The Ridges Sanctuary

Preservation, Education, and Research

Nature Notes: Creating Environmental Stewardship

Posted on Apr 10, 2024 by Jackie Rath   No Comments Yet | Posted in Articles · Blog · Nature Notes

By Libby Humphries, WisCorps Environmental Educator

When I was a child growing up in the metro-Atlanta area, my public education was greatly limited to the confines of a brick-and-mortar building. Tales of plate tectonics and photosynthesis were recited like oral tradition, with only illustrations in textbooks to supplement my teachers’ words. Learning about these real-life concepts solely within a traditional classroom caused a huge disconnect between myself and the natural world—one that lasted through my early undergraduate years. 

Needless to say, when I first learned of the Forest Days programs that The Ridges Sanctuary facilitates at local schools Gibraltar and Sevastopol, I felt taken aback. Once a month during the school year, students in 4K through grade 6 (4K through grade 2 at Sevastopol) spend up to 90 minutes in a designated school forest learning about topics from spring migration to ancient rivers. Each school forest functions as both an outdoor classroom and the learning material for each lesson; all Forest Day topics can be explored through the physical space of the forest. Students certainly take advantage of this opportunity for exploration, as most of each Forest Day session is spent rummaging through leaf litter, feeling the bark of a white pine flake at their fingertips, and scanning the canopy for woodpecker holes.

Sound maps created by students during sit spot, a silent time at the end of each Forest Day. Photos shared by Libby Humphries

This independent investigation is key to a successful session. While some investigative activities are routine—such as making observations about an organism of choice along the trail—much depends on both the specific Forest Day topic and the age group receiving the lesson. Younger groups learning about moss, for example, may explore the forest with moss field guides and observation sheets. Older groups may conduct habitat assessments of different mosses by measuring soil characteristics and land angle.  

Nests that 3rd graders constructed during a lesson about bird eggs and nest types. Photos by Libby Humphries

The value of these activities lies in empowerment. When students can identify characteristics of an area—whether bird species, soil type, or tree growth stages--they feel like experts who want to share their knowledge with others. Knowing about the forest makes them feel confident. In addition, not every child experiences the forest in the same way. The unique positive experiences and memories they make with the forest build a sense of connection with the natural world while also creating opportunities for them to connect with each other. This shows in the smallest things, from sharing anecdotes while comparing worksheets to giving group hugs to the “Mother Tree.” 

The "Mother Tree." Photo by Libby Humphries

As their teacher, it’s difficult to imagine that someday I will no longer be leading them into the forest to find bugs and snakes, sharing stifled laughs during sit spot when someone makes a weird noise. They may eventually forget the things they learned with me, but my greatest hope is that they retain their sense of wonder as our next generation of environmental stewards. As we approach Earth Week, The Ridges reflects on its history as a place for inspiring a deep connection with nature. At The Ridges, we like to celebrate Earth Day every day by protecting and preserving land, teaching the public about this biologically diverse area, and inspiring people to protect their own communities. This year, The Ridges is committed to conducting scientific research as part of our mission to promote positive environmental behaviors. We recognize the importance of both conducting scientific research and empowering our community to engage in scientific discussions. 

This Earth Week, April 22nd—26th, The Ridges will celebrate the scientific community in and outside of the sanctuary! See our list of events below, and be sure to save them to your calendar! Want to learn more about Earth Day and initiatives that you can take in your community? Check out the resources on our Earth Week page. 

2024 Earth Week Events:

Friday, April 19th

Community Tree Planting at Appel's Bluff with The Big Plant, 10:00 am - 2:00 pm | 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm 

Calling all volunteers - Join us for a Community Planting at Appel's Bluff, hosted by The Ridges Sanctuary!

We invite you to join us in the Climate Change Coalition of Door County's next phase of the Big Plant: free and public Community Plantings! At five sites over two weeks, they'll be planting together over 4,000 new native trees. At these sites, native Oaks, Birches, Cedars, American Plums, Tamaracks, Firs, Pines, and Spruces will be planted. All tree-planters will be able to take away free, additional 2-year-old conifers to plant at home or at your business. Volunteers of all ages are invited to help with our land restoration efforts.

Please bring your own gloves and dress to be outside for two hours! You can register for the 10:00am planting or the 2:00pm planting. Walk-ins are also welcome for these two plant opportunities, with arrivals at 10:00am and 2:00pm. There is no fee to register (it just helps us know who will be joining).

Sign up HERE for the 10:00 am - 12:00 pm slot or HERE for the 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm slot.

If you have any questions regarding the plantings, call Anna at (920)-839-2802 ext. 115 or email

Saturday, April 20th

Every Day is Earth Day, 10:00 am - 4:00 pm 

Join us, along with other organizations, at this years’ Every Day is Earth Day event at the Kress Pavilion in Egg Harbor! Visit our table to learn about Citizen Science opportunities at The Ridges, other ways to get involved, and how to take steps toward living sustainably! Be sure to check out other great organizations’ tables and activities! The festival features tree plantings, an Energy Forum, a two-location Earth Day Festival, and wraps with an Earth Day Celebration Open Mic. For the full schedule, visit

Fee: Free

Location: Kress Pavilion, 7845 Church Street, Egg Harbor. 

Ridges Forest School Artist Reception and Celebration, 11:00 am - 12:30 pm

Kick off the start of Earth Week at The Ridges with this fun family-friendly event. Join us for an artist show and reception of Ridges Forest School student masterpieces. Come experience impactful works based on their perspective of Earth’s systems and cycles that they’ve studied through all seasons at The Ridges.

Fee: Free

Location: Kress Pavilion, 7845 Church Street, Egg Harbor. 

Monday, April 22nd 

Range Light Corridor Restoration Project Presentation with Director of Research Tony Kiszonas, 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm 

Join us for an update on the Range Light Corridor Restoration Project with Director of Research Tony Kiszonas. The presentation will include what to expect when walking through the corridor this year and insights into important ongoing research on federally threatened Dwarf Lake Iris in partnership with the USFW Coastal Program. 

Fee: Free

Location: Cook-Fuller Nature Center, 8166 State Hwy 57, Baileys Harbor. 

Pre-registration is required due to limited space; Click here to register! 

Wednesday, April 24th 

Tree Transplant @ 10:00 am 

Want to get your hands dirty this Earth Week? We’ve got a job for you! Join us at The Ridges to help us move tree seedlings between the Range Lights and find them a new home in the sanctuary. Tree transplanting is a more environmentally friendly way to landscape or remove trees from a habitat. It can also help seedlings survive in a more suitable environment.  At The Ridges, tree transplanting allows us to keep the Range Light corridor clear to abide by Coastguard regulations and maintain a critical open space for maritime travel while saving tree species and restoring other habitats within the sanctuary! 

We’ll provide instructions for how to transplant the trees as well as all the necessary equipment for transplanting. We’ll start by removing trees from the corridor, then we’ll move them to another location to transplant. This will be a hands-on activity. Bring your own gloves, shovels, and buckets if you can and clothes that can get muddy! This event meets at the Workshop on our North Campus off County Q. If you’re interested in attending, contact 

Friday, April 26th 

Arbor Day Tree Give-Away, 9:00 am - 3:30 pm

Get your free trees! Stop by The Ridges Cook-Albert Fuller Nature Center on Friday, April 26th during our hours of operation where we'll be giving trees away! Plant them at home or at your business: inspire as many people as possible to plant and grow as many trees as possible! The give-away begins at 9:00 am and will run until supplies last. First come first serve. 

Location: Cook-Fuller Nature Center, 8166 State Hwy 57, Baileys Harbor.

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