Are you bored at home? Having a tough time finding activities for your kids? Or, do you need internet access to WFH or take online classes?
Here are the top 5 ways the Great Falls Public Library can help!
Watch these interactive Kids’ Place videos with your own kids, your grandkids, nieces or nephews, or even your best friends’ kids. This is a fun activity that you can do in person, or even on Zoom. There are several links to other fun online activities available on the Library’s website at greatfallslibrary.org/kids-place.
2. Sign up for a Library card if you haven’t already done so. It’s quick and easy!
3. Subscribe to the Wowbrary newsletter. This newsletter gives you the first pick at new books arriving at the Library each week. Watch your TBR pile grow without spending a dime! The Library also has a great selection of audiobooks and DVDs. After placing your holds, pick them up through the new drive-up window. You don’t even have to leave the comfort of your own car to visit the Library now!
4. Of course, you can still visit the Library IRL, just remember to wear a mask, and give other patrons some space. This is not too much of an issue for us bibliophiles. In fact, we are naturals at it. You can find the current Library hours here.
5. The Library also offers free access to the Internet. You can now check out a free hot spot from the Library and take it home with you. Or, if you prefer you may also visit the Library to use the Wi-Fi for free in a quiet space during business hours. Some folks have even parked outside the building to use the Wi-Fi from the safety of their cars, or when the Library is closed to patrons.
One more thing…
Maybe you are happy as can be tucked in at home in your comfy chair. You might have a cup of tea and your Corona puppy at your feet, or your Covid cat on your lap. New books are arriving every few days from your favorite online bookstore. Okay, maybe that’s just me. If you can relate, consider sending a donation to the Library Foundation. And, you don’t even need to leave your warm, comfy home to do so. Your gift will help support the children, elderly, and other vulnerable folks in the community by providing free books, free internet access, and many other resources.
This year the Library Foundation is fundraising to buy a new Bookmobile to deliver books around Great Falls and the surrounding communities, once it is safe to do so again. Students at Great Falls High created this great PSA to support the Bookmobile Campaign. They are so creative! Enjoy!
What are other ways that you have used the Library to help cope during the pandemic? Please feel free to share in the comments section below.
As the chilly weather and shorter days roll in, spending time outside with the kiddos becomes a bit more challenging, but as important as ever. We’ve all heard someone say something along the lines of, “Come inside…you’ll catch a cold!!” But this common misconception that cold weather brings about illness should be abandoned at the door…leading outside, of course! As long as children bundle up and stay safe, the benefits of outdoor adventures far out way the risks. Getting the blood flowing and soaking up essential vitamins, both supports our immune systems, so we may better fight off such viruses, and excites the senses. However, finding outdoor activities can sometimes be tricky and it is easy to want to curl up in a cozy blanket and hibernate until spring. Here are a few ideas and projects my children and I have done to stay connected to the natural world this winter.
Nature Confetti and Ice Suncatchers
Frozen Ice-suncatchers are a beautiful way to capture the sun and add some splendor to your yard! And they are super easy to make…winter temperatures do most of the work for you!
You will need:
Some sort of container: paper plates, aluminum pie crust pan, etc.
Natural materials: leaves, twigs, rose hips, feathers, berries, etc.
Something to hang the suncatchers: kitchen twin, yarn, ribbon, jute, etc.
Freezer or just set outside in freezing temperatures
Hole punch to make confetti from dried leaves (optional)
We used compostable paper bowls but you could use any sort of container. Search the yard or go for a walk in the woods or neighborhood to find natural materials and arrange them in your container. Next fill with water. You can even add a couple drops of food coloring to add some vibrant colors. Finally leave outside to freeze!
When they are frozen, you can pop out the ice and drill a hole for your string to hang. Or as an alternative hanging measure, you can wrap the string around the perimeter, with a good length at the top, then fill with some cold water and refreeze. You will then have string that wraps the suncatcher! Hang on a tree where it can catch the light and enjoy the beauty of your creation!
Winter Scavenger Hunt
Committing to learning with your children outside, ignites many opportunities to use your senses and connect with your little ones. Who doesn’t love a good scavenger hunt? Winter scavenger hunts are a great way for the kiddos to have fun, while using their senses to understand winter habitat ecology! You can use the list here as an example, but there are certainly more items that could be added, depending on your region or where you intend to do the hunt!
Before the adventure, try talking with your children about how to use their senses for each item. For example, do you “see” the pine trees? Can you “smell” them? What do the bark, pinecones, and pine needles “feel” like?
