Category Archives: In The Name of Science

Adventure at the Outdoor Campus East in Sioux Falls, South Dakota

I took the boys to the South Dakota Game, Fish and Park’s Outdoor Campus East not too¬† long ago. We were all looking for a little fresh air and something to do on the weekend. The Outdoor Campus East is FREE, which makes this location an highly recommended spot in Sioux Falls, SD for families who don’t want to blow a wad of cash on a weekend activity.

There are multiple parts to the Outdoor Campus East. There are both indoor and outdoor activities. We started with the indoor learning center, called the Outdoor Skills and Nature Center, complete with a walk-through fish for kids to go through and learn about the innards of a fish that they might then go outside and learn to catch at the Campus’ pond.


I suppose this display is to help kids develop motor skills? I took a photo to send to my hunting friends so they can see what they can do with their extra antlers. ūüôā


“The Outdoor Campus’ mission is to provide education about outdoor skills, wildlife, conservation and management practices of South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks to all ages in order to preserve our outdoor heritage.

Here Thing2 observes a wetland display complete with muskrat hut. The indoor museum has displays of many natural habitats of South Dakota – prairie, woodland, agricultural, and backyard. This is located in a stunning 3,000 gallon water tank display. Native fishes inhabit the tank: Bluegill, Walleye, Northern Pike, and so on.


There is a whole camping set up complete with tent, pretend campfire, canoe, and fishing gear. Kids can get a feel for what a camping trip might feel like (minus the bugs).


Here is a stream to run along.


There are a number of educational information boards around, all placed at a height that kids could see.


Here you can see some cool cats hanging out.


This display board features pelts from a number of native South Dakota species. Visitors can touch and feel each pelt as they try to guess which animal each pelt belongs to. Thing2 lifts a pelt flap to discover the answer underneath. I love activities that lead people to compare and contrast similar things so that a person has to use their ability to notice sometime subtle differences in order to arrive at the right answer. This is more engaging than straight Q and A format.


Hands on learning! Thing1 turns over a large shelf fungus that has been preserved for all to enjoy. Objects on display at the Campus are a YES in terms of touching. This is what kids need!


Thing2 isn’t so sure about this skull.


Of course, one of the best features of the Outdoor Campus East is…the Outdoors!! Here the boys run through the butterfly garden. We saw a number of Monarch butterflies this day.


Again, everything here is a YES. Kids are encouraged to experience the outdoors in any way possible. Super-active kids, like my Thing1, can find plenty of ways to learn while running around and climbing on things.


And less-active (at least in the “doesn’t act like shot out of a cannon”) kids, like my Thing2, can enjoy things at their pace, too.


Thing2 gets framed.


I’m not sure that this is what the Campus intended, but here we are….


Isn’t this a great idea? We could do this in our back yard at home.


Boys and their forts.


I was glad to see that the Campus was actually directing their signage at the real perpetrators here! And they provide a way to clean up, too. Very user-friendly, and very conscious of the fact that Fido is a part of the family, too.


My husband always comments on the fact that I take photos of signage. He understood, finally, when I explained to him that I learned long ago to snap a digital photo of the map whenever I go hiking. This way I always have the map with me. Take note, readers – this is a really good idea for many reason, first of which is, of course, the whole idea of not getting lost. Along this line of thinking, look behind you periodically when you hike because that is what the landscape is going to look like when you hike back. And take photos of different landmarks along the way.


The Outdoor Campus East was holding a family fishing day at the pond this day. We didn’t participate in this, but the boys enjoyed watching for a little while. The Campus also offers archery, gun safety sporting days, seasonal hikes with interpreters, classes for kids, and many other educational and fun experiences, many of which are FREE.


I encouraged Thing1 to get his big energy out now so that he could be a little quieter when we got to the woods. We were all hoping to see some wildlife along the trail.


Seems like a rare moment these days, but a blissful one to be sure. ūüôā


In another rare moment, Thing1 stands still. You can see from his right leg and his lean, though, that he is about to take off.


The boys said, “Mama, show us some animals!” And not two seconds later, I present what I like to call A RABBIT.


“Show us something bigger, Mama!” And here I present THE ELUSIVE DOE.


She is a pretty little girl.


She put up with us oogling at her for a little while then hopped off into the woods. She didn’t bolt, though.


Best buddies.


I love little surprises like this one. Note the Norwegian flag over the door.


I learned from Take Along Guide Rabbits, Squirrels and Chipmunks by Mel Boring that this little guy is a Thirteen-Lined Ground Squirrel. Beautiful markings!


We went back into the museum after we hiked. Everyone needed a drink of water from the fountains located near the restrooms.


As a book and nature nut, I appreciated the great library that is kept at the Outdoor Campus East. There were hundreds of titles about nature, education, ID-ing, regional habitats, and many other topics.

Thing2 loves turtles. [Favorite turtle story: Thing2 runs up to me from the tv and announces loudly, “Mama, there are these turtle guys on tv AND THEY FIGHT BAD GUYS! I didn’t know that turtles fight bad guys!” Can anyone guess what cartoon he saw?] Here a turtle poses behind Thing2’s shoulder.


