Distance Learning Young Naturalists Club

Nature & Self-Care During a Pandemic

Do you ever notice a feeling of well-being after you do certain things? If so, these activities might be part of your “self-care.” Self-care might look like:

  • running and playing so your body feels healthy,
  • sleeping enough so you feel rested instead of grumpy,
  • or calling a friend when you feel lonely.

Self-care helps us manage stress. It’s especially important times like now, when we are out of our normal routines of going to school or work, seeing friends and family, and socializing.

So can nature time be a way to take care of ourselves? We think so!

According to Herb Broda, PhD and well-known professor and author at Ashland University,

“Going outside is vital to our health.”

A mounting body of research agrees that spending time outside is essential for everyone’s mental, physical, and social health—children and adults alike.

The Children and Nature Network shares research on how nature benefits children’s health. Here are a few of their findings.

For more research on how nature makes you smarter, stronger, happier and more productive, visit this National Park Service page.

How is nature a form of self-care for you?

Five of our environmental educators share how nature plays a role in their self-care routines. Then, they suggest some of their favorite parks and trails to visit. Read on!


Becoming more tree-like

No photo description available.

One of the most valuable characteristics of the natural world for me is that it is both consistent and surprising. For example, when I was in high school I would wander through a nearby forest to get away from everything else. I would sit with my back to a white oak tree high up on a bluff overlooking the river and think quietly. The trees and the river were always there for me, but they were also never the same.

Every visit to that place was a little different, but the feeling of being there was much the same. Some pleasant side effects for these walks included exercise, breathing fresh air, beginning a lifelong study of the natural world, and becoming a little bit more tree-like and river-like.


Using all five senses

Image may contain: plant, tree, outdoor, nature and water

For me, taking a walk outside in nature, whether it is on the bike path or hiking in the great outdoors, is like hitting the reset button. I immediately feel an increased awareness and connectedness to the natural world and more present in my own body.

When I am walking, I try to pay attention to my five senses: sight, smell, taste, sound, and touch.

Sight: What can I see around me? What colors do I see? Are there plants, trees, or animals I can identify by sight? If you slow down long enough, you might even start to notice the smallest of creatures, like bugs!

Smell: Can I smell anything? On a recent hike in Sells Park I found a mushroom that smelled just like black licorice!

Taste: Are there any identifiable plants that I can safely taste? A couple of my favorites are sour grass, which I think tastes a lot like a sour candy, and spice bush.

Touch: Finally, what can I touch? I love any opportunity I get to feel something with my hands or feet. When it is safe and the opportunity presents itself, one of my favorite things to do is take my shoes off! Have you ever walked on a blanket of moss with your bare feet? It is incredibly soft!


Nature journaling

Short days and grey skies can get me down pretty easily. Staying inside on days that feel yucky out often makes me feel even worse! On these winter days when I am restless at home, I like to venture into nature with a notebook and pen in hand. I don’t always go far; sometimes I just walk to the end of my street to an open field by the Hocking River. Other days I trek into the woods. 

When I get to a spot with a good place to sit (against the trunk of a tree, on a rock or a stump, in the grass), I’ll open up my notebook, grab my pen, and settle in. 

I like to be a good observer of all the happenings of the natural world around me. If you focus closely, you’ll notice animals, insects, details and sounds you’ve never encountered before! I try to focus on nature by using four of my senses, one at a time. (Just like Mia described, though we’ll leave out taste for now to be safe. )

I start with closing my eyes while I sit still, paying extra attention to all that I can hear. I sit and listen for a minute. Then, I write in my notebook all that I heard in that minute:

Here is what I heard the other day at Sells Park.

I close my eyes again and move on to touch. What can I feel with my hands around me in one minute? Do I feel acorns? Sticks? Something soft that I can’t identify? Bugs moving? I open my eyes, and write down all I felt. 

Everything my hands felt when my eyes were closed.

I do the same with smell and sight. I save sight for last, because ordinarily, I use my eyes so much that I can forget my other senses. I want to make sure I don’t miss out on cool parts of our world that I normally don’t catch with my eyes. 

