Showing posts with label Youth. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Youth. Show all posts

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Cadette Troop 72905 Leads Earthday Event at Herrontown Woods

It was a special celebration of Earthday at Herrontown Woods, as the eight grade girls of Cadette Troop 72905 led girls from Daisy Troops 72835 and 71829 on a walk through the woods, followed by snacks and activities on the Veblen House grounds.

Lots of parents showed up as well, making it a family venture.

First stop was a vernal pool, just down the red trail, where there were lots of tadpoles to see. Anika explained how the uprooted tree had created a hole in the ground where water collects and lingers long enough in the spring for the tadpoles to grow up.

It was moving to see the older scouts helping the younger ones across the stream.

We stopped by the Veblen Cottage, on our way to the Veblen House. The black vulture, faithful to this site and also faithful to its mate, who has not shown up the past couple years, was standing near the corncrib. The last family they raised was in 2017, which is when we began appreciating them as remarkable birds, and abandoned the cliche of black vultures as a haunting presence.

Three members of the 8th grade scout troop — Anika Simons, Lucy Kreipke, and Katherine Monroe — have developed and carried out a work plan for their Girl Scout Silver Award project at Herrontown Woods. A letter in Town Topics describes all the work they have done to help us, including building and installing signs that tell the history of the Veblens and the house and cottage they donated for public use.

For a work activity, I thought the younger scouts were going to want to pick up sticks, but they got really enthusiastic about pulling garlic mustard, an invasive plant. It was easy to identify with its white flowers and garlicky smell, and they pulled every last one they could find, proudly bringing them to the wheelbarrow as if it were an Easter egg hunt.

The older scouts also provided snacks and led a stone-painting activity at the picnic table.

The event made us aware of our role as setters of the stage at Herrontown Woods. The stepping stones we laid over a muddy patch of trail, the picnic table donated by a board member, the colorful bamboo walking sticks the kids took along on their walk, fashioned by one of our botanical garden stewards--the work we do comes back many times over in the reward of seeing kids discovering the park, and contributing their positive energy to make it even better.

A couple weeks later, the 8th graders had a table at Sustainable Princeton's Greenfest at the Princeton Shopping Center, where they had a chance to talk about all the work they've been doing. A big THANK YOU to Troop 72905!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Weeding and Seed Bombing--A Girlscout Workday at Herrontown Woods

(Note: Join us for the June 24 Veblen birthday picnic.)

Thanks to Girl Scout Troop 72905 from the Princeton Service Unit, for participating in a spirited workday on a cool misty day. They started at the new botanical garden next to the Herrontown Woods parking lot, pulling out Japanese honeysuckle that would otherwise overwhelm the native species being planted there.

Then it was a short walk up to Smoyer Park, where the Friends of Herrontown Woods is taking care of a native meadow planted in the detention basin that catches and filters runoff from the fields and parking lot. The scouts mixed seed of native floodplain wildflowers and sedges into a shovelful of dirt, then made balls of a good size for throwing. "Seed bombing" is an activity originally mentioned by scout leader Pallavi Nuka, and we decided to give it a try.

Here, the merry gardeners are literally aiming to increase the plant diversity in the wet meadow.

It's a hail mari-gold approach to seed planting, although marigold wasn't in the mix. Species included rose mallow hibiscus, wild senna, ironweed, cutleaf coneflower, and several types of sedges. Already flourishing in the basin are big and little bluestem grasses, Indian grass, partridge pea and black-eyed susan.

The logic of the detention basin is to detain stormwater runoff long enough for it to seep into the soil and feed the groundwater reserves, rather than add to local flooding. The basin also makes a great place to show off the many native plant species that thrive in wet, sunny habitats. Kids, too, thrive in wet, sunny habitats, especially when they have rubber boots.

After the seed bombing, the girls stepped over the berm, behind the basin, to explore a seepage slope where consistently wet ground supports a lush natural wetland of sensitive fern, soft rush and sedges. With enough care, the basin could someday look this good.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Pre-schoolers Plant Seeds at FOHW's New Botanical Garden

Four young families, part of a volunteer organization called Mini-Mitzvah Corps at the Jewish Center of Princeton, recently planted seeds of native wildflowers at Herrontown Woods. The planting was hosted by volunteers with the Friends of Herrontown Woods (, which is creating a botanical garden next to the parking lot where visitors can learn about the native flora of Princeton. 

The children helped plant a part of the garden we're calling the Veblen Circle, named after mathematician and visionary Oswald Veblen and his wife Elizabeth, who donated Herrontown Woods in 1957 as Princeton's first nature preserve. The seeds of Joe-Pye-Weed, Cutleaf Coneflower, and other native species were collected from local wildflower populations by FOHW president and naturalist, Steve Hiltner.

Thanks to Marci Meixler for her efforts to organize the workday, and all the kids and parents who joined us for an enjoyable afternoon.

As we were finishing up planting, we happened to see a bald eagle flying high overhead, which we took as a good omen.

The seeds have since begun to sprout, with the help of some wet weather.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Princeton Charter School Service Corps Helps Out

One of the most satisfying aspects of tending to a nature preserve is the opportunity to work with local schoolkids. We were grateful on a recent afternoon for help from members of the Princeton Charter School Service Corp, who came out to do some much needed spring cleaning. First stop was the kiosk, for an intro to our mission.

Then it was up the trail, past the Veblen Cottage and over to the Veblen House, where the grounds were strewn with branches from winter's last nor'easter.

A couple students cleaned off Oswald Veblen's wooden walkway leading to the house.

One of the main goals of any workday is to get kids to work together, anticipating each other's needs. Even something as seemingly simple as carrying a log includes some built-in learning about mass and balance and logistics.

Students learned how to keep a saw from binding, as charter school's principal, Larry Patton, cut up a branch that had fallen out of the big eastern red cedar in the front lawn. History teacher Katelyn Schmitt (left) organized the workday and provided most of these photos.

An hour of intense effort left the Veblen grounds cleared, the better to appreciate the daffodils that Elizabeth Veblen loved so much. Most of the daffodils that once graced the lawn around the Veblen House had been lost over the years, due to crews beginning to mow before the daffodil leaves had absorbed enough energy to bloom the next year. This particular daffodil is one of many planted by Friends of Herrontown Woods last year, in ruts left by vehicles that had strayed onto the lawn. It's one of the ways we seek to make lemonade from lemons.

Thanks so much to the PCS Service Corp for their help!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Girl Scouts Help Out at Herrontown Woods

Thanks to Girl Scout Troop 72905 from the Princeton Service Unit, led by Pallavi Nuka, for joining us for a workday at Herrontown Woods.

The girls worked together to clear brush and cut invasive vines in an area of the preserve that will be planted with native wildflowers and shrubs that cater to the needs of pollinators in summer. Dense forests have few flowers in summer, but this area near the parking lot was a pine grove decimated by wind and ice storms, creating sunny openings for habitat that will complement the surrounding forest.

Workdays are a great chance to work cooperatively and learn how to use a saw or a pair of loppers safely and effectively. The kids and parents brought a lot of positive energy and capability, and got a tremendous amount done.

Afterwards, we went on a walk to see some of Herrontown Woods and show them where Oswald Veblen once lived, the renowned mathematician and colleague of Einstein. Veblen loved to clear brush, and would involve fellow faculty at the Institute for Advanced Study in the enterprise. He and his wife Elizabeth donated all this land back in 1957 for us to care for and enjoy.