Category Archives: Nature Center

Destination Recreation 5: Nature Centers

Welcome to the fifth episode of Destination Recreation! We take you through different Palm Beach County parks and facilities in each episode – giving you a unique peek at what you can experience at our more than 80 locations throughout the County.

On this episode, we take you around all three county-operated nature centersOkeeheelee Nature Center in Okeeheelee Park, Daggerwing Nature Center in Burt Aaronson South County Regional Park, and Green Cay Nature Center and Wetlands just west of Boynton Beach. These facilities are unique places where everyone — from kids to senior citizens — can bond with animals, learn about important ecosystems, and bask in the beauty of natural habitats – right here in Palm Beach County! The best part… they’re free!

Don’t miss an episode – follow pbcParks on WordPress or subscribe to our YouTube channel to see each episode of Destination Recreation, which is released monthly.

We make the quality of life for Palm Beach County residents and visitors better by providing diverse, safe and affordable recreation services, welcoming parks, and enriching social and cultural experiences. We achieve this by promoting wellness, fostering environmental stewardship, contributing economic value, and by improving our community every day for this and future generations.

For more information about our nature centers, visit pbcNature.com. For more opportunities for healthy, happy living, visit pbcParks.com.

Green Cay Nature Center hosts ‘Project WILD’ Workshops

“I cannot remember the last time I sat in a classroom for seven hours…and enjoyed every (exhausting) minute! Green Cay’s incredible Naturalist, Jessica Andreasen, taught a motivating, inspiring program, “Project Wild” to a group of educators, environmentalists, and others who cherish our wetlands. It was a wonderful and very meaningful experience! Jessica, you are an incredibly gifted teacher!”
-Shelley Hymowitz, Volunteer, Green Cay Nature Center.


20170620_095452_Edited.jpg

Staff at Green Cay Nature Center are helping educators teach students HOW to think, not WHAT to think, when it comes to conservation and the environment. The nature center recently hosted a Project WILD workshop for Palm Beach County educators to help integrate wildlife-based environmental and conservation education in their classrooms.

On June 20th, Green Cay Nature Center welcomed 20 educators from the Palm Beach County School District, home school, Broward 4-H, AmeriCorps and several nature centers for an educational, fun and action-packed day-long training, hosted by naturalist Jessica Andreasen. Jessica taught Aquatic WILD and Flying WILD, which covers wetland and bird topics – making Green Cay a great venue for the lessons.

“When I remember all the people who inspired me to pursue a career in environmental education, I am proud to bring Project WILD to Green Cay as a host site and have this incredible opportunity,” Jessica said, adding that she is grateful for the opportunity “to not only teach children, but now guide educators towards incorporating these important topics into their classrooms.”

Jessica will hold a Project WILD workshop at least once a year, and already uses a lot of the activities for Green Cay’s school, public and specialty programs. Facilitators like Jessica must attend a certification program, a day-long “Train-The-Trainer” class, in order to host their own workshop.

20170620_104138_edited.jpg

In addition to Aquatic WILD and Flying WILD, a new topic will be introduced as continuing education for those who have taken the core workshops. Conserving WILD covers current conservation issues, environmental policy, and conservation-based activities that can be found in all four activity guides. This workshop will discuss the importance of incorporating a conservation message into every activity to help children not only learn about the topic, but to also understand the need for conservation and preservation efforts.

“It is my hope that by being an advocate for Project WILD activities, we can work with educators to find creative but easy ways to encourage the next generations to be passionate about wildlife, conservation and the environment,” Jessica said.

About Project WILD19400534_1439646286097012_7208021712814310910_o_edited.jpg

Project WILD, which stands for Wildlife in Learning Design, is an internationally-used environmental education program aimed at arming both formal and informal educators alike with the knowledge and skills to teach environmental education in their own classrooms. These activities are ideal for many audiences: formal K-12 classroom instruction, non-formal teaching, and summer camp programs emphasizing the environment.

Project WILD Florida is sponsored by the Council for Environmental Education, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network (FYCCN). Through this sponsorship, all the books and materials for this workshop were free of charge, giving facilitators like Jessica the opportunity to reach a larger audience by being able to offer the workshops with no associated costs to the participants. The Friends of Green Cay Nature Center sponsored the workshop with refreshments.