My nose caught these scents at Sells.
I saw a lot of things in one minute!

Observing nature closely feels like a game to me–how many new things can I discover each time I do this activity? I get giddy when I touch a new bug or hear a new bird call while sitting with my notebook. My notebook helps to keep track of all the amazing new things I have sensed!

But, I like to do one more thing before I put my notebook away: draw!

One day, I saw the caterpillar of a question mark butterfly, so I drew the butterfly!

I pick one thing surrounding me and try to draw it. My notebook is full of drawings of tree bark, what I think the birds I heard look like, boulders, particular plants, and bugs! I don’t worry about how “good” I think the drawing is. Drawing anything is a better visual than a blank page, so pick something and doodle away! 

I love to flip through my nature notebook and remember all the neat things I experienced despite the dark, cold winter days. I hope collecting your observations outside in a nature notebook will help you keep the winter blues at bay!


Running and playing with mud

Running through the woods is one way I like to play outside!

When I run through the forest I have to be very aware of where I’m stepping and what’s ahead of me. Running forces me to only think about what I’m doing at that moment, not worrying about the past or future.

Another reason I like to run through the woods

, or trail run as some people call it, is because it doesn’t require much. The only thing I need is a comfortable pair of shoes. I can go as fast and as far as I want and I can stop to take a break whenever I want! Trail running is a great way for me to clear my head and be present. As a bonus
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, I get to get covered in mud!

This is Madison in early spring after she tilled a plot for a garden. Muddy and happy!

Speaking of mud, whenever I have a chance to touch the earth, I feel happier and rejuvenated. And I’m not the only one. So many other people felt the same way that scientists decided to study why playing in the dirt makes us feel happy.

What they found was a living thing in dirt called Mycobacterium vaccae, a soil microbe. When we dig into the soil, we kick up these microbes and breath them in. They seep into our skin. Once we are exposed to the microbes, they work in our brains to make us happy and relaxed. When I garden is usually when I am happiest!

Mud Kitchen

Mud Kitchen is one of mine and my friends’ favorite activities. We were found some old pots, pans, buckets, and utensils to use outside. We make all sorts of recipes out of dirt, water, leaves, and whatever else we can find. I think one reason why Mud Kitchen is so fun is because there is no single way to play. We can use our imaginations to come up with endless ways to play. 


No weather is bad weather!

Sometimes, people think we have to stay inside when the weather is cold or wet. I used to think so too–after all, it’s hard to have fun when you’re uncomfortable.

But then…I got rain pants. With not only a rain coat, but also rain pants and rubber boots, I could run through a downpour and be perfectly dry!

Suddenly, going out in the rain was even more fun than going out in the sun. I could walk through anything! I was undefeatable!

Now I agree with a friend who told me, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”

Tips for staying warm outside in winter:

  1. Wear several warm layers. Air gets trapped between layers to keep you warmer. So two layered shirts might be warmer than just one heavier shirt. My clothes have at least three layers:
    • Inside layer: Long underwear or ordinary shirts close to my body.
    • Middle warm layer: Something warm and puffy, like a sweater or fleece.
    • Outside protective layer: a heavy coat, rain jacket, or shell to keep out wind and rain, and add warmth.
  2. Don’t wear cotton next to your skin–wear wool or synthetic fabric instead. Cotton gets damp from your sweat, then actually makes you colder! But wool and synthetics stay warm even if you sweat. Wool socks can make boots more comfy.
  3. Wear mittens instead of gloves. Keeping your fingers together helps them warm each other up. If you are able to, replace those little knit cotton gloves with heavier mittens–as soon as cotton get wet, they stop working so well.
  4. Bring a thermos of a warm drink. Heat yourself up from the inside, and you can stay outside longer!
  5. Run and play! The best way to warm up is to MOVE! If you start to get cold, it’s time to start a game or hike somewhere new.
  6. If you’re still cold–where can you add more layers? Did you forget a scarf, or not wear any long underwear under your jeans? Do you have a coat but no snow pants over your legs?

For more ideas on enjoying Ohio’s parks in winter, visit:

Places to Explore…

Old Man’s Cave in Hocking Hills is one of the more famous parks nearby. But have you heard of some of the ones below?