After the search is a great time to talk over the items in your search, as the excitement and chaos of the hunt is often too great whilst in the moment! What items did you find, and which did you not? What was the most exciting winter spotting? Any new discoveries?
Electronic Wildlife Watchers
This next activity is not one to be done outside, but is great fun to watch wildlife in real time from the cozy comfort of your home. There are numerous wildlife cams, such as Cornell FeederWatch Cam, where we often catch a mongoose snatching fruit at the Panama feeders during the nighttime hours. My children also love to check on Iris the osprey at the University of Montana’s nest camera! https://www.allaboutbirds.org/cams/hellgate-ospreys/
Time to get out the Sibley’s and see how many backyard birds you can identify! This is a great introduction to fascinating bird behaviors and I am always amazed to hear about the children’s “eagle-eyed” observations.
Another fun activity to check out some “bugs” and the health of your local watershed, is to identify macroinvertebrates using a dichotomous key. You can find the one we use here.
Bring a container so that you can collect specimens, being sure to keep an adequate amount of water for the creatures. Carefully turn over rocks and you should find some critters. Use a net if you have one.
Once you’ve collected some species, start at the top of the key, asking questions based on the characteristics you observe. For example, “shell or no shell, legs or no legs,” following your way down to the correct identification!
Check out some valuable online resources for more information on your local watershed, what makes a healthy stream, and how macroinvertebrates are bioindicators. A great resource for Butte, Montana is The Clark Fork Watershed Education Program!
You’re unlikely to stumble into Ekalaka unless you are trying to get there and this museum makes it worth the trip! Surrounded by fossil-rich badlands, the museum displays a variety of specimens all found within 50 miles of the museum including a gorgeously mounted T.rex and the duck-billed dinosaur Anatotitan copei. The museum hosts an annual Dino Shindig in late July where you can meet top paleontologists in the field, learn all about the fossils, and even join a dino dig!
Museum of the Rockies has one of the most impressive collections of Triceratops and T.rex skulls you will find on display anywhere. There is an impressive sampling of all the species of dinosaurs found in Montana including Tyrannosaurus Rex,Triceratops,“Big Al” the Allosaurus, hadrosaurs (duck-billed dinosaurs), ankylosaurs, Pachycephalosaurus, and Deinonychus, a North American cousin of Velociraptor.
Teton County in Montana is the home of Egg Mountain, where the first dinosaur babies were discovered! The species was named Maiasaura or “good mother lizard” because of the groundbreaking discovery that the animals stayed with their young while in the nest. In the museum you can see a real-bone Maiasaura skeleton, the state fossil of Montana. Want to dig up dinosaur bones for yourself? The museum hosts half- and full day dig programs in the summer where you can try your hand at excavating dinosaur fossils in the field.
Another important Montana fossil discovery can be found at the Great Plains Dinosaur Museum, home of Leonardo the dinosaur mummy! This is one of the best-preserved dinosaur specimens in the world and has fossilized skin covering 90% of its body. You read that right. Fossil. Dinosaur SKIN. You have to check it out!
Museums are great, but how about exploring the land where dinosaurs used to roam? Makoshika State Park is the largest state park in Montana and made up of Hell Creek Formation badlands, one of the best-producing areas for fossils from the end of the age of dinosaurs. In the park you can see the black coal layer that marks the K-Pg boundary showing the moment an asteroid hit the earth and ended the age of dinosaurs. Hike one of the many trails in the park and keep your eyes peeled for fossils on the ground and in the hillsides. Ten species of dinosaurs have been found in the park including Triceratops and T.rex. The park also has a visitor center with several displays showing specimens found in the park.
All these locations are stops along the Montana Dinosaur Trail! Check out their site to see additional fossil locations and pick up a prehistoric passport to guide you through all the dinosaur hot spots in the state. You can collect stamps at each location and get a specially designed t-shirt if you complete the entire trail.
With the winter well underway and COVID-19 continuing to limit outdoor recreation options, Edmontonians have taken up cross country skiing in huge numbers. As a sport that is accessible to almost any level of fitness and one that makes social distancing easy, it’s not hard to see why. If you’re new to the sport like me and managed to get a hold of some gear, or just dusted off some old stuff, congratulations – you’re one of the lucky ones. Getting started might feel intimidating, you’ll have to figure out technique, how to wax, and where to ski. While I won’t be able help you out with those first two (YouTube is your friend), I can most definitely share my experiences with different trails around the city. While I’m just learning this year, I’ve had the chance to ski at most of the Edmonton-area sites already, so if you want a beginner’s perspective of where to ski, keep reading!
