Category Archives: US Fish and Wildlife Service

Fun Activities for Young Texas Naturalists at the Milam County Nature Festival

The 2014 Annual Milam County Nature Festival has fun and free nature activities for kids of all ages

The 2014 Annual Milam County Nature Festival has fun and free nature activities for kids of all ages

It’s spring…yea!…bringing life to nature, including our native plants and…ugh!…invasive species too. Invasive species have both economic and environmental costs. They crowd out our native plants, including our beautiful Texas wildflowers, and compete with our crops. We’ve got to protect our native ecosystem!

Commander Ben and his Invasive Hunter Academy before the start of the 2013 Milam County Nature Festival

Commander Ben and his Invasive Hunter Academy before the start of the 2013 Milam County Nature Festival

Young naturalists, join me and I’ll show you how to become an expert Invasive Hunter with my Invasive Hunter Academy at the 5th Annual Milam County Nature Festival, April 11-12, 2014, at the Rockdale Fair Park in Rockdale, Texas. The event is free with lots of activities for kids of all ages!

Future invasive species hunters train with Commander Ben at the Invasive Hunter Academy during the 2013 Milam County Nature Festival

Future invasive species hunters train with Commander Ben at the Invasive Hunter Academy during the 2013 Milam County Nature Festival

I had a great time training young invasive hunters at last year’s festival. There were a lot of fun events in 2013, including a booth on crayfish. They’re fascinating invertebrates that I’ve always enjoyed and learned more about in my freshman high school biology class this year. (The Texas Crawdads exhibit will be back in 2014 too!)

Habitat conservation

The 2014 Milam County Nature Festival focuses on habitat conservation. In keeping with the festival theme, you’ll enjoy nature songs from “Mr. Habitat” Bill Oliver, the “Environmental Troubadour”, and you’ll find Mr. Doug Phillips with the US Fish and Wildlife service talking about wildlife habitat improvement, including a discussion of prescribed fires and vegetation management. Ms. Linda Ruiz-McCall, with UT Austin, will also be there to talk about water conservation with a ground water simulator that I’m sure will be fun to interact with.

In addition to the speakers, there will be tons of kids activities, including:

  • Angler education – Have fun learning how to cast for fish
  • Archaeology digs – I always enjoyed digging for treasures when I was younger
  • Knapping demonstrations – Making arrowheads is another fun activity
  • Mammal pelts and paws – Learn about Texas animals, see and touch their skulls and pelts, and create animal tracks with molds

And lots more!

Talking with kids about invasive species and dyslexia

Commander Ben talks about invasive species to kids at the Rockdale Intermediate School in 2013

Commander Ben talks about invasive species to kids at the Rockdale Intermediate School in 2013

Last year, I had a fantastic time talking with the kids at the Rockdale Intermediate School about my adventures as Commander Ben, “The Invasive Hunter”, and my experiences with dyslexia. This year, I’m really looking forward to talking with the students at the Milano Elementary School on Friday.

Thanks, Dr. John Pruett, for inviting me back to this year’s festival! I love working with all the master naturalists in the El Camino Real Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists, and I especially enjoy having fun with all the kids.

Hope to see you there!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Doug Phillips, El Camino Real Chapter, Habitat conservation, Invasive Hunter, Invasive Hunter Academy, Invasive Plants, Invasive Species, John Pruett, Milam County Master Naturalists, Milam County Nature Festival, Milano Elementary School, Rockdale Fair Park, Rockdale Intermediate School, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Water conservation

Young Invasive Species Hunters Train at the Milam County Nature Festival

Future invasive species hunters train with Commander Ben at the Invasive Hunter Academy during the Milam County Nature Festival

Future invasive species hunters train with Commander Ben at the Invasive Hunter Academy during the Milam County Nature Festival

As I was asking folks which booth was their favorite,
the overwhelming majority said Commander Ben with a smile.

Chris Harper, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

I have been so busy finishing up eighth grade that I have not had a chance to share with you yet about a great experience I had last month.

On Saturday, April 13, I brought the Invasive Hunter Academy to the Milam County Nature Festival at the Rockdale Fair Park.  It was a great event with over 500 people in attendance.  I was invited to participate in the festival by Dr. John Pruett and Ms. Joyce Dalley, two wonderful Milam County Master Naturalists I had met last year at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center when I attended invasive species training for citizen scientists and the Invaders of Texas Program.

Ms. Joyce Dalley, Commander Ben, and Dr. John Pruett in the "Green room" before Ben's invasive species presentation at Rockdale Intermediate School

Ms. Joyce Dalley, Commander Ben, and Dr. John Pruett in the “Green room” before Ben’s invasive species presentation at Rockdale Intermediate School

The day before, I was invited to talk about invasive species and dyslexia at the Rockdale Intermediate School by Dr. Pruett, Principal Kathy Pelzel, and Ms. Susan Boyd, ACE Coordinator for the school. I had a great time with the students–future invasive hunters for sure!

Commander Ben talks about invasive species to over 350 kids at the Rockdale Intermediate School.

Commander Ben talks about invasive species to over 350 kids at the Rockdale Intermediate School

Lots of great kids came to the Milam County Nature Festival events and to participate in the Invasive Hunter Academy, including quite a few adults too!  After five hours of activities, I was exhausted but it was a lot of fun. Here are some pictures of the day:

Commander Ben getting the Invasive Hunter Academy ready for the Milam County Nature Festival

Commander Ben getting the Invasive Hunter Academy ready for the Milam County Nature Festival

Commander Ben's a featured festival presentation at 9:30 a.m. with the Invasive Hunter Academy going on all day.

Commander Ben’s a featured festival presentation at 9:30 a.m. with the Invasive Hunter Academy going on all day

Finding Commander Ben on a map of the Milam County Nature Festival.

Finding Commander Ben on a map of the Milam County Nature Festival

Commander Ben training budding naturalists to hunt invasive species.

Commander Ben training budding naturalists to hunt invasive species

Kids having fun at the Milam County Nature Festival

Kids having fun at the Milam County Nature Festival

El Camino Real - Texas Master Naturalists Chapter display

El Camino Real – Texas Master Naturalists Chapter display

More fun activities at the Milam County Nature Festival.

More fun activities at the Milam County Nature Festival

Near the end of the festival, I took a quick tour around the Rockdale Fair fair grounds to take in all the sights of the other nature festival activities. There were lots of booths, including a great exhibit about butterflies and the plants they like, another about how the coyote is the only relative of the wolf left in Texas, and still another was teaching all about crayfish. I even bought one of the books about crayfish.

I want to send out a special thank you to Dr. Pruett, Ms. Dalley, and all the Milam County Master Naturalists and volunteers for inviting me to be part of their Nature Festival.  Thanks to Mr. Harper and all the young invasive species hunters that I talked with.

I had a great time and know everyone else did too! 🙂

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Chris Harper, Invasive Hunter, Invasive Hunter Academy, Invasive Species, John Pruett, Joyce Dalley, Lights Camera Help Annual Nonprofit Film Festival, Milam County Master Naturalists, Milam County Nature Festival, Rockdale Fair Park, Uncategorized, US Fish and Wildlife Service