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Ho-Chunk sculpture proposed at Nature At The Confluence Campus

Scale model of the proposed sculpture overlooking Turtle Creek.

Truman Lowe, a nationally acclaimed artist and member of the Wisconsin Ho-Chunk nation, has created a concept for an outdoor sculpture inspired by traditional dwellings called “Ciporoke” (chee-poe-doe-kay) found at Ke-Chunk, a Winnebago Ho-Chunk village which existed ca. 1830 along Turtle Creek in South Beloit, IL. This work of contemporary art would honor the Ho-Chunk Native Americans who once cared for the land at the confluence of Turtle Creek and the Rock River. This would be South Beloit’s first public sculpture and would be located on a bank overlooking Turtle Creek at Nature At The Confluence, an environmental learning center.

This sculpture is being proposed by Jo Ortel, Nystrom Professor of Art History at Beloit College and author of Woodland Reflections: The Art of Truman Lowe.

A student team in Ortel’s Environmental Art class in Spring 2018 proposed this sculpture as part of this class. Ezra Rodgers is a Beloit College senior who was part of the student team in Ortel’s class. In collaboration with the students, Lowe created a small-scale model loosely based on a cirporoke (single-family lodge) out of willow & wire to diagram how the metal sculpture could look. Ezra Rodgers proposed the sculpture concept in September 2018 to South Beloit Mayor Ted Rehl and commissioners and they unanimously and officially approved the installation of the sculpture.

ABOUT TRUMAN LOWE: Truman Lowe is a nationally acclaimed artist and one of Wisconsin’s foremost contemporary sculptors. Lowe was born and raised in the Ho-Chunk community at Black River Falls, Wisconsin. His work utilizes natural materials to intertwine philosophical musings, personal experiences, and Native American history.

Truman Lowe has held the positions of Professor of Art (Sculpture) and Coordinator of Native American Studies Program at University of Wisconsin-Madison. He’s received many honors in his life, including a National Endowment for the Arts Individual Fellowship in 1994 to pursue sculpture and the commissioning by the White House in Washington D.C. in 1997 to create a sculpture for a yearlong exhibition to honor Native Americans. Most notably, from 2000 to 2008 Truman Lowe held the position of Curator of Contemporary Art at the National Museum of the American Indian of the Smithsonian Institution.

ABOUT THE SCULPTURE: Lowe has proposed this metal sculpture to stand at 9 ½ x 9 ½ x 7 ½’’, constructed almost solely of curved metal rods which will be welded to form an artist’s interpretation, rather than replica, of a traditional Ho-Chunk dwelling from ca. 1830. The context of the sculpture will be conveyed in a small plaque, roughly 3 ½’ tall, depicting the historical Ke-Chunk village, honoring the contemporary Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin, and describing Truman Lowe’s work as a sculpture-based storyteller.  The fabrication and installation of this work will be completed by Hooper Corporation, a Madison-based construction company. Truman has a longstanding relationship with the Hooper Corporation, they have fabricated several metal works he designed – including an outdoor bench (Ojibwa Stream, 1992, made of polished stainless steel & rocks, 18 x 48 x 288”, permanently installed at Cloquet Community College, Cloquet, MN) and Bird Effigy (aluminum, 10 x 16’), which was exhibited in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC during Clinton’s presidency. It is currently installed on the campus of Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, MI.

SCULPTURE SITE LOCATION: In consultation with Therese Oldenburg, Executive Director of Nature at the Confluence, a site has been selected for the sculpture high up the south bank overlooking Turtle Creek. The sculpture will be visible from the Learning Center, but because it is an open-form structure, it will be unobtrusive and the bronze-like metal finish will blend in with surrounding vegetation. This location will allow the public to explore the sculpture and get a feel for how large such a structure would have been historically. Please see map and photo at the end of this document.

