Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Facebook Photo Contests are on again

It's been a while since we had a photo exhibit+contest on our Facebook page. Let's see if we can get our collective lens caps dusted off and share some more photos. Facebook's structure has changed, so we can no longer do the contests in "events" with ease (thanks, Facebook). So we'll have to resort to a collective album and email and see how it goes.

TOPIC: The topics for September will be (1) water plants, and (2) plants from Duke Gardens plant sales growing in your own gardens.

HOW TO ENTER: Email up to 3 photos for each contest to DukeGardensPhotos@yahoo.com. At least 5x7" or larger at 72 ppi is best, but if you don't know how to resize photos, feel free to send them as is, 1 per email. We will post them in an album on Facebook, with your Facebook name in the photo description. You can then add more information about the photo if you like, and encourage your friends to come see it and vote. You may also post the photo on our wall, but be sure to email it as well, so that it's officially in the contest and album. Only "like" votes on the album photos will count in vote tallies.

PRIZES: We'll have prizes for most "like" votes as well as judges' awards. First prize is a Duke Gardens 2012 calendar. 2nd prize: Duke Gardens greeting cards or a 75th anniversary T-shirt. 3rd prize: discount coupon for the Terrace Shop. Entrants may only win one prize per contest theme.

SHARE: Even if you're not interested in prizes or contests, we'd love for you to share your photos just for fun. We look forward to seeing your favorites.

LEARN MORE: Please check out our education & event listings for photo courses that you may enjoy. We also have a Nature Photography Certificate program that may interest you.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Exploring nature with children

By Jan Little

Most of us live in some kind of building, one that we call home. But in a larger sense we live in the entire world. That world can be a mysterious place, or it can feel just like home. Imagine a child’s excitement when he can find evidence of animal and insect homes in his own back yard, or know which plants feed the butterflies. Families and children can learn together at Duke Gardens in a variety of classes for all ages.

Water is one of the topics we will explore in a class (pre-registration required) for children ages 6 to 8. Water is necessary for all life, but we rarely think about its source or the water cycle. Most children are surprised to learn that water is a limited resource; additional water is not being shipped in from outer space.
In the program “Drip Drop: Be a Raindrop for the Day,” we will consider how water moves around our planet, beginning by tracing its path in the garden. The children can imagine where they would go if they were raindrops, moving through the garden in drips and splashes or through small streams, watering the plants, and finally joining the ponds and pools before it moves beyond the Gardens’ borders.
Once we are in a watery frame of mind, we can then think about water as a transformer. Liquid, vapor, fog, ice, snow, sleet—how many forms of water can you think of? Regardless of its form, the water we sip today has been moving around this planet for a long time. The water in your cup could be the same water used by George Washington to cook his green beans, or Genghis Kahn could have washed his hands in those very same water molecules, or a dinosaur could have splashed through this water millions of years ago. Water doesn’t go away; it just transforms and moves around the planet over and over.
This class will include creating your own water cycle in a plastic bag, with a pond, land, and eventually a rainy sky for each child to take home and display on a window. All it takes to work is a sunny day.

Other programs to introduce your family to the magic of nature include free drop-in programs such as Nature Storytime and the science and craft activities offered during the four weeks of Fall Family Fun. During Fall Family Fun, you will have the opportunity to investigate the natural world in quick experiments or make a craft to take home. We will also have displays on different weekends of reptiles and amphibians or local wildlife.

Other classes this fall include an introduction to our animal neighbors in “Knock, Knock. Who’s There?” for ages 4 to 6. Their older siblings, ages 7 to 9, can track butterflies and dragonflies through the Garden, learning how these magical creatures partner with plants, in the program “Flying Flowers.”
Youngsters ages 3 to 5 can join us for a month of seasonal explorations in Nature for Sprouts. Children ages 8 and 9 can investigate the impact of trees and shade on temperature in “Shadow World,” and children ages 10 to 12 will complete a foraging experiment over two Saturdays in “Food Fight.” We end the season with the program “Shelter,” which explores the function of shelter as each child builds a shelter and then measures its effectiveness at managing wind, weather, and water.
INFORMATION: For all of these programs, you can get full information at gardens.duke.edu, including a PDF download of our entire July-Dec. events program (or see a quick list in this blog entry). To register, please call 668-1707 or write to slsmith@duke.edu.