Thing1 gets real close to a native snake.


Thing1 sports some hunting shades. Looks a little like Bono, I think.


One last ride before we hop in the car for the drive home.


The Outdoor Campus East in Sioux Falls, SD is open Monday – Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sundays 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. (closed on state holidays).
Admission is FREE!!

Go! Do!!

Emily, Doer of Stuff

P.S. If you’d like to see my recent post with all of my nature photos from this trip, click here and enjoy!


Bramble Park Zoo, Watertown, SD

Bramble Park Zoo’s current advertising campaign encourages folks to “Come Closer”. This is what my family likes most about this small zoo – a visitor can get really close to the animals and have a real experience with them. None of my photos here¬†were taken with a Zoom lens, by the way.

Featuring many native plant species as well as over 800 animals, this 15-acre park is an ideal place for families to visit in one day or less. The Bramble Park Zoo had its 100 Year Anniversary in 2012, and the collection has been housed at its present location since 1940.

It was a little chilly when we most recently visited this Zoo, but the boys were up for some fresh air and some running around.



I love the fact that I can get up close to the animals here. While all of the enclosures are designed with safety in mind, a visitor can really see what is going on in each exhibit.

Here is a reindeer (a.k.a. caribou). We were feeding corn kernels to some ducks that were hanging out with the reindeer inside their area when this guy came over to see what was going on. Turned out that he wanted some corn, too. He reminded me so much of my old collie dog, Bentley, who would patiently wait for a hand out – not exactly begging, but it was hard not to notice him standing there all the same. We tossed this guy some treats.


These little foxes are usually not seen in their enclosure. They have been hiding or sleeping other times when I’ve been to this Zoo. Here they are! The fox on the left kept trying to poke and nip at the fox on the right who was trying to sleep in a sunspot.


Here is another guy who is trying to nap in a sun spot. This is a new bear enclosure. Honestly, he looks pretty comfortable. I also took a shot of a bear statue that was nearby. There are some very nice works of art throughout the Zoo and this is one of them.

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Now, because I had my boys with me and we were running zig zag all over the Zoo, I didn’t write down what this guy is. He is either a very small wolf or a very well-fed Coyote. My guess is the later. Keep in mind, coyotes in the wild are rarely so plump and well cared for.


There are many interactive learning areas near related animal enclosures. Here Thing1 compares his own wing span against those of other bird species. He also hangs out in a rather large nest.

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My family’s favorite area of any Zoo is the Big Cat area, and Bramble Park Zoo does not disappoint!

Sleepy kitties? Well, not so much. The white tiger was resting peacefully until he heard a bird fluttering around the outside of his cage. When it landed close on some brush, this little kitty-guy suddenly leaped to catch the bird – leaped higher than my 5’7″ height, in fact! I have to say, watching the tiger…be a tiger…was truly awesome.

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And then there was this snow leopard. Have you ever seen one of these¬†cats before? Usually not, I suspect. They are very shy about being seen, even in Zoos where they are used to people milling about.¬†This guy was right up front and center, and “played” with us a little bit. Thing2 ran¬†alongside the snow leopard’s enclosure and the snow leopard ran right along side of him.¬†Back and forth they went. And yeah, maybe Snow Leopard was thinking that Thing2 was lunch, but I don’t think that his body language said this. My best guess is that he was being playful at the time.


After running with Thing2, this snow leopard hopped up to about my height. I made cat purring sounds to him and he started rubbing his face on the enclosure mesh and purring back – just like a house cat. He was a lot of fun. This moment was really special for me because I used to walk past snow leopards every day when I worked at the Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal, Virginia (a part of the National Zoo, Washington, D.C.) and all I ever wanted was to see a snow leopard! This guy was wonderful.

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The Zoo offers an indoor Discovery Center experience as well, which includes the Terry Redlin Environmental Center (completed in February of 2010), which highlights the unique geography of northeastern South Dakota. Redlin, a native of Watertown, SD and a highly regarded wildlife artist, and helped support the newest center at the Park. [You can also stop by then Redlin Art Center, also located in Watertown, S.D. just off I-29.]

Thing2 loves elephants and zebras and thought that these “models” were great. I didn’t mention to him that they were…real. Also, am I the only one who is weirded out by the fact that this elephant doesn’t have a body?

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The Bramble Park Zoo is open during the Winter from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and during the Summer from10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is cheap! 2 years and younger are FREE, 3 to 12 years are $5 +tax, and 13+ are $7 +tax. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Emily, Doer of Stuff

Emily Takes People to the Doctor

As I mentioned earlier, the past month has been crazy busy. Here are two reasons why…..


In the first X-ray, Thing2 has swallowed a penny, all in the name of science, I’m sure. In the future, however, I am going to have to monitor experiments more closely.


Next photo, Thing1 is diagnosed with “Flexible Flat-footedness”. Not a big deal, really, but it causes him to trip over his own foot on occasion, which is why I had him checked out by a Pediatric Orthopedic Specialist.

Um…a penny for your thoughts?

Emily, Doer of Stuff, Rescuer of Young People