PROGRAM INTEGRATION: The historic Ke-Chunk village is a prominent part of the history of the confluence and this sculpture will directly impact Nature At The Confluence’s programming goals of telling the story of Ke-Chunk village. A programming initiative called “Ke-Chunk At The Confluence” will be launched in 2019 which will teach children and adults what life was like in the historic Ho-Chunk village. This programming will use research and materials prepared by Sara Pfannkuche and Dan Bartlett of Midwest Heritage Resource Consultants. Nature At The Confluence has plans to work with Bill Quackenbush, Ho-Chunk Tribal Historic Preservation Officer to demonstrate cirporoke building and other Ho-Chunk cultural crafts such as flute making.

Through this programming visitors will come away with not only an appreciation of the history of the Ke-Chunk village, but the vitality and contributions of the Ho-Chunk culture in the 21st century.

FUNDRAISING: Fundraising is currently underway for this project estimated at $30,000. Truman Lowe has generously waived his artist fee, and this generosity is valued at approximately $10,000. If you are interested in supporting this project with a tax-deductible donation, you make a contribution to the “Truman Lowe Sculpture at The Confluence Fund” at Be Active Outdoors, Inc. Be Active Outdoors, Inc is a Wisconsin-based 501(c)3 organization that supports efforts to engage more people in being active outdoors. For further information please contact or project coordinator  Jo Ortel, Nystrom Professor of Art History at Beloit College,

Creek Walking – A whole new way to experience the outdoors

I experienced Turtle Creek a whole new way the other day.

It was an unusually hot September day, around 90 degrees, the water had warmed up and my son asked me to accompany him while he walked the creek and fished. When you’re college-aged son wants to hang out with you, you don’t turn him down! So we headed out and picked a 1.25  mile section that we knew was about knee-high to thigh-high depth and started our slow adventure on the creek.

Creek Walking Turtle Creek (5)What an amazing experience! It’s a whole new way to explore this hidden gem in the Beloit area. I am an avid kayaker and have paddled on Turtle Creek many times, but this was a totally different experience…it was slow and deliberate. You have to look down all the time to watch where to place your feet, so you notice more of the creek bed. Many times I’ve been kayaking and drifting by something I’d like to look at, but it was too much effort to stop and get out.  It’s also a great way to pick up garbage along the way.  If you like fishing, bring along your fishing pole. My son caught and released over 30 fish on our  walk.

When we walked the creek, we had not had significant rain for almost 4 weeks, so the creek was fairly low (3.8 ft at the Carver’s Rock gauge) and very clear.  I wouldn’t go on creek walking if I couldn’t see the bottom (or if the water was higher), as Turtle Creek’s bottom changes dramatically while you walk. There were completely sandy sections with no rocks. There were frequent sections that had stones the size of a large fist littering the whole creek bottom, there were areas that had clay deposits, and other areas that are gravelly.

Walking along a creek is a uniquely rewarding experience for anyone with a sense of adventure. Whether you want to exercise, learn about nature, be inspired, or simply get together with friends, creek walking is a unique way to experience the great outdoors in the Beloit area.

Why Do Creek Walking?

  • It’s an inexpensive way to experience Turtle Creek, only requiring old tennis shoes and a walking stick or two.
  • You can immerse yourself totally in experience a natural and wild part of the Beloit area that you can only access via Turtle Creek.
  • The simple pleasure of creek walking presents us with an opportunity to embrace our creeks as the precious resource that they are.
  • It can be a fun family outing. Check tips below before you go.