Here are some of the Environmental Education team’s favorite places in Athens County to get into nature! If you have the chance, try visiting a new place.

Where is your favorite nature spot? Share your photos with us by leaving a comment!

Want more ideas for natural areas to visit? The Athens Conservancy has a great guide to outdoor areas. They also manage 11 nature preserves that are worth a visit.

Distance Learning Uncategorized Young Naturalists Club

Backyard Birding : Virtual Field Trip

White-breasted Nuthatch
The white-breasted nuthatch is one of the birds I often see at my feeder. Photo: DaPuglet.

Grab your binoculars! Birding or bird watching is a fantastic hobby to be enjoyed by all! While some of our feathered friends have flown south to warmer climates, there are many species still around all winter.

Birds that stay in Ohio in winter are designed to survive here. But you can still help birds survive by putting habitat and food around your home. It’s especially helpful anywhere human buildings have replaced trees and bird food. A side perk: you’ll get to see way more birds!

Join us for a virtual field trip about winter birds on Friday, December 18. Or try some of the bird-watching activities below.


Join the virtual field trip, Friday, December 18 at 10:30 a.m.

Outside (or by a window): Go bird-watching right in your own neighborhood!

Winter Birds: Virtual Field Trip

Friday, Dec. 18, 10:30am

Our bird feeders aren’t quite as elaborate as these feeders at the Cornell FeederWatch cam. But they’ll still attract some cool birds to show you.

Every Friday from 10:30 to 11-ish am, we hold a Zoom call live from the woods for anyone who wants to join. This week, we’ll look at who visits our bird feeders in winter, bird tracks, and feathers.

You’ll receive the link for the Zoom call in your email. The same link works each Friday.

Helping Birds Get Through Winter

Bird - Blue Jay
This blue jay is puffing up to stay warm. Photo: blmiers2.

Habitat is a Necessity

Birds, just like humans, need food and ways to protect themselves from winter weather. They also use their habitat as protection from predators, like raccoons, snakes, and cats! Meow!

Evergreens and shrubs or bushes are great habitat for songbirds in the winter months, when other plants are harder to come by

Here are some ideas to make yards welcoming to birds in winter:

  • Plant native shrubs and plants. Planting them now means they’ll have a headstart in spring.
  • Put water (like a birdbath) out near bushes. Birds like to drink near places to hide. If there are cats nearby, skip this idea!
  • Leave piles of leaves in the yard. These old leaves hold tasty grubs and insects for birds to eat.
  • Make brush piles of old sticks and logs. This makes shelter for birds when the weather in extreme. These might attract other animals as well, like rabbits and snakes. So stay alert around them.
  • And of course–birdfeeders are a fun way to give birds food while also learning about them! More on this below.

Read these and more ideas for winterizing your yard from the Audubon Society.

Build a Bird Feeder

Want to start feeding birds? Here is an easy way to make a bird feeder.

What you need:

  • pinecone
  • peanut butter or sun butter
  • bird seed
  • string

Follow these steps:
1. Slather the pinecone in peanut or sun butter.
2. Roll it in seeds.
3. Attach a piece of string to the pinecone.
4. Hang it in a tree. Birds like having branches to hide on near the feeder.
5. Watch and see who visits!

What should I feed birds?

Different food will attract different birds. Robins like worms, and blue jays like sunflower seeds. We find black sunflower seeds and peanuts attract the most kinds of birds.

You can experiment with different kinds of bird food, and see if different birds show up. Or play around with this feeder guide from Project Feeder Watch to see what kinds of food attract which birds.

It’s all in the beak

The size and shape of bird’s beak can tell you a lot about what the bird eats. Think about the following birds and their beak sizes and shapes. You can compare them to how we use different tools to eat different things.

  • Hummingbirds use their long, skinny beaks to eat nectar from flowers. Try drinking juice through a straw for an easy comparison!
  • Mourning Doves like to eat seeds. Try using tweezers to pick up rice.
  • Ducks eat aquatic life and animals. Try using a slotted spoon to eat your ramen noodles.
  • Robins like to eat worms. Now try using chopsticks to eat your ramen noodles.

