Spring Activities for Kids

As the sun’s rays shine between the trees, glinting off the frost covering the bare aspen branches outside my window, I can feel the promise of spring, even as winter weather lingers. I know that soon buds on aspen branches will burst with fresh spring leaves and winter will give way to a new season! The arrival of spring is one of my very favorite times of the year. It’s a great time to get outside and explore. Longer days, warmer temperatures, new leaves and blossoms, and the return of migrating birds await you.

There are so many ways to celebrate spring, no matter your age, but these are some of my favorites!

1. Go on a hike and look for signs of animals!
In the spring, animals such squirrels and rodents are emerging from hibernation or torpor (periods of long slumber, but not true hibernation). You’ll see signs of their activity such as chewed pine cones and nibbled plant shoots.
Make a simple chart to focus your observations. Sketch what you see!
– Scat (animal poop)
– Tracks (footprints)
– Forage (chewed pinecones, nibbled branches, etc.)
– Homes (nests, dens, etc.)

Come stroll the Museum’s many nature trails and look for signs of animals such as the golden-mantled ground squirrels and chipmunks, which are very active this time of year. Check the feeders in the wildlife viewing area for spring activity. Talk with a wildlife expert at the Museum if you have any questions about birds and mammals you’ve seen during your visit.

After watching the busy songbirds at the Museum’s feeders, get an up-close and personal view of raptors during our “Sky Hunters” program, offered for a limited run each year during spring break (March 24-31, 2018). Watch as powerful aerial predators take flight overhead in this intimate, free-flight demonstration showcasing each bird’s agility and grace. Date, time and price information can be found on our website calendar.

Families with young children will also enjoy exploring our “Who’s Home?” interactive exhibit. Watch as your little ones get creative, imagining they are snakes in the rimrock, just emerging from hibernation!

2. Start sunflower sprouts!
Sprouting seeds indoors before you plant outside helps the plant develop in a controlled environment. Or, rather than planting outside, have you ever eaten fresh microgreen sprouts? They are extremely nutritious, and, when grown in your own kitchen, very local!

By planting sunflower seeds inside, you can choose to transplant some outside where they will grow into tall sunflowers come summer, and save some for a delightful, edible treat.

Black oil sunflower seeds are my favorite. You can find quality seeds at a garden supply store, or by searching online.

1. Purchase quality seed. I use black oil sunflower seeds. Though other types will work, these are the least expensive.
2. Soak your seeds in warm water for 12 hours in a covered container. I recommend about two cups.
3. Drain and rinse.
4. Soak the seeds again in warm water for another 8-12 hours. (Repeat steps 3 and 4 until the seeds start to sprout.)
5. Once the seeds have begun to sprout, fill a clean, plastic nursery tray with moistened seed-starting potting mix nearly to the top.
6. Sow the seeds thickly across the entire tray then cover
it with another inverted nursery tray to block out the light. There is no need to cover the germinating seeds with more potting soil. Be sure there are some small holes in the top tray to allow for ventilation.
7. Water the tray from the bottom once or twice per day by setting the tray in a bigger tray of water for a few minutes.
8. As the shoots grow, they’ll push up the top tray (usually within a few days). At this point, remove the top tray to expose the growing seedlings to light.
10. Move the tray in front of a bright, sunny window.
11. Continue to regularly water by spraying shoots and soil with a spray bottle several times a day.
12. Harvest the sunflower shoots that you want to eat when they reach 4 inches high by cutting them off at soil level with sharp, clean scissors. Transplant the rest of the shoots outside!
13. Store unwashed sunflower microgreens in a sealed plastic bag in the fridge for up to five days. Wash them as you need them by running the shoots under cold water. They are delicious on sandwiches and salads!

By planting seeds indoors, kids get to witness every stage of the sprouting process, and then taste the results of their efforts and watch as their sunflowers grow and mature in the yard or garden.

Did you know?? At the Miller Ranch, the Millers are also getting ready to start a garden for the summer. Come ask the Millers about what they are doing to prepare their garden.
Spring is a prime time for sprouting in the great outdoors, too! Look for bud bursts and other signs of spring on the High Desert Natural History Walk at the Museum, offered daily.

3. Make a Bird Feeder
More than half of Central Oregon’s birds depart for the winter, leaving about 175 species that are hearty enough to survive the cold temperatures, snow, and scarce food. But come spring, migrant birds are returning and need to replenish after a long journey! Create this ponderosa pinecone bird feeder, and survey the local birds that come visit! Consider placing the feeder away from windows to mitigate collisions. Take it one step further and apply window stickers so birds don’t mistakenly fly into the glass!

You will need:
– Large ponderosa pine cones (found on the ground on an outside adventure!)
– Peanut butter (shortening for people with nut allergies)
– Birdseed
– String
– Butter knife
– A shallow dish
– And, of course, a place to hang your bird feeder! (a tree or bird feeder hanger work nicely)

1. Shake or lightly brush the pinecone to remove any dirt or debris. Trim off any loose scales that may break off as you create your feeder.
2. Tie string securely around the cone. Create a loop to easily hang your feeder from a tree branch.
3. Use the knife to coat the cone with a layer of peanut butter, pressing some between the rows of scales, filling in larger gaps. If the peanut butter is too thick to spread well, it can be warmed up slightly in the microwave to make it easier.
4. Once the cone is completely coated with peanut butter, roll it in the birdseed in a shallow dish, pressing lightly to keep the seed adhered to the cone. Work the seed in between the rows of scales.
5. Feeders can be hung immediately, or can be frozen for several weeks. The feeders do not need to be thawed before hanging.
6. Hang your feeder and carefully watch for visiting birds!
For bonus points, record the species you observe on eBird (www.ebird.org) – a partnership of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Audubon Society. There, you can see what types of birds other people have seen in your area, and share your sightings with others.

