Outdoor Experiences in High-Def

First Look Used with permission Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski
First Look
Used with permission
Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski

The Whole Class with Binoculars Used with permission Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski The Whole Class with Binoculars
Used with permission
Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski

Finding a Dead Nuthatch Used with permission Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski Finding a Dead Nuthatch
Used with permission
Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski

A Pine Siskin Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski A Pine Siskin
Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski

A Crow Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski A Crow
Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski

Two Nests Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski Two Nests
Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski

A hot, sunny, May day was Christmas for my avid 2nd-grade birders, when 35 pairs of high-quality Vortex binoculars and chest harnesses were delivered to our Edith Bowen Laboratory School classroom. We had secured a grant from the Utah Division of Outdoor Recreation to purchase supplies to enrich our school’s outdoor education program, specifically my classroom’s integrated focus on birding. Kids cheered when the binos arrived, knowing that we’d be able to put these powerful tools to work in the field. They scrambled to set up the harnesses and prepare the equipment for use.

Although the adjacent Logan City Cemetery is one of our frequent birding locations, it was going to be our first outing where all students had their own set of binoculars to view the world in high definition. We left the school equipped with our new binoculars, and students were thrilled about the awaiting possibilities. Long before we arrived at the cemetery the binoculars were put to good use, “Everyone look!” a little girl yelled, “an American Crow!” The sighting stirred commotion as 25, 7-year-olds scrambled to get into position where they could see the large black bird with their binoculars, as it bounced around the USU sidewalks looking for morsels of college students’ neglected snacks. Then ensued a student debate over whether or not the bird of interest was an American Crow or a Common Raven; the victorious crow-supporters claimed victory only when the bird flew away, revealing a fan-shaped tail.

Once we arrived at the cemetery, it was clear students were experiencing this environment in an enriched way thanks to the binoculars. Students spent much more time in each location throughout the cemetery, and there was more advanced and technical dialogue between students about what they were seeing. Students would call each other over to their specific viewing area to show them a bird they had viewed, and they would describe to the person how to find it in their binoculars. This description facilitated incredible spatial language regarding the location and reference of the bird, such as “It is halfway up the largest pine tree on the right” or “Look on the ground next to smaller bush!” One exciting shared discovery was sparked by a high-pitched, upsweeping zreeeeeeeeeeet sound that the students kept hearing. Throughout the walk, students kept using their binoculars to look for the culprit of the sound, to no avail. Then near the end of the outing a student erupted in excitement, calling everyone over to see the bird making the noise. Eventually directing everyone’s focus on the bird, the students discovered a small, white and brown bird atop a sycamore tree, which they identified as a Pine Siskin due to the distinguishing yellow color on the wings.

Other special encounters on this outing included the finding of a dead, Red-Breasted Nuthatch aside the pathway, and the scientific reasoning about who could have been the engineers of two different bird nests found in the grass under trees –a large one with a mud base and a small one full of human hair!

Reluctantly, hot, sweaty, and ecstatic kids returned to school after their first ever birding outing with binoculars and experiences they’ll draw upon forever. No doubt, the binoculars that brought these students these magical discoveries will do so for many kids to come in the future.

This is Dr. Joseph Kozlowski, and I am Wild about Outdoor Education in Utah!

Credits:

Images: Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer, Used by Permission
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright © Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections/kevin-colver
Text:     Joseph Kozlowski, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University https://edithbowen.usu.edu/
Additional Reading Links: Joseph Kozlowski

Additional Reading:

Joseph (Joey) Kozlowski’s pieces on Wild About Utah: https://wildaboututah.org/author/joseph-kowlowski/

Grants & Planning, Utah Outdoor Recreation, Utah Department of Natural Resources, https://recreation.utah.gov/utah-outdoor-recreation-grant/

Binoculars, Vortex Optics, https://vortexoptics.com/optics/binoculars.html

Grant assistance provided by Bridgerland Audubon Society: https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/about-us/grant-funded-projects/

YOU can inspire the next generation of birders, email seeking support for American Birding Association’s Young Birder mentoring program, June 12, 2024, https://api.neonemails.com/emails/content/N_INi5O3fy9qblwkA6KQ0BSTBplt7i-KGshPfQ0eZWg=

A Sense of Where You Are

A Sense of Where You Are Courtesy Eric Newell with photo Copyright Michael L (Mick) Nicholls

A Sense of Where You Are Courtesy Eric Newell with photo Copyright Michael L (Mick) Nicholls

Eric Newell, author, Wild About Utah, Director of Experiential Learning and Technology, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, USU

Eric Newell, PhD
author, Wild About Utah
Director of Experiential Learning and Technology, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, USU

I arrived in Logan, Utah for winter quarter in 1994—after history professor Ross Peterson recruited my three sisters and I to Utah State University, despite the fact that our dad was a University of Utah professor and Dean. I was the final piece of Ross’ coup and he flashed a satiating grin when I first visited him on campus.