Try this game to see if you can match birds to their beaks! Next time you eat something, think about what kind of beak a bird would need to get your food in its mouth.

Bird - Duck - Mallard
Mallards’ beaks hold onto food but let water pour out. Photo: blmiers2.

Your Turn: Look for Neighborhood Birds!

Where Have All The Cardinals Gone?
The northern cardinal, the state bird of Ohio, stays here all winter. Photo: DaPuglet

To start bird-watching, look for spots near your home where birds like to hang out. Did you hang up a bird feeder that will attract them? Or are there lots of bushes or brush piles nearby, making good habitat? Then start watching!

See if you can find some of these bird species. Then see if you can find birds behaving in these ways!

Try to find these bird species…

Bird feeders are good places to find these birds:

(Click on each bird to see pictures, hear their song, and learn more interesting facts.)

Look for these bird behaviors…

Find a bird eating its food.
Find a bird walking up and down a tree trunk or pole.
Find a bird hopping along the ground.
Find a bird in your yard, or in a green space near you. How is it acting? _________________.

Listen for these bird songs…

What’s that you say!? Mnemonics are words that sound similar to a bird’s call. They are fun way to remember bird calls and songs. See if you can hear some of these, even if you don’t see the bird. Or make up your own!

1. “Who cooks for you! Who cooks for you all?” Barred Owl

2. “Drink your tea!” Eastern Towhee

3. “Sweet, sweet, sweet, I’m so sweet.” Yellow Warbler

4. “Purty, purty, purty.” Northern Cardinal

5. “Peter, Peter, Peter.” Tufted Titmouse

6. “Who’s awake? Me too.” Great Horned Owl


Distance Learning Young Naturalists Club

White-tailed Deer: Virtual Field Trip, Dec. 4th

Whitetail Deer - Brady, TX Area
A buck, or male white-tailed deer. Photo: huntingdesigns 

White-tailed deer are the most common large mammal species in North America. They can be found in all 88 counties of Ohio!

Join us on December 4th’s virtual field trip to learn to recognize signs of deer. We’ll also look at how deer have helped humans survive. Or just read onto learn about deer on your own!


Attend the virtual field trip, Friday, December 4th at 10:30. We’ll look for signs of deer and show you how to tan a hide.

Read a story about how the deer got its antlers. Try making a nice bowl of venison stew to complete your cozy evening!

Track a deer: Go outside with this scavenger hunt. You may find clues that show deer has been near.

Deer Virtual Field Trip: Friday, December 4, 2020 at 10:30am

Friday, Dec. 4, 10:30am

Every Friday from 10:30 to 11-ish am, we hold a Zoom call live from the woods. This week, we’ll look for deer sign. Then Joe from Rural Action will demonstrate how to tan (preserve) a deer hide.

A note about this Friday’s content…

We will be showing how to tan a fresh deer hide from a deer that Joe hunted. Families who join the call should be okay with seeing the fresh deer skin. (The rest of the deer will not be shown).

You’ll receive the link for the Zoom call in your email. The same link works each Friday.

~~We’ll post the recording of the field trip here the following Monday~~

Fawn - Whitetail deer
A fawn, or baby deer. Photo: bjmccray.

Did you know?

  • The scientific name for whitetails is Odocoileus virginianus.
  • A whitetail deer can run as fast as 30 miles per hour. That’s pretty fast!
  • Water shy? No way! The whitetail can swim at speeds of up to 13 miles per hour.
  • White-tails have a four-chambered stomach

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    , just like cows. The stomach helps them digest the rough plants that makes up their diet. This lets them to eat woody plants that other animals cannot digest.
  • The whitetail is Ohio’s ONLY big game animal. It has been a source of food for generations, beginning with indigenous people
  • Here’s how to sign “deer” in American Sign Language:

Do you know another interesting fact about whitetailed deer? Please share with us by posting it in the comment section!

Tell a deer tale

Did you ever wonder why deer have antlers? Many people have wondered why the world is the way it is. Myths try to answer these questions about the world with a story.

