Every good adventurer knows that you can’t always rely on a GPS unit or your cellphone to help you navigate outdoors. Being able to use a compass and a map are important skills when outdoors, especially in the wilderness.
Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Sarah practiced her orienteering skills at a local New Jersey park last weekend. Orienteering is an outdoor activity where you use a compass and paper map to navigate to checkpoints, or “stops”, hidden in a natural area. Sometimes people compete in orienteering competitions to see who can find all the stops the fastest! Read all about Sarah and Buddy Bison’s adventure below:
“This weekend I got to try orienteering at Estell Manor Park, which is a county park in Atlantic County, New Jersey. I started off by learning about orienteering and how to use a compass. If you are hiking in the wilderness, it is really helpful to know how to use a compass, since you might not be able to use your phone, and a compass never needs batteries.
I learned how to use the map and compass together to tell me which direction to go when I’m hiking. One interesting thing I learned is that there is a difference between the direction of the North Pole (Geographic or True North) and the “magnetic north” of the Earth. [A compass uses the Earth’s magnetic field to align with the point of “magnetic north”, which is in a different location than the geographic location of the North Pole. Learn more here.] I also learned how to use the map scale to figure out how far I should be walking between each of the orienteering stops.
Once we learned how to use the compasses, we headed out on the trails. Estell Manor Park has lots of great trails that go through the woods and some of the trails go by the Great Egg Harbor River. There are a few different orienteering trails to try here. Once we were out on the trail, I used the compass and the map scale to find my way to the different stops on the orienteering map. It was cold out and there was still snow on the ground, but I had a great time orienteering at Estell Manor Park. I’m hoping to come back to this park again a try one of the other orienteering trails.”
Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Sarah had a very special Halloween this year. Sarah traveled to Washington, D.C. to celebrate Halloween at the White House with fellow Student Ambassador Audrey and Buddy Bison! Check out Sarah’s adventure below:
“Did you know that the President of the United States lives in a National Park? The White House is located in President’s Park , which is one of the units of the National Park Service. President’s Park includes the land around the White House, an area called the Ellipse, and Lafayette Park. There are many different statues and memorials in the park areas near the White House.
Student Ambassadors Sarah (right) and Audrey (left) at White House Halloween Event.
Last month, I had an amazing opportunity to visit Washington, D.C., and volunteer on the White House grounds with National Park Trust for a Halloween event. I was able to hand out goodies, such as Buddy Bison stickers and Junior Ranger hats and badges, to lots of children and their families who came to trick-or-treat at the White House. A lot of the families asked questions about my Junior Ranger badges and how they could get their own. It was fun talking with them about some of the parks that I have visited and about parks that they had been to before. I even got to meet Buddy Bison, Smokey Bear, and Woodsy Owl! It was also exciting to get my own President’s Park Junior Ranger badge. There were lots of other government agencies that were handing out treats too, such as the U.S. Park Police, the U.S. Forest Service, and NASA. NASA even brought a moon rock for people to see!
While I was in Washington, D.C. I was able to visit many of the different monuments and memorials that are part of the National Mall and Memorial Parks site.I was able to get my junior ranger badge from there also. My family and I walked around the National Mall and we followed the trail around the Tidal Basin to see some of the memorials. Fall is a great time to visit Washington,D.C., because the leaves on the trees are starting to change color. We saw beautiful leaves as we walked by the Potomac River and around the Tidal Basin and the National Mall.
Some of the monuments that I visited were the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. Each monument and memorial is unique and special, and visiting these places was very inspirational to me. I really enjoyed learning about the history of these places and how they came to be. One of my favorite places was the Lincoln Memorial. Abraham Lincoln has always been one of my favorite presidents, and being able to visit the Lincoln Memorial was a very special moment for me. I can’t wait to visit Washington D.C. again to see more of the parks there!”
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.
Sarah standing with whelk shells used to make the reef.
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!