Things to know before you go Creek Walking

  • Be prepared to encounter very uneven terrain. This is not something to do for someone who is not steady on their feet.
  • Start with a small section to ensure you’re comfortable Creek Walking.
  • To keep your balance, I recommend bringing along one or two trekking poles (available at local stores such as Walmart for under $20.) You can use a sturdy stick or two, but the trekking poles have straps that go over your wrists and I found this handy when I was getting items out of my backpack or bending down to look at something. They are also very lightweight.
  • Wear old tennis shoes or water shoes. I wore my kayak water booties that have a nice “grippy” sole. I had previously worn my Keene sandals that strap on, but stones kept getting stuck in them that I had to remove. Don’t wear flip flops!
  • Wear quick dry shorts or swim trunks (no cotton). Waders are an option, but not needed if the water is warm enough.
  • You might encounter some muck – for the most part the creek bottom is gravel, sand, stone. But the edges are sometimes mucky (like up to your shins mucky!)
  • Go early in the morning or on a weekday to have a better chance at having the creek to yourself!
  • Secure phones and keys in a Ziploc bag or dry bag and place it in a backpack. There was one spot that I had to take the backpack off my back and carry it over my head to keep it dry.
  • It’s a bit more difficult (and noisier) to walk upstream. But it’s a good work out!
  • This is a great family activity if you pick the right location that is level and not deep. I would choose a spot that you can do a short round trip to see how everyone in your group reacts to this experience. (It’s not for everyone!) It might be fun to bring the smaller kids in a raft (lifejackets required) and pull them while you walk. You might bring a magnifying glass and small plastic container to view any creatures or treasures you might find.
  • Wear sunglasses – Depending on the time of day, there is quite a glare coming off the water. My son wore polarized sunglasses and could see so much more of the creek bottom and the fish swimming around that I could with regular sunglasses.  You might want to wear “croakies” to prevent losing your sunglasses in the water.
  • Wear a backpack to carry water, first aid supplies, and a bag to place garbage you find along the way. Pack a snack or picnic.
  • Creek Walking is not recommended for the person that is worried about something touchy their legs (often weeds and leaves will drift by, caressing your legs).
  • You are not trespassing as long as you stay in the water. Respect landowner’s property. WI DNR rules: Members of the public may use any exposed shore area of a stream without the permission of the landowner only if it is necessary to exit the body of water to bypass an obstruction. (or high water ~ my note)
  • Click here for put in locations for Turtle Creek. Ensure you scout the area you plan to walk, as there are deep sections of the creek.
  • Pick the right section – we walked from Smith Road Bridge (near Tiffany Bridge) to Sweet Allyn Park (there is one part just before Sweet Allyn Park that it gets deeper – chest high) Be prepared to encounter deeper water (there was a short section that reached chest high, and we got out and walked for a bit around it)
  • You can either do a round trip (walk a bit then walk back) or one way like we did, leaving a car at your takeout to get a ride back to your put in spot.
  • Check your shoes after your hike for any hitchhikers. Some creeks have invasive mussels (not Turtle Creek!) that we don’t want to transport around, and they can be very tiny! Remove all plants, animals, and mud from your footwear. It is recommended to soak waders, boots and other equipment in a salt water solution (2 gallons water to 1/3 cup salt) for 24 hours or you can make a bleach solution (¼ cup bleach per gallon of water) and soak for 15 minutes.
  • Leave no trace. Do your best to not disturb the creek bottom and the rocks. There are many macroinvertebrates that live in the creek bottom that are vital to the health of our streams, please don’t disturb their habitat.
  • Know your limits and consider your safety.
  • To learn more about Turtle Creek visit or join the Facebook group.

By Therese Oldenburg, Wisconsin Master Naturalist, President of Be Active Outdoors, Inc.

BAO helps launch WINN for Kids – Wisconsin Illinois Nature Network for Kids

New Nature-Based Collaborative Network Forming in Stateline Area: WINN for Kids – Wisconsin Illinois Nature Network for Kids

Healthier, happier children and families was the focus of a recent meeting of a group of environmental educators, health officials, park administrators, teachers, and conservationists at Welty Environmental Center. The intention of the meeting was to introduce a new collaborative effort, WINN for Kids, to organizations in the Stateline community that have a stake in developing children who are happier, healthier, and better engaged in school as a result of being outdoors and connected to nature on a regular basis.

WINN for Kids (Wisconsin Illinois Nature Network) will be a collaborative organization that will initially focus on the communities of Beloit, South Beloit, Rockton, and Roscoe, with future expansion envisioned. The representatives steering this collaboration are Heidi Andre, head of the science department at Beloit Memorial High School; Therese Oldenburg, from Nature at the Confluence and Be Active Outdoors, Inc.; and Brenda Plakans, from Welty Environmental Center. The concept of WINN for Kids was inspired by CiNCA (Children in Nature Collaborative of Austin) in Austin, TX, a successful organization started in 2010 that has grown to 41 member organizations.