For more information about Project WILD, visit these links:

http://www.projectwild.org/

http://myfwc.com/education/educators/project-wild/

For more information about the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department, including efforts to promote stewardship of natural, archaeological and cultural sites, visit pbcParks.com.

Where to See and Interact with Live Animals in #pbcParks

 

Riverbend_Park_1.JPGAnimals abound in #pbcParks! As stewards of natural habitats, Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation strives to maintain the habitats of a variety of animals that live in and frequent our parks and nature centers. Conserving these habitats makes visitors more aware of the ecosystem in Palm Beach County, and visiting children and families get a fun, educational experience that generates interest in contributing to conservation efforts. Find out where you can see all sorts of animals in our parks & facilities.

Interact with animals in our Nature Centers

  • Okeeheelee Nature Center: OKNC is situated inside Okeeheelee Park in West Palmokeeheelee_nature_center_2 Beach. Parents and kids have a number of opportunities to see and interact with animals inside the facility, and spot plenty of animals around the park and nature center. The nature center offers programs like deer and raptor walks where parents and kids can get a behind-the-scenes look at the center’s deer and raptor compounds, and free guided nature walks through the Pine Flatwoods Forest to learn about the plants and animals living there. Reptiles, raptors and deer are just a few of the animals kids and parents can learn about while visiting OKNC exhibits, as well as while talking to our passionate naturalists.
  • Daggerwing Nature Center: Venture out to Daggerwing Nature Center in Burt Aaronson South County Regional Park, west of Boca Raton, and explore the grounds Daggerwing_Nature_Center_9.JPGto spot the famous Daggerwing Butterfly, turtles, birds, snakes and more, in and around the facility. Inside, visit the exhibit hall, where you can see live reptiles and more, a bee theater, leaf rubbings and a nature video. Outdoors, gaze at the Florida Federation of Gardens Certified Butterfly Garden, where you’ll find a variety of the beautiful winged creatures. There is also a 40-acre nature preserve outside the facility, as well as a 0.6-mile boardwalk and observation tower, which is a great opportunity to spot wild birds, turtles, insects and others in their natural habitats.
  • Green Cay Nature Center: Located in Boynton Beach, Green Cay Nature Center is similar to Daggerwing and Okeeheelee Nature Centers. In addition to the animals you can see and interact with at the facility’s exhibits and during special GreenCay_Nature_Center_4.jpgprograms, the mile-long Chickee Hut Trail and 1/2 mile-long Tropical Hammock Trail allows visitors to spot all sorts of wildlife livingin marsh, open water pond areas, forested wetlands, and tree islands. Waterfowl, diving birds, moorhens, sparrows and more thrive in these environments, and bobcats have been found hiding within the shrubbery. Visit Green Cay Nature Center’s Bird Checklist on pbcparks.com, and you’ll find there are dozens of birds to be discovered in and around the facility.

Live animals in popular #pbcParksRiverbend_Park_2.JPG

  • Riverbend Park: A massive 665-acre park located in Jupiter, a trip to Riverbend Park will always be accompanied by a plethora of different animal species. Walk, bike or jog through the many trails where you and your family can spot deer, rabbits, turkeys, as well as other wild birds, insects and reptiles. Adjacent to Riverbend Park is Loxahatchee River Battlefield Park, where you’ll be able to see much of the same wildlife. Choose to go kayaking at Riverbend Park, and you’ll most likely spot some interesting fish, turtles, and other water wildlife.
  • Regional Parks: regional parks such as John Prince Park in Lake Worth, Okeeheelee Park in West Palm Beach, and Burt Aaronson South County Regional Park in Boca Raton provide the perfect opportunities to spot squirrels, lizards and wild birds, which can all be spotted from safe distances. Walk through paved trails at each of these parks and find all sorts of beautiful and interesting creatures!jpp_squirrel

For more about spotting and interacting with animals in our parks and nature centers, visit pbcParks.com.

One Penny Sales Surtax: Palm Beach County Parks & Recreation

What would the One Penny Sales Surtax mean for Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Facilities? What this video for the facts.

For more information on the One Penny Sales Surtax, visit OneCountyOnePenny.org.