  1. Read this Cherokee myth, “How the Deer Got His Horns” (excerpted from History, Myths, and Sacred Formulas, by James Mooney).
  2. Now, get creative: write your own folklore to imagine how the deer got its antlers. If you have friends or siblings, trade your stories and see which ones you like best. We would love it if you shared it in the comments!
  3. Then, try to think like a scientist. How might a scientist explain why deer have antlers? How could antlers help a buck? Do some research if you need to. Share your ideas below!

Antlers or Horns?

In the story above, the author uses both the words “horns” and “antlers.” But antlers are actually different from horns.

Antlers are found on white-tails and other members of the deer family. They are bone that falls off and regrow. In most species, only males have antlers. Have you ever gone looking for antler sheds? A good time to look is the late winter and early spring, when the bucks shed their antlers.

Horns never come off of an animal. They grow throughout an animal’s life. Pronghorns, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and bison have horns. Horns are part bone and part hair follicle. Both males and females have horns.

Make venison chili

Mmm... chili
Photo: jeffreyw

Story-telling is best in the winter, when you can curl up by the fire with a warm bowl of stew and listen. People have depended on deer to feed them for a long time. If you are lucky enough to have some venison, warm up with a bowl of venison chili! Ask a parent for help and try making this recipe! Mmmmm!

Scavenger Hunt for Deer Signs

Go outside for a walk. As you walk

, search for these clues that deer have come through the area:

Rub: A rub is a spot on a tree where the bark has been rubbed away by a male deer’s antlers. This can scar the tree for a long time. So you may find an old, healed scrape or a fresh one

Scrape: A small area on the ground where a male deer has scraped away leaves and vegetation with his hooves, leaving bare dirt. They may also lick and chew on any branches hanging over that spot, so look up!

Deer habitat is forest with lots of nuts for deer to eat. They also like the places where fields and forests meet. Keep your eyes peeled for oak, hickories, and beech trees. Deer love nuts and fruit! Did you know that deer also eat mushrooms!? Now that’s a FUNgi fact!

Deer trails are little paths through the forest that almost look like a human trail. But they are much narrower than our trails, and may seem to disappear unexpectedly. You might notice leaves have been nibbled on at about the height of a deer’s head.

Deer scat (i.e., deer poop) looks like little round balls.

Deer tracks are common in Ohio. Look in muddy places for 2-3 inch hoof marks. Can you tell which way they were going? The narrow end points the way like an arrow.

Help us decide where to put our game camera!

deer - Hampton Virginia
 Photo: watts_photos .

We need your help! Cast your vote to help us decide where to put our team’s game camera. Pick which location you think will have the most deer activity! We will put the camera in the place with the most votes. Pictures will be shared on the virtual field trip on December 4, 2020.

Voting ends on November 29, 2020.

*Already have some cool pictures!? We want to see them! Post your favorite white-tail pictures in the comments.*

Distance Learning Uncategorized Young Naturalists Club

Saving Hellbenders with the Wilds: Virtual Field Trip, Oct. 23rd

The hellbender salamander, also called the ‘snot otter,’ is on the decline in Ohio. The Wilds, near Zanesville, Ohio, is trying to change that. Photo: Andrew Hoffman, licensed CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A smile I simply cannot resist! Hellbenders are North America’s largest salamander. They can grow up to approximately two feet in length (twenty-nine inches). Nicknames include:

  • Snot otter
  • lasagna lizard
  • mud devil
  • devil dog
  • ground puppy
  • (Do you have another one?)

These impressive creatures have been around for more than 150 million years, but are in danger. On this week’s virtual field trip, biologists at the Wilds will give us a tour of their hellbender recovery project.


Join the virtual field trip

, Friday, October 23 at 10:30 a.m. Details below!

On your own, inside: Read about hellbenders below. Then make lasagna to honor lasagna lizards!

On your own, outside: take a stream selfie and clean up litter.

Hellbenders at the Wilds: Virtual Field Trip

Friday, October 23, 10:30am

Every Friday from 10:30 to 11:00am, we hold a Zoom call live from the woods. This week, the conservation biologists at the Wilds will give us a tour of their hellbender salamander lab!