“I met the CiNCA team at a conference and was inspired in what they are doing in Austin and felt that our region would benefit from the same type of collaboration and focus”, said Therese Oldenburg. “WINN for Kids will offer the opportunity to envision and shape the future of our communities’ neighborhoods, education system, health care system, public health, recreation, and business development with the natural world as a central organizing principle. These efforts will offer our communities an opportunity to stand out, and to enhance our region’s quality of life.”

Thank you to the Stateline Community Foundation for supporting WINN’s organizational meetings

The initial WINN for Kids meeting was facilitated by Pam J. Clark Reidenbach from the Northern Illinois Center for Nonprofit Excellence (NICNE), to determine the initiative’s mission. Using small-group work from the initial meeting to define goals and mission, WINN for Kids will hold a second meeting on March 16.  This second meeting will expand the invite list to other key organizations that are vested in the overall impact of the project, to help identify its goals and metrics. The Stateline Community Foundation is providing the startup funds to establish the framework for the group.

The desired outcome from these two meetings is to structure a plan to create a formalized collaborative network of organizations working towards the common goal of creating a healthier regional community.  “It was very energizing to get a group of like-minded organizations in the room, sharing our ideas of how to get kids and their families outside and the implications for ‘normalizing nature’ in our community.  I look forward to the ongoing conversations and seeing how these ideas become a part of Stateline children’s daily lives,” said Plakans.

For more information visit the WINN for Kids website. 

Celebrate the Grand Opening of the Rock River Trail – June 3

Therese Oldenburg of Be Active Outdoors is organizing the grand opening celebration for the Rock River Trail to be held on Saturday, June 3, 2017, 10-11am at the Rotary River Center, 1160 S Riverside Drive, Beloit, WI with events held in both Beloit, WI and South Beloit, IL. Events will be held in the Beloit/South Beloit area that celebrate the trail, including paddling, hiking, flying, biking, horseback riding, history and chocolate! In addition, communties along the 320 miles of the trail will also be holding events during the week of June 3-10, 2017.

See all the Grand Opening events

Planting seeds of renewal at Nature At The Confluence

NATC Groundbreaking (Custom)

Groundbreaking ceremony for Nature At The Confluence project set for November 3

October 28, 2016 – South Beloit, Illinois – The public is invited to the official groundbreaking ceremony for Nature At The Confluence Environmental Learning Center and Campus on Thursday, November 3, 8:00 a.m., 306 Dickop Street, South Beloit, IL. This ceremony has a theme of “Planting Seeds of Renewal”, and all that attend will have an opportunity to help “plant” the seeds of renewal and restoration at the confluence. Because the land was used as a dumping ground for nearly 100 years, the Confluence Campus will be a model example of urban ecology and restoration. The center is planned to be open for the 2017 summer season.

Nature At The Confluence Learning Center South Beloit Illinois Fireplace (Custom)Representatives from Angus-Young Associates and Ayres Associates will be on hand at the ceremony to talk about the building project. Locally-sourced building products that have been exclusively designed by Mid-States Concrete Industries for this project will be on display.

Nature at The Confluence is an initiative of Beloit 2020 to transform the area of land where Turtle Creek meets the Rock River into a community space that celebrates the natural and historical significance of the land. Over the several months, work on Phase I of the plan will transform the property into an outdoor recreation and education center that will provide nature-based programs for a local and regional audience. Further developments are anticipated in the future.

“Nature At The Confluence’s programming will align with a growing body of scientific evidence that suggests that greening our cities can be one of the most cost-effective ways of improving public health”, says Therese Oldenburg, programming coordinator.  “Connecting people to nature is an opportunity for our community to stand out, and to enhance our region’s quality of life.”

Nature At The Confluence Learning Center South Beloit Illinois (2) (Custom)Beloit 2020 has worked over the last three years to fundraise and acquire the property to develop the Confluence Campus.  All funds for the project have been donated to Beloit 2020 by members of the organization and their families, as well as the Beloit Foundation. The cost to acquire the property for the Confluence Campus was approximately $500,000, and the development of the Environmental Learning Center is $1 million.  Beloit 2020 has also established a $1 million endowment fund to sustain educational programming at the center.  Donors will be recognized for their generous contributions at the grand opening of Nature at the Confluence in 2017.