The Goldbar trail system, composed of the Capilano, Goldbar and Goldstick trail networks are maintained by the Edmonton Nordic Ski Club and therefore are the class of the lot when it comes to grooming in the city. They offer several lit trails at night so you can get in an early morning or late night ski. Goldbar has a mix of loops for beginners, intermediate and advanced skiers, so if you’re just starting out and haven’t already, head there for a great ski and try to hone your skills on some uphill and downhill segments.
My favourites: Victoria Golf Course, Riverside Golf Course, Mayfair Golf Course, Hawrelack Park, Argyll
The golf courses are almost entirely flat, so they are great for new skiers. However, I enjoy all these trails for how you can get into a good rhythm, zone out and relax while working on your technique. I find these trails have a nice relaxed atmosphere and are super family friendly. Victoria’s main loop is 2.5km, so if you’re working up to a 5 or 10 kilometer ski, just count the laps. Riverside, Hawrelack and Mayfair offer slightly longer loops, but nothing crazy.
Dark Horse: Argyll. While I’m certainly biased as this one is the closest to me, Argyll definitely deserves mention, especially for beginners. It has two loops, 1.2km and 0.8km, and is entirely flat. Earlier in the winter when the temperatures were above freezing and there was little snow, I found Argyll held up better than anywhere else. I’m not sure why, but for whatever reason they didn’t melt like other city trails. Since the loops are in a field above the Mill Creek Ravine trail system, they don’t accumulate debris from trees after strong winds. Argyll is one of the least intimidating places to ski, if you want a relaxed place to practice your skills without worry. Also – it’s skijoring friendly, so you can ski with your pup! If the weather hasn’t been cooperating, definitely consider Argyll.
SWC is a popular spot and for good reason! It’s expertly maintained and has countless loops that can be combined into any length of ski, truly a first-class Nordic center. It’s the one ski area nearby that has rentals on site – bring a friend! If you want to head there over weekend, either go super early, or in the afternoon, since parking can be at a premium. SWC is a great option if you’re wanting to try a longer ski, or if you want to ski in a beautiful Aspen-Parkland setting.
The Devon trails are volunteer run by the Devon Golf Club and the Devon Lions Club, who do a great job with grooming and are exceptionally friendly. Devon trails are located down by the river and so often receive different weather conditions than in the city. As a result of its location, Devon holds up better during warmer temperatures, so as the days pass and we move to spring skiing in March, I imagine Devon will continue to be a great place to ski. It’s beautiful here and is a worthy day-trip from the city.
I love it here. CLB has over 100km of trails, so there’s no shortage to explore. It’s impressively wild, your ski is almost as likely to feature moose, deer, porcupine or coyote as it is other skiers. The trail network has several backcountry shelters, meaning it’s a great place to double up your ski with a picnic or a fire. It has four staging areas, Waskahegan, Islet Lake, Central, and Blackfoot. Waskahegan is the most popular starting point, and the parking lot can get busy on a nice day. Skate skiers should note that the only trails wide enough to provide skate skiing are accessed from the Blackfoot staging area. CLB is also the site of the famous Birkebeiner race! With such a big trail system, grooming is obviously harder to maintain, however after a big snowfall Cooking Lake Blackfoot is bliss. If having a good adventure while you ski sounds fun, this is the place for you.
Listen, this post is far from a complete guide, but it might help you get started. Below I will include links to sources that will describe other places to ski, as well as more detailed accounts from more experienced skiers. Edmonton has an abundance of places to cross country ski and we’re lucky for it. It’s important we thank the dedicated people who contribute to this sport wherever possible.
Embrace the winter!
There’s an app for that! Your one-stop-shop for user reviewed trail conditions is the YEG Cross Country Ski Conditions app. Android users can get it from wherever they get their apps, while the app is under development for Apple products. Stay tuned…
Mike Stern has compiled a comprehensive guide to Edmonton area skiing, he offers his own take on the trails, as well as details concerning trail facilities, access points, and way more. By all means check out Mike’s Guide.
Another great resource is the Northern Region Trail Report, it’s your go-to source for northern Alberta grooming reports and trail descriptions all in one place.
If you’re looking to ski Banff, Kananaskis, Yoho, or anywhere near Calgary, check out Bob’s blog. There are daily posts from Bob and contributors with trip reports – often with pictures! Thank you Skier Bob!