Learning about birds in your own backyard is an excellent extension of learning to complement your Museum visit. What do the birds in your backyard have in common with birds at the Museum? How are they different?

I hope you can use these activities to embrace the changing seasons! Spring is a blend of showers and sunshine, but whether sun or rain (or even snow), there’s plenty to explore to stay busy! When you’re warming up (or drying out) back indoors, continue your celebration of spring with these books:

Spring children’s books:
And then it’s spring by Julie Fogliano & Erin Stesd
Seeds, seeds, seeds! By Nancy Elizabeth Wallace
Seeds sprout! (I like plants) by Mary Dodson Wade
The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle
First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
The Stick Book: Loads of things you can make or do with a stick by Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield

Spring adult books:
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
Mind of the Raven by Bernd Heinrich
What the Robin Knows by Jon Young
Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver by Mary Oliver

To Blake Little, Gay Rodeo is Personal

Blake Little, Chute Dogging
From the moment he attended his first gay rodeo in 1988, photographer Blake Little was hooked. “I was completely drawn to it and I had to be a part of it,” he stated. “I wanted to be a cowboy.” Pursuing the thrill of his own cowboy dreams through the International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA), Little became immersed in the spirited Western community. As a participant, Little found himself in a unique place where he could draw on his passion for photography and use his background and skills as a photographer to document the gay rodeo through his camera lens.

Little knew, of course, that the view through a camera lens can be unique, often capturing the world from a different angle than seen when simply passing by. Through his photographs, he invites us to view things as they are, while also challenging us to see them from a different perspective.

What resulted was a series of 41 stunning black-and-white photographs taken between 1988 and 1992. On exhibit at the HDM from December 15, 2017, through April 30, 2018, Blake Little: Photographs from the Gay Rodeo, presents a glimpse into a little-known world, allowing us to explore a story with the intimacy of an insider’s point of view. In addition to representing Little’s own experience on the gay rodeo circuit, the exhibition also celebrates the lives of many of its participants during those years, capturing the spirit and camaraderie of a vibrant community. The collection elegantly combines the action of roping and riding, while also presenting a portrait of the courageous cowboys and cowgirls behind the scenes.

The exhibition, Little explained, memorializes his own “unforgettable experiences in gay rodeo,” and honors “the cowboys who competed with me and left a huge mark on my life.” Competitors came from a wide variety of backgrounds, yet the relationships they formed became some of the most important in their lives. The gay rodeo community offered the LGBT cowboys and cowgirls a place where they could be themselves and embrace their true identities. Despite the competitive nature of rodeo, participants were supportive of one another. “For me that was the most memorable and rewarding thing about rodeo,” Little stated.
Some of the rodeo participants pictured in Little’s photographs still ride, but many have retired and some have passed away.
Blake Little: Photographs from the Gay Rodeo is curated by Johanna Blume, assistant curator of Western art at the Eiteljorg Museum, and offered through the courtesy of the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Indianapolis, IN.

This exhibit is a program of ExhibitsUSA and The National Endowment for the Arts. 
Made Possible by Cascade Arts & Entertainment, Oregon Cultural Trust and Zolo Media. This project has been funded in part by the Oregon Heritage Commission, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. With support from the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation.

Blake Little, Chute Dogging, Phoenix, Arizona, 1989; archival pigment
printed on Epson exhibition fiber paper, 13.25 x 20 inches; Loan courtesy
of Blake Little.

Telling Native American Stories Through Art

Ben Pease has been awarded the Jury’s Choice Award at the High Desert Museum’s Art in the West exhibition for his 2017 work “Honor and Respect Come to Thee”. It was among 226 pieces submitted in response to a nationwide call to artists for the Museum’s annual juried art exhibition and silent auction.

Ben is a young Native American artist whose work is deeply steeped in identity. Born on the Crow Indian Reservation in 1989, he has deep roots in both the Crow and Northern Cheyenne nations in southeastern Montana. While Ben has been making waves in the art world for several years now, he is currently working on his undergraduate degree at Montana State University with a major in Art and a minor in Native American Studies. Ben considers himself a storyteller by vocation, and feels strongly that he has a responsibility to tell the stories of Native people.

“Honor and Respect Come to Thee” is a mixed-media painting that shows a digitally manipulated historical photograph of a mounted Native American warrior superimposed on a rich and layered background composed of washes of acrylic paint, glass beads, antique ledger papers, an antique mail envelope and a US telegraph ticket. The dense but transparent surfaces of his paintings are somewhat hazy, and we get the sense that we are viewing an image from memory through the fog of time. His paintings are accumulations of meaningful materials and processes, where successive layers of later marks obscure earlier ones. The ledger pages remind us that we need to account for the past, and the acrylic paint almost becomes a kind of whitewash, which reminds us of our desire to avoid dealing with difficult and unpleasant aspects of our national history.

Composed as they are of historical images that are depicted using a combination of traditional painting techniques and modern, digital processes, Ben’s paintings elegantly express the tension between the traditional and the modern. His works are almost a tug-of-war between the past and the present, and his imagery is a rich stew of culturally-transmitted memory and history seasoned with the awareness of what it means to live in America as a Native person today.

What draws me to Ben’s work is his willingness to make art that can speak to difficult and painful aspects of the past while at the same time celebrating the positive elements of Native identity today. His work is a tribute to people who have been tested by great adversity, but have retained a strong sense of who they are and where they come from.

“Honor and Respect Come to Thee” and the other works in Art in the West are on view in the Brooks Gallery through August 26. The silent auction culminates at the High Desert Museum’s gala, the High Desert Rendzvous, that evening.

Photo: Honor and Respect Come to Thee by Ben Pease (Jury’s Choice Award)