Before entering Ross’s office, I stopped to stare at a promotional poster for the Mountain West Center for Regional Studies, featuring—I later learned—Mike DeBloois, wearing a brim hat, silhouetted against the Grand Teton in Wyoming. The photograph was taken by USU history professor, Mick Nicholls. The caption read, “A sense of where you are.”

This is how I first became acquainted with the concept of “sense of place” and the idea that the wild places I valued, the wild places that were part of who I was, and who I am today, had value on a larger scale.

As a College of Natural Resources (CNR) student, I enrolled in Watershed Science with Jack Schmidt and Wilderness in American with Mark Brunson. Later I took Snow Dynamics with Mike Jenkins and Environmental Education with Barbara Middleton. I was delighted that I could take college courses on rivers, on Wilderness, on the science of avalanches, and on outdoor education. Though I later changed majors, those CNR courses provided connections to places and to knowledge I’ve drawn upon throughout my teaching career.

The next year, I enrolled in English professor Tom Lyon’s course, American Nature Writers.

Tom was a lean man with a long easy stride you could pick out from across the quad on campus. I still have the books we read for his class: American Women Afield, A Sand County Almanac, Refuge, My First Summer in the Sierra, and others. Tom took us to Logan Canyon to witness the endemic McGuire primrose in bloom. We talked in class about the books we read, then we ventured out to the west desert to backpack and write.

“Walden was written with a pen,” Tom emphasized before reading a passage aloud to us:

“O the evening robin, at the end of a New England summer day! If I could ever find the twig he sits upon! I mean he; I mean the twig.”

Tom’s emphasis on “the twig” inspired fellow classmate, Tim Wagner, to make T-shirts inscribed with the phrase.

Tom was a key figure in establishing the Department of English’s literary journal The Petroglyph which showcased nature writing from 1989 until 2001. In the 1990’s Tom’s efforts were crucial in preventing much of Highway 89 in Logan Canyon from becoming four-lanes. Tom’s sense of place was contagious. Several colleagues in that course pursued writing careers.

I transferred to elementary education my second year at USU because I believed the most important life work I could undertake was to connect the next generation of humans to wild places. I didn’t want to grow old in a world with people who had no understanding of, or connection to, the land that sustains us. I didn’t want to grow old in a world without advocates for conservation.

Here is what I know—getting outside to interact with the natural world matters. Spending time outdoors boosts our physical, mental, and spiritual health. We form connections with those we share our wild journeys with and we develop “a sense of where we are.”

I am Eric Newell and I am Wild About Utah.

Credits:
Images: A Sense of Where You Are Courtesy Eric Newell with photo Copyright Michael L (Mick) Nicholls
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright © Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections/kevin-colver Also includes audio Courtesy & © Anderson, Howe, & Wakeman
Text: Eric Newell, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University
Additional Reading: Lyle Bingham, Bridgerland Audubon

Additional Reading

WildAboutUtah pieces by Eric Newell, https://wildaboututah.org/author/eric-newell/

Mountain West Center for Regional Studies, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Utah State University, https://www.usu.edu/mountainwest/

Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University, https://cehs.usu.edu/edithbowen/

Migration Maps

Migration Maps: Watercolor maps of Utah and Damitz Exhibition Catalog Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Watercolor maps of Utah and Damitz Exhibition Catalog
Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Lisa demonstrating sunprint map making techniques Courtesy & Copyright Eric Newell, Photographer Lisa demonstrating sunprint map making techniques
Courtesy & Copyright Eric Newell, Photographer

Lisa exposing sunprints with UV light Courtesy & Copyright Eric Newell, Photographer Lisa exposing sunprints with UV light
Courtesy & Copyright Eric Newell, Photographer

Processed sunprints hanging to dry, Courtesy & Copyright Eric Newell, Photographer Processed sunprints hanging to dry,
Courtesy & Copyright Eric Newell, Photographer