Sarah P. Duke Gardens creates and nurtures an environment in the heart of Duke University for learning, inspiration and enjoyment through excellence in horticulture. The Gardens is at 420 Anderson St.

Jan Little is the Gardens’ director of education and public programs. This column first appeared in the Durham Herald-Sun.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Local Fauna: Butterflies of N.C.

American Lady

What can butterflies teach us? Plenty, according to Jeffrey Pippen, an instructor at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment. For instance, even as caterpillars, they know instinctively what’s good for them and what’s not. That’s not always true for humans.

“So by studying butterfly/plant interactions, we may discover some properties of plants that could potentially be useful to humans as well,” Pippen says.

You can learn more about butterflies in Duke Gardens’ next “Local Fauna” course, “Butterflies of North Carolina,” which Pippen will teach Aug. 6 and 13. The indoor/outdoor class will cover butterflies’ life histories, physiology, anatomy and behaviors, as well as how to identify them in the field. Read on for a taste of Pippen’s passion for butterflies at Duke Gardens and elsewhere, which he shared in an email interview.

On butterflies’ life stages:
Butterflies are amazing creatures at all of their life stages! Eggs are often camouflaged or hidden and sometimes intricately patterned. Caterpillars are amazing eating machines with interesting self-preservation behaviors. Pupae (chrysalises) undergo a pretty incredible transformation from wingless caterpillar to winged adult. And adults can be incredibly patterned and have interesting "personalities" that are just plain fun to watch!

Pearl Crescent

On survival:
Butterflies show myriad adaptations for survival, including eating poisonous plants as caterpillars and storing or using those toxins (at no harm to themselves) for protection against predators.

On butterflies in the Gardens:
Duke Gardens is a great place to search for butterflies! Participants may see two or three species of swallowtails, a couple of species of sulphurs, Cabbage White, a couple of species of hairstreaks, Eastern Tailed-Blue, several species of brushfoots (e.g. Pearl Crescent, American Lady, Common Buckeye, Monarch, etc.), and several species of skippers (e.g. Silver-spotted Skipper, duskywings, Fiery Skipper, Sachem, etc.)

Cabbage White

On a Duke Gardens rarity you may see:
Brazilian Skipper: They're pretty rare in this part of the state, although if there's enough canna planted, it's certainly a species to look for.

Brazilian Skipper

On this month’s class:
I'd like folks to come away from the class thinking, "Wow, butterflies are kinda cool! I've learned to identify several of them, and they're pretty fun to watch."

I think it's important for more people to be aware of the diversity of butterflies and how they fit into a healthy ecosystem. That way, more people will be concerned about environmental issues that affect all of us, and there will be more folks out there who could add to our understanding of butterfly knowledge in North Carolina. There's still a lot we actually do not know about N.C. butterflies. Perhaps some students of this class will go on to solve some of these mysteries!

CLASS INFO: “Butterflies of North Carolina,” a 2-class course, runs Aug. 6 & 13 from 8 to 11 a.m. The cost is $75; $60 for Gardens members and Duke staff and students. To register, or for more information, please contact Duke Gardens’ registrar at 668-1707 or slsmith@duke.edu. Also, be sure to check out Pippen’s nature photo website. For a full schedule of classes, tours and other events, please see our July-Dec. brochure (PDF) or our quick reference blog post.

Sarah P. Duke Gardens creates and nurtures an environment in the heart of Duke University for learning, inspiration and enjoyment through excellence in horticulture. The Gardens is at 420 Anderson St.
American Lady