry teacher wanted a Beach to Breach program. “We did turbidity, dissolved oxygen, nitrogen levels and other data points and got to see the breach,” Powers said. “Then the students wrote up their recommendations on whether or not to close the breach. They all agreed to keep it open because it improved water quality.”
Meeting with school districts
“In September we’ll meet with the South Country school principals,” Muellers said. Powers said bookings from Nassau and other Suffolk County schools have been coming in. “I just got a call from the Bronx Botanical Gardens,” Powers said after checking his phone. Their immediate aim is to have CEED programs in William Floyd, South Country, Patchogue-Medford and Longwood school districts, adding others.
Upcoming CEED fall activities
Family Forest Walk: Sept. 7, fee, signup required
It’s International Forest Bathing Day! The walk, led by certified forest-therapy guide Linda Lombardo, is from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Really small kids are free. Signup at LIForestWalks.com
Family Day – Friendly Foragers: Sept. 14, fee, signup required
This four-hour activity-laden morning starts at 9 a.m. “We’ll plant, tie-dye, do crafts and wigwam building,” said Elettra Wiedemann. “It’s a celebration of nature and the beginning of a colorful season. We’ll make a brown watercolor from black walnuts. Pokeberry provides us with the fuchsia shade.” Eric Powers said catbrier and sassafras (a root beer source) will also be foraged. Details and signup at ceedli.org/friendly-foragers
CEED and Soil pickup days: Sept. 14 and 15, signup recommended
People can preorder products that are better for the environment as well as great quality birdseed. Preorders are encouraged so products don’t run out. Signup at ceedLI.org/green/lawn-sale
BIKE4NATURE Fall Festival: Sept. 21, bike registration required
The free public festival celebrating the autumnal equinox takes place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Bike-a-Thon is from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Register at ceedLI.org/Bike4Nature, donation requested.) The festival offers earth-friendly vendors, kids activities, barbecue and raffle tickets, live animals, reggae and flamenco music, free bike tune-ups and a live Birds of Prey Show.