Buddy Bison’s Buzz July Update

Kicking Off Summer in a Cool Way

How do you beat the summer heat? I do it by hiking in the shade! Students from Patterson Elementary went hiking with me in Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC. Thanks to their school sponsor DecisionPoint, we hiked through the forest. By being under the trees we were much cooler than if we were hiking an open trail in the sun.

Patterson Elementary enjoyed a special treat when volunteers from General Electric joined us for our adventures. Together we explored the forest with binoculars and bug boxes. We spotted poison ivy and discovered worms. We saw some American robins and squirrels too! Then inside the Nature Center, we watched a night sky program inside the National Park Service’s only planetarium.

Take me with you on your next forest adventure, then let NPT know #WheresBuddyBisonBeen!


Awesome Oysters and Marvelous Marshes!

Students and parents from West Education Campus and Neval Thomas Elementary (DC) spent a day down by the bay with me at the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Education Center (MD), thanks to the generosity of the U.S. Forest Service and Pepco.

We started each adventure by learning all about the amazing oysters that live in the Chesapeake Bay. An oyster is an animal with hard, rock-like shells—such as  a clam or mussel. Oysters live in big groups called reefs that once covered most of the bay. Today, oyster numbers are very low because of overfishing and water pollution. To help, we learned how important it is to useless chemicals on our lawns and support local oyster farmers. The students and I sifted through bins of oyster shells that were taken out of the bay for observation. This allowed us to look for animals hiding in the reef. We found mud crabs, mussels, and shrimp all using the oyster reef as a home!

After lunch, we hiked down to the marsh and learned how important they are to the bay. Marshes help prevent erosion and create habitat, or a place to live, for lots of smaller water animals. The students grabbed nets and jumped into the water to see what they could find, including fish, a water snake, and lots of crabs.

What a great way to spend the day!

Fossil Fun with Buddy Bison Students

Did you know that southern Maryland was once covered by a warm, shallow sea? 10-20 million years ago Maryland was actually an ancient ocean, filled with reefs, sea stars, rays, and sharks! Today, scientists can see evidence of this ancient body of water in the fossils left in the shoreline cliffs.

I learned about this with students from E. W. Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School (DC) when we visited Calvert Cliffs State Park (MD). We went to explore Maryland’s ancient past and to hunt for fossils. We learned how fossils are formed from the park ranger, and the best ways to “hunt” for fossils along the beach. Did you know that it is illegal to take plants and animals out of most parks? However, Calvert Cliffs State Park is very special because visitors are allowed to keep the fossils they find!

Armed with this new knowledge, we took to the beach near the cliffs to jump in the water and look for fossils. Highlights of the day’s haul included many fossilized shells and a few shark teeth! A special thanks to The North Face for making this adventure possible.  

Parks Need Kids

Have you ever wondered what you could do to help parks? The kids from these three schools did too, so they did their research and entered our  Kids to Parks Day National School Contest. They were three of the 92 schools that won park grants! All three of their entries focused on stewardship, or projects to take care of their local parks. We hope their stories will inspire you to take care of your local parks!

2nd graders from Abraham Lincoln Elementary (WI) at Yellowstone National Park. Photo courtesy of Sara Erickson.



Abraham Lincoln Elementary (WI) 2nd graders visited Yellowstone Lake in Yellowstone National Park. They went hiking and picked up trash while they were on the trail. Then, they planted 40 trees! That’s a lot of clean air they are helping to provide for the future!





Southeast Kelloggsville Elementary (MI) at Hager Park. Photo courtesy of Maureen Bradley.


The 5th grade of Southeast Kelloggsville Elementary learned a lot about ecology during their visit to Hager Park (MI). They discovered that invasive plants are a problem for a lot of parks, because they take the resources needed for native ones. To help out, the students worked hard to remove invasive garlic mustard and deadnettle.






The 5th grade at Copper Mill Elementary (LA) at Flanacher Road Park. Photo courtesy of Aimee Perrodin.

Copper Mill Elementary’s 5th grade really went above and beyond. When they journeyed to Flanacher Road Park (LA), they didn’t just do one stewardship project, or even two—they did four! Through the power of teamwork, they painted basketball bleachers, laid mulch, created tabletop chess boards, and built “little libraries.”

A big Buddy Bison thank you to all of you for making sure our parks stick around for the next generation of stewards!





“Shell-a-brating” Healthy Ecosystems

Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Sarah standing with whelk shells used to make the reef.

“This spring, I got to help with a project called the “Shell-A-Bration” in Newport, New Jersey. Newport is a town on the Delaware Bay. The Delaware Bay is a beautiful place with many different types of wildlife.  Many people visit the Delaware Bay just to see the amazing birds that stop there during their migrations.

At the Shell-A-Bration I got to help build a reef from bags of whelk shells. The bags are made out of netting so that the water can move through them, but the shells will stay in place. To make the reef, the bags were lined up on the sand so that they will be covered by the water.  One of the reasons that the reef was built is to help keep the sand on the beach from washing away. If the beach washes away, the animals that live there will disappear. I had so much fun getting to put on waders and helping to carry the bags of shells down to the water. The bags were pretty heavy, so we made a line where one person would pass the bag of shells to the next person until it got to the water. I definitely got very wet and muddy, but I had a great time.

Two animals that really depend on the Delaware Bay are the red knot and the horseshoe crab. The red knot is a bird that migrates every year from South America to the Arctic. In the spring, these birds leave South America and fly up to 9,000 miles to the tundra in the Arctic! They spend the spring and the summer in the Arctic and then fly back to South America for the winter. On the way to the Arctic, the red knots stop at the Delaware Bay to eat lots of food so that they can keep flying. One of their main foods at the Delaware Bay are horseshoe crab eggs.

Horseshoe crabs live in the water in the Delaware Bay. They get their name from their shape. The top part of their body looks like the shape of a horseshoe, and underneath they look like a crab. But they are actually more closely related to spiders than crabs. Once a year, horseshoe crabs come out onto the beaches and lay eggs. It is perfect timing because this happens at the same time when the red knots are stopping at the Delaware Bay on their way to the Arctic. As long as there are enough horseshoe crabs, the red knots will have enough to eat to finish flying to the Arctic. Scientists are worried because there are less red knots than there used to be. One way to help the red knots is to make sure that the horseshoe crabs have a place on the beach to lay their eggs. This is one of the reasons why they are building reefs, like the one that I got to help build at the Shell-A-Bration. Other wildlife, like fish, can also use the reefs as a place to live or to hide from predators.

I really enjoyed volunteering to help build the reef and also learning about animals that live in and around the Delaware Bay. I definitely want to go back next year to help build another reef!” – Junior Ranger Sarah

Read more about Sarah’s adventures on her blog.