They’ll show us baby and adult hellbenders. They’ll share how the Wilds is helping the hellbender population grow–and how you can help this endangered species too! You’ll also learn about what it’s like to be a conservation biologist.

The Wilds is a safari-style ‘zoo’ in Cumberland

, Ohio. They have turned damaged, strip-mined land into a center for threatened animal recovery.

If you missed it, here is the recording:

Where Hellbenders Live

Hellbenders are a fully aquatic species of salamander! Clean, fast-moving river water is an ideal habitat. The water must be cool, so shady trees help. Look for large rocks with accessible crevices and places where this salamander can hide.

They are very sensitive to pollution and sediment (bits of dirt and dust) in the water. That is why it is so rare to see one. But we keep hoping we will one day!

Worth Pugh measuring a hellbender
Scientists measure a wild hellbender salamander. Photo: USFWS/Southeast/license CC BY 2.0


They have a flat head, wrinkly body, and paddle-shaped tail. Usually these salamanders are dark grey or brown in color with dark spots along the back.

They breathe through their skin! So the wrinklier their skin is, the more oxygen they get from the water.


These salamanders feast on crawdads, smalls fish, snails, and worms. Hellbenders are also known to be cannibalistic. That means a bigger salamander may see a smaller salamander as an opportunistic meal! Gulp!


Rivers in the eastern United States, including the Appalachian region.

 An adult hellbender salamander. Photo: U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Northeast Region, licensed CC PDM 1.0

What’s your favorite nickname for the hellbender? I personally love snot otter. Post your answer in the comments and tell us why!

On your own: Make Lasagna!

In honor of their nickname, lasagna lizards, bake some lasagna for your next meal! This activity may require adult supervision. Benders have flaps of skin on their sides, which provide extra surface area to help them breathe through their skin, but it also kind of makes them look like lasagna, which is where the nickname comes from.

Smiley woman cooking in the kitchen Free Vector

Traditional lasagna recipe

Vegetarian lasagna recipe

Own your own: Snap a selfie!

More cheese, please! Cheese, as in smile, that is! Participate in Stream Selfie. This is a citizen science project that was designed to help monitor waterways (and healthy waterways are crucial for hellbenders).

Take a picture of yourself in or by a waterway, tell us your location and the condition of the stream. Some things to pay attention to might be:

  • How big is the waterway?
  • Is the water clean?
  • Are there fish living in there?
  • What other species of animals do you see?
    • learn more about using insects/fish to tell if a stream is healthy in this post.
  • What might make this good or bad habitat for a species like a hellbender?

Post your selfie in the comments!

Rock creek park Free Photo
Promising hellbender habitat.

While you’re there, take some time to pick up any litter around the stream. Hellbenders and other species are very sensitive to pollution. By keeping the creek clean

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, you help the animals that live there.

Distance Learning Young Naturalists Club

Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Ohio

Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day! We celebrate this on second Monday of every October.  This is the same day as Columbus Day.  

What does ‘indigenous’ mean?
Indigenous people are the people who lived in a place before colonization. In the U.S., the many different tribes of Native Americans are all indigenous. They lived here thousands of years before Europeans arrived, and still live here today.

We celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day to honor the histories and cultures of indigenous people all over the world. It is celebrated in many cities, towns, and states.  Some areas  have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.  Many celebrations include dancing, sharing food, and singing songs of local tribes.

You can learn more about Indigenous People’s Day at

Re-thinking the “Discovery” of America

“In 1492 Columbus Sailed the Ocean Blue.” Where did he end up? What did he discover?

As many of you might already know, Christopher Columbus, an Italian explorer, set sail to chart a route to China in 1492. This became his most infamous voyage with his “discovery” of the Americas. Upon arriving in the Americas, Columbus encountered the people, who he referred to as Indians, that inhabited these lands and called them home.

From the perspective of some indigenous Americans, it isn’t exactly a “discovery”if thousands of people already live there. This holiday is a chance to remember indigenous people’s part of the story as well.