Author Yuyi Morales describes exploring how she and her son discovered their new home in the United States in her picture book “Dreamers.” “We are stories,” she writes, and it reminds me of a catalog of painted stories from my mother’s ancestry. My great-great-great-grandfather Ernst Otto Wilhelm Franz von Damitz emigrated from Prussia and settled in Illinois by 1848. The Art Institute of Chicago exhibited his paintings almost 50 years ago. In sharing my migration family history through his art with my friend Lisa Saunderson, we note his depiction of beautiful architecture, placement, order, and glorious castle views. Lisa unfolds the magic of visual art daily with students at Utah State University and Edith Bowen Laboratory School.

His paintings capture the essence of place, preserving his memory of home, both the home he left and his new one.

Lisa has taught me along with our students over the years to capture place in Utah’s deserts, wetlands, and mountains through artistic mapping. As we draw the Delicate Arch in oil pastels and trace with watercolor the bird migration pathways on the shape of Utah, she shares her wonder of place as one who migrated here herself.

My roots are very coastal, Canadian, both East and West, and I married a South African, we moved here from Cape Town. In the first year living in Cache Valley, I walked all over it with my little baby daughter. I pondered the landscape and the feeling of expectation I had whenever I heard a seagull. The sound triggered a visceral sense that there must be an ocean around here somewhere. The landscape held quiet, waiting to be understood. When I finally learned about Lake Bonneville, it all made sense.

Lisa, share a little about the cyanotype Utah maps you make with your artists.

In fourth grade we look at creating a map of Utah and consider animals, plants, even people. Heritage is tied to migrations, human and animal, recent and ancient. I teach that to the children so they understand the story of the place we are in. For example, our map of Utah is illustrative of landscape. The lines we use in our legend are descriptive. The state boundary is one kind of line. The indigenous territories are defined by a different line that continues beyond the state line.

The map is meant to be educational, a visual reference to help us remember all the people of the place. When we create our cyanotype prints, we use native Utah plants that have cultural significance and consider how animal and plant migrations don’t see ANY lines.

These sunprints developed by ultraviolet light help the artists imagine Lake Bonneville landscape, people living in this place, and yield evidence of the passage of time. Looking, then wondering.

Leaving and coming back to Utah, you find profound beauty and abundance. I’ve seen it over and over through a different lens as I find myself in new geography, and I see how the children identify places they recognize and have been. It is enchanting how you can watch and document layers of history at this place at this time. Consider how you might capture your experience of place through art the next time you are out in it.

I’m Lisa Saunderson and I’m Shannon Rhodes, and we are wild about Utah.

Note: Cyanotypes that Edith Bowen Laboratory School’s fourth grade students make are gifted to the Utah State Legislature and to the donors of the College of Education at Utah State University.

Credits:

Images: Watercolor with Damitz catalog, Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer, Lisa teaching the cyanotype map process, exposing the cyanotypes, and drying maps on the line, Courtesy and copyright by Dr. Eric J. Newell.
Audio: Courtesy & © Friend Weller, https://upr.org/
Text: Shannon Rhodes and Lisa Saunderson, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University https://edithbowen.usu.edu/
Additional Reading Links: Shannon Rhodes

Additional Reading:

Wild About Utah Pieces by Shannon Rhodes, https://wildaboututah.org/author/shannon-rhodes/

Bagnall, Laura. Cyanotypes: The Origins of Photography. Kew Royal Botanical Gardens. 28 February, 2023. https://www.kew.org/read-and-watch/cyanotype-photography

Hellstern, Ron. Journey North. Wild About Utah, March 19, 2018. https://wildaboututah.org/journey-north/

Hurren, Dick/Bingham, Lyle, A Moment to Think About Our State Bird. Wild About Utah, July 13, 2021. https://www.upr.org/environment/2021-07-13/a-moment-to-think-about-our-state-bird

Morales. Yuyi. Dreamers. Neal Porter Books/Holiday House. 2018. https://holidayhouse.com/book/dreamers/

Rankin, Jeff. Art Institute of Chicago Recognized Early Warren County Folk Artists. March 30, 2022. Daily Review Atlas. https://www.reviewatlas.com/story/news/history/2022/03/30/art-institute-chicago-recognized-early-warren-county-folk-artist/7202831001/

