Over the past few weeks, Nebraska Children has been sharing Anna Wishart’s Field Journal highlighting the experiences she oversaw as a one of two mentors participating in Nebraska Children’s Conservation Management Summer Internship program. Building on the past two installments, we pick up with our group of youth from Omaha’s Girls Inc. as they travel to Ponca State Park.
Ponca State Park is situated in the Missouri River bluffs and is one of Nebraska’s many priceless natural wonders managed by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Ponca State Park features one of Nebraska’s most comprehensive environmental education programs, and the girls were able to meet and work with some of their staff.
Maria Korver, Assistant Superintendent at Ponca State Park, started us off in the morning hand-crafting bee houses to support solitary bees (yes, there is such a thing!). In the afternoon, we learned shooting and archery. All three of the girls are dead shots, hitting the bullseye every time! In the evening, we made dinner and learned how to bake an apple cobbler dessert in a Dutch oven. Maria even taught Nia how to start a fire from twigs and flint to cook the cobbler. After dessert, we went kayaking on the Missouri.
June 15 – 17
Our last leg of the internship was at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City. Along the way, we took a detour to Ash Falls Fossil Bed, another Nebraska Game and Parks Department gem, to take a tour of this rare fossil site with Superintendent Rick Otto.
Arbor Day Farm is 260 acres of nature trails, historical buildings, and of course apple orchards that is run and managed by the Arbor Day Foundation. A Nebraska-based nonprofit, the Arbor Day Foundation works with partners around the world to increase awareness of the vital role that trees play in supporting our planet. The Foundation also supports activities that promote the sustainable care for and use of trees.
Adam Howard, Director of Arbor Day Farm’s Mission Engagement, started off our day with a guided tour of the farm orchards and the historic buildings, including a VIP tour of the historic Morton mansion, where we got to view rooms that are generally not open to the public. After our tour, we were treated to delicious apple slushies made from local apples before we started our conservation work to clean a tree storage area of any saplings that were moldy or dead.
On our way back to Omaha the next morning, we had one more slushie for a sweet ending to an incredible two-week journey across Nebraska. All of us agree this was one of the most rewarding experiences we have ever had. We were able to explore Nebraska’s vast and diverse environment, meet amazing conservationists, learn about environmental sustainability, and see what role we might play in preserving these great places for future generations!
We hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into the Conservation Management Summer Internship program! In addition to Anna’s group, there was also a group of three male students from the Alliance-based nonprofit Native Futures who took a similar journey across the state. These amazing experiences would not have been possible without the active support of our partners and the generous support from the Claire M. Hubbard Foundation. Key partners include the two youth serving organizations – Girls Inc. and Native Futures – and a host of essential program partners, including Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, The Arbor Day Foundation, the Abbott Family Ranch, Audubon Society/Rowe Sanctuary, the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, Fontenelle Forest Nature Center, and the University of Nebraska.
We are looking forward to continuing to pilot and refine the Conservation Management Summer Internship next summer and in growing the partnerships surrounding this work. If interested, please reach out to us to let us know how you would like to be involved in this exciting work.