The mission of the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department is to make the quality of life for Palm Beach County residents and visitors better by providing diverse, safe and affordable recreation services, welcoming parks, and enriching social and cultural experiences. We achieve this by promoting wellness, fostering environmental stewardship, contributing economic value, and by improving our community every day for this and future generations.

How local parks can help families bond

Families who visit any of our 84 parks and facilities may find themselves experiencing a variety of mental, physical and social benefits that allow for greater bonding experiences. ”Families who play together, stay together,” is an important philosophy when it comes to enjoying our park system as a family. Check out exactly how a trip to our parks can improve your family’s well-being!

Physical

With thousands of acres of park land available for roaming, running and discovering, riverbend_kayaking_2parks allow for plenty of physical activity for both kids and adults. Whether you’re a family that enjoys water activities like swimming at any of our six pools and aquatic facilities, splashing and sliding at our two water parks, snorkeling at Phil Foster or DuBois Parks – or if you’re a land family who prefers strolling along boardwalks and trails at our nature centers, mountain biking at three trail locations, or simply enjoying some daytime play on our colorful and interactive playgrounds, there are so many ways parents and kids can get moving together. The physical activity opportunities available in our parks are so fun, the kids won’t even know they’re exercising! Among the many benefits of physical activity are increased fitness levels and a lower risk of obesity, and healthier bodies lead to healthier minds. Getting exercise at our parks and facilities will not only benefit the bodies and minds of adults, but will be setting a trend for children to continue the lifestyle as they age.

Mental

CoralCoveBeach.jpgAccording to the Florida Department of Health, there are a variety of mental health issues that both adults and kids in Palm Beach County face on a daily basis, including poor self-esteem, anxiety, depression, tension and stress. However, studies show physical activity and interacting with nature can improve your quality of life. By simply walking through the many trails and green space offered at parks like Riverbend, Okeeheelee, John Prince and more, families have the opportunity to escape from the pressures of everyday life that they face at school, work and even home. Our parks allow for tranquil getaways with the ones you love. For instance, Palm Beach County is the perfect location for beach days and evenings, and we offer 16 beach locations [Peanut Island and Phil Foster are located in the Intracoastal] where you and the kids can feel the ocean breeze on your face and watch the waves crash, putting your minds at ease. Mental health also plays an important role in one’s ability to maintain good physical health, make better health decisions, and live as healthy, productive citizens. To watch a short video on the mental health benefits of visiting our local parks, click here.

Social

If you and your family are looking for opportunities to bond on a social level, look no further than the Palm Beach County park system. Discovering new parks, trails, lakes and more will create a curious mindset in children. For instance, when visiting Okeeheelee, Green Cay or Daggerwing Nature Centers, kids can discover all sorts of animals and plants – and parents will have a blast learning along with their kids. Parents have the opportunity to teach and learn alongside their children, creating a bond kids will remember. There are so many opportunities to learn new things at our parks, from biking and kayaking to cultural and historical experiences, participating in these activities allow for asking and answering new questions, as well as unique chances for both parents and children to interact on a whole new level.

For park locations, visit www.pbcparks.com.southcounty_playground

Okeeheelee Nature Center Welcomes Specialty Camps, Field Trips

Did you know that our Nature Centers are the perfect field trip and camp destinations?  Okeeheelee Nature Center recently hosted a week-long specialty camp, where kids canoed, built bird houses, interacted with birds and deer that live at the Nature Center, and more. During a field trip to Okeeheelee, Green Cay or Daggerwing Nature Centers, kids can enjoy some of the same interactive and educational activities, like owl pellet dissection and animal encounters.

Okeeheelee Nature Center is operated by the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department. We operate more than 80 regional, district, community, beach, and neighborhood parks, spanning several thousand acres. Our mission is to make the quality of life for Palm Beach County residents and visitors better by providing diverse, safe and affordable recreation services, welcoming parks, and enriching social and cultural experiences. This is achieved by promoting wellness, fostering environmental stewardship, contributing economic value, and by improving our community every day for this and future generations.

Visit pbcParks.com for more information.

Thousands Celebrate the Night at Dark Sky Festival

It’s not often we get a chance to turn down the lights and take in the beauty that the night sky has to offer. On Saturday, February 27, over 2,000 Palm Beach County residents, tourists, adults, kids, and nature lovers alike did just that – for free – at the fourth annual Dark Sky Festival.