Stewardship is an important part of our mission here at National Park Trust, and Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Sarah Hullihen is a great example of what a park steward should be! She recently returned to the Maurice River, a National Scenic and Recreational River, where she participated in the South Jersey Waterways Cleanup to collect trash and beautify the area. Sarah is even organizing a litter pick-up challenge for Kids to Parks Day! Read more about her project below:
“As a Buddy Bison Student Ambassador, I love volunteering at parks. One of my favorite projects to help with at parks are park cleanups. It’s so important to keep litter out of parks because litter is harmful to plants and animals, and you don’t want to see trash around when you are visiting a park. Recently, I got to volunteer to help clean up different places near the Maurice River in New Jersey for the South Jersey Waterways Cleanup.
The Maurice River is a very special place, and I am lucky to live close by. It is a National Scenic and Recreational River, and it is protected by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. This year, 2018, happens to be the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The river is a great place to see all kinds of wildlife, especially birds like osprey, and one of my favorite animals, the bald eagle. Last year I got to see a whole family of bald eagles in their nest! There are also many endangered plants and animals that depend on the Maurice River, so it is definitely an important and special place. I have been able to go kayaking and also boating on the river, and it is amazing! There are also lots of great places to hike near different parts of the Maurice River.
There are many homes and businesses near different parts of the Maurice River, and unfortunately a lot of litter too. Litter that gets into the river can eventually go all the way to the Delaware Bay and then into the ocean. At the South Jersey Waterways Cleanup we spent time cleaning trash from a few different areas around the river, and we even found litter in the river too. Many of the things that we collected could be recycled, so we had different bags for those things and other bags for things that had to go in the trash. Even though the parks near the river all have trash and recycling containers, many people don’t use them.
When my family and I visit parks and other outdoor places, we bring along bags and gloves so that we can pick up any litter if we see it. One of the activities that I am planning for Kids to Parks Day this year is a litter pick-up challenge. The challenge will be to see who can pick up the most litter and things that can be recycled. I hope that everyone will realize how important it is to keep our parks and outdoor places clean, and they will want to help with a park cleanup too.”
Want to participate in park clean up near you? Search for stewardship-themed Kids to Park Day events here!
Citizen science projects let anyone become a scientist for a day! In 2017, Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Sarah Hullihen volunteered at the Maurice River (NJ), which is a part of the National Wild and Scenic River System. Sarah helped National Park Service staff and local scientists collected dragonfly larvae for an ongoing national project that investigates mercury levels in dragonflies. Read more about Sarah’s contributions below:
One of my favorite things about being a Buddy Bison Student Ambassador is volunteering to help in different parks. One of the great places that I have gotten to volunteer at is the Maurice Wild and Scenic River here in New Jersey. A project that I got to help with was a citizen science project collecting dragonfly larvae for a National Park Service nationwide study. The group that I volunteered with is called the Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River and its Tributaries. They work with the National Park Service to help protect the Maurice River and the places around it.
My favorite part of volunteering with the dragonfly sampling project was getting to paddle a canoe out on the river and using nets to collect dragonfly larvae. Sometimes the larvae were hard to find since they are really well camouflaged! I also helped collect dragonfly larvae from around the water plants near the edge of the water. After we collected the larvae, we brought them back to the shore and put them into tubs of water. While the larvae were in the tubs, we had to identify what type of dragonfly larvae they were. This was a little difficult, but we had pictures to help out. The larvae also need to be a certain size to be sent for mercury testing, so we had to use rulers to measure them. We then had to label a bag for each dragonfly larvae so that it could be sent to a lab. The dragonfly that I helped collect were sent to a lab to be tested for mercury. The mercury builds up in different animals and is then passed along the food chain. I learned that mercury can be harmful to all different types of wildlife, which is why the National Park Service is doing this research project. There are different parks all across the United States that collect dragonfly larvae for this project.
The Maurice River is a beautiful place to visit, and It was really interesting learning about different types of dragonflies. I also saw lots of other wildlife, like turtles, monarch butterflies, fish, and birds. I had a great time, and I’m really looking forward to volunteering again next year!
Follow Sarah’s adventures on social media @jrrangersarah.