Strand, Holly. Last Blank Spots on the Map. Wild About Utah, Oct. 29, 2009. https://wildaboututah.org/last-blank-spots-on-the-map/

Simple Suggestions for Kids in the Field

Stopping along a hillside to journal the foliage. Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski Used with permission
Stopping along a hillside to journal the foliage.
Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski
Used with permission

Journaling in Silence on Old Main Hill Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski Used with permission Journaling in Silence on Old Main Hill
Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski
Used with permission

Even a leaf can be full of wonder for a kid Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski Used with permission Even a leaf can be full of wonder for a kid
Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski
Used with permission

At USU’s Edith Bowen Laboratory School, we call outdoor experiences with intentionality on observing and learning from the world around us, field experiences. With your family, a field experience could be anything from a simple walk around the block to a multi-night camping trip to the vast, High Uintah Wilderness area. Whether you’re a teacher trying to implement an impactful field experience with your class, or a family, looking for something meaningful to do with your kids, I’d like to share three simple techniques I’ve found help kids make meaning from the world around them when they are in the field.

One technique I’ve found useful is to dedicate time to embrace quietness. In a world where it seems like everything is moving at supersonic speed, and distractions include any number of electronic gadgets, the field can be a rare opportunity to connect with quietness and stillness once again. Although I often use field experiences to buttress relationships with my students by casually talking to them as we navigate nature, I always make it a point to devote sacrosanct time to quietness, and just allow kids to observe and think. It is amazing to see what kids notice and wonder when encouraged to enter nature’s classroom of silence. On a brisk sunny morning last spring, while sitting in stillness on USU’s Old Main Hill, a 7-year-old student of mine wrote “The leaves on the trees rustle, the birds sing to me spring songs. The leaves are good, the birds are kind. All of nature is right.’

Another technique I’ve found useful is to focus on the journey, not the end goal. I’ve found that kids, unlike myself, care little about reaching any certain destination. Instead, they seem fascinated by parts of the journey that I easily overlook such as a creek bridge formed by a fallen tree, a rubbled pile of climbable boulders, or a mucky beaver pond with hopping ribbity critters. It can be easy to feel like 45 minutes of kids scrambling around on boulders and creeping through crevices formed by the rocks is a waste of time because you’re not making progress toward your goal, but don’t be dismayed! Even if you don’t get that perfect family photo at the scenic overlook you so hoped for, the kids won’t care, they’ll just remember being professional rock climbers and scraping their palms.

Lastly, I’ve found it important to appreciate childlike wonder. You may have seen enough deer scat in your life to fill your planting boxes 10 times, but your children may be fascinated by the little brown/black nuggets. They may wonder what they are from, which may lead to discussions about moose, elk, and deer! You may find kids start to pose questions that challenge your own adult knowledge, such as how to distinguish between deer and elk poop! One recommendation here is to demonstrate adult inquiry and unknowing. Instead of whipping out your smartphone and getting an answer from the ChatGPT genius, model what it looks like to make informed hypotheses yourself, and leave the question open until later that day, when you and your child can do some follow up investigation on the questions. Oh, and by the way, I learned from a Teton Science School instructor that if you think the questionable dark brown nugget shaped scat could easily fit in your nose, go with deer poop. If it looks like it’d be a tight squeeze, you’re probably dealing with elk. And, if you’re thinking to yourself “there is no way in the world I’m getting that thing up my nostril!” you’ve likely discovered some moose droppings!

So next time you are out in the field with kids, give these few little techniques a try and see if it brings a bit more intentionality and purposefulness to your time in the majestic Utah outdoors!

This is Dr. Joseph Kozlowski, and I am wild about outdoor education in Utah!
Credits:

Images: Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer, Used by Permission
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright © Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections/kevin-colver
Text:     Joseph Kozlowski, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University https://edithbowen.usu.edu/
Additional Reading Links: Joseph Kozlowski & Lyle Bingham

Additional Reading:

Joseph (Joey) Kozlowski’s pieces on Wild About Utah:

Teton Science Schools, https://www.tetonscience.org/

Edith Bowen Laboratory School, https://cehs.usu.edu/edithbowen/

Rhodes, Shannon, I Notice, I Wonder, Wild About Utah, August 31, 2020, https://wildaboututah.org/i-notice-i-wonder/

Rhodes, Shannon, Wild About Nature Journaling, Wild About Utah, June 22, 2020, https://wildaboututah.org/wild-about-nature-journaling/