People of all ages visited Palm Beach County’s Okeeheelee Nature Center from 6-10 p.m. to escape the glowing lights we are so often bombarded by, to gaze at the stars, learn about animals, and enjoy the peacefulness of the dark while having fun with their friends, family, and loved ones.

Campfire, animals, movies & more!

The night was filled with opportunities for visitors to roam the grounds, enjoying the DSC_0036
darkness. Indoors, owls, snakes, lizards and turtles gave animal lovers a chance to learn about the animals that depend on the dark for survival. Curious kids took turns dissecting owl pellets, and visitors of all ages learned about owls and bats through presentations from passionate experts.

Outdoors, active guests enjoyed guided nature hikes through the dark, while others gazed at stars and planets through telescopes. An outdoor classroom allowed guests to soak in the beauty of the night sky, while listening to campfire stories and eating s’mores.

Benji Studt, the Environmental Program Supervisor with Palm Beach County’s Environmental Resources Management, taught a workshop that introduced participants to Palm Beach County’s natural areas and the photographic and recreational opportunities that lay right outside our front doors. “I introduced participants to some tools to improve their composition skills,” said Studt.

IMG_3975_PSStudt then handed the workshop over to local artist and FAU student Max Jackson, who taught the class about techniques to photograph the night sky. After the presentation, the class enjoyed Jackson’s new short film, “Pitch Black Light, A Journey Through America’s Darkest Skies”, which shows time-lapse footage of the stars passing by iconic landscapes from across the country.  The film is a compilation of footage over the last two years, when Jackson spent his summers chasing the darkest skies in the country.  Watch “Pitch Black Light, A Journey Through America’s Darkest Skies” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQdijzuCe3A

 What is light pollution?

Seeing_Stars_Poster

The goal of the event was to teach visitors about the negative affects of light pollution and to encourage better practices with lighting. Guided night hikes, a campfire and s’mores, outdoor movies, photography workshops, bat and owl presentations, live wildlife exhibits, among other activities, helped guests appreciate the darkness.

Light pollution is the “introduction of artificial light into the environment”. The event focused on the impacts of light pollution, and the benefits of having natural night skies. Excessive light pollution threatens humans and many animals, including sea turtles, owls, bats, and others that depend on the dark sky for survival. Excessive light pollution may also waste electricity and destroy the beauty of the night sky.

Why should we “turn down the lights”?

DSC_0056Various experts, photographers, and astronomers were on hand Saturday to explain the dangers of light pollution.

“Turning down the lights helps us all,” said Studt. According to Studt, light pollution impacts a variety of animals. “The natural light provided by the night sky gives sea turtle hatchlings the ability to find the ocean when they hatch.”

Furthermore, Studt explained that migratory birds use the night sky as a roadmap to their seasonal destinations, and humans feel effects to their circadian rhythm as a result of light pollution.

“We are literally losing our stars because of light pollution,” said Callie Sharkey, manager at Okeeheelee Nature Center, who also cited research that links artificial light to breast cancer, while Studt explained, “artificial light pollution is now being linked to human disorders such as obesity and depression.”

What can you do to help?

 In addition to educating the public on the effect of light pollution, the event aimed to increase awareness on what steps can be taken to help fix the problem. You can start helping today:

  1. Check your home lights – is glare hiding potential intruders? Do your lights shine down, or out and up where energy is wasted?
  1. Turn off unnecessary lights – and use motion sensor switches for effective deterrence.
  1. Shield and lower lights, and use dark-sky friendly fixtures.
  1. Spread the word – tell businesses when you see that their lights are bad. Bad lights aren’t just unpleasant, they’re harmful, especially in coastal areas where turtles nest.

An annual event

 Each year, thousands of enthused visitors make their way to Okeeheelee Nature Center to gaze at the stars and learn about what they can do to make the night sky more visible for humans and animals the depend on it. “We had people from all ages and demographics, and the response is overwhelmingly positive…people were impressed with how unique the event was,” said Sharkey.DSC_0015

This annual event is one of the largest dark sky events in the country; it was made possible through a partnership between the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department, Environmental Resources Management Department, International Dark-Sky Association, among others.

For more information on how you can help fix the problem of light pollution, please visit the International Dark-Sky Association, www.darksky.org.

View photos on Flickr

This slideshow requires JavaScript.