Ideas for Celebrating Indigenous People’s Day

  • Learn about the Native Americans of southeast Ohio and try seeing your home from a different perspective! Keep reading this post for more info.
  • Attend a cultural celebration and participate in dancing , song, and eating foods from local indigenous tribes. If there are not any celebrations available to you locally, consider trying to make your own cuisine.
“The Sioux Chef” teaches about how to cook Native American cuisine and why it is important. To learn more or get their cookbook, visit
  • Watch a movie! Choose a movie that celebrates indigenous people and their accomplishments. Look for a movie that shows indigenous people in an authentic way, but avoid inaccurate Hollywood movies. We Shall Remain is an inspirational and educational series!  It covers  the “discovery of America” and its colonization from various perspectives.  It includes the perspective of the indigenous peoples who lived in the Americas. Watch it here.
  • Read folklore stories from the Wyandot , one of the influential tribes of Ohio.  Choose your favorite folklore story  and post a comment to the blog!   Myths from Wyandot Tribe.

Native Americans of the Hocking Valley

Hartman Mound in The Plains, Ohio was built around 2000 years ago by the people known as the Adena. They were sometimes used for group gatherings or rituals, or burials.

Indigenous peoples thrived in Athens and Southeast Ohio for thousands of years. Many places in our towns were first made by native people.

For example, many of our roads were first created by indigenous peoples. The James Rhoades Appalachian Highway (including US 33 and US 50) and East State St (in Athens) used to be a well-travelled path made by Indians in the region. This road was called the “Buffalo Trace.” Some of the trails through Strouds Run State Park also connected to this system.

In The Plains, Ohio, you can find mounds built by the Adena people about 2000 years ago.  This is the third largest concentration of Adena mounds in the eastern portion of the United States. Drive by Mound Street in The Plains to see the largest one! You can also watch our virtual field trip at the mound here.

The Adena were the ancestors of the Shawnee. The Shawnee, as well as the Wyandot and Delaware tribes, were the people living in the Hocking River valley when European settlers arrived. Most of the Shawnee were forced to move west in the 1800s. Today, most Shawnee live in Oklahoma, but still have connections to Ohio.

Learning from indigenous forest management

Pawpaw fruit is a wild fruit in Ohio. Local people tended it and encouraged it to grow near their homes. Photo: “Pawpaw fruits” by naomivantol is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

European settlers cleared many forests. They needed room for agriculture and timber for building. The forest looked wild to the settlers. But evidence shows that indigenous peoples carefully tended the forests. This helped give them food and shelter.

They made choices to encourage helpful trees, plants and animals to grow. They increased the number of oak, hickory and fruit trees in our forests. These trees make delicious food! Have you ever tried them?

Go on a Forest Resource Scavenger Hunt

The forests are still full of trees that indigenous people cultivated. Try hunting for the trees on the list below in your local woods! Share a picture or tell us where you found them in the comments.

TIP: Consider using a field guide like the ODNR TREES OF OHIO field guide to help identify trees!

PlantPicture/Identifying FeaturesLocation/Hints
Pawpaw TreeTry hiking through Sells Park and the Ridges! These trees bear fruit that ripens in September and October. 
Persimmon Tree

Find the Persimmon Tree on Radar Hill. There are some at Strouds Run, too!
Red Mulberry Tree

Go to Highland Park! There is also a Mulberry tree at the top of Radar Hill. 
Sumac Tree

Sumac trees have red leaves in the fall. Check around the pond  at the Ridges!
Oak Tree

These are plentiful!  If you find acorns on the ground, it fell from an oak tree!
Eastern Redbud Tree

This tree has heart-shaped leaves that are bright yellow in the autumn! Can you find a bright yellow leaf?

Chestnut Tree

The leaves on this tree are long and jagged. We’ve seen a few on the the east side of Athens! Watch out for their nuts!
Osage Orange Tree

Check out fence lines! These trees were the original barbed-wire. Look for the hedge apples!
Maple Tree

There are several varieties of the Maple. You just have to find one! Do you have any in your yard?

How did you celebrate Indigenous People’s Day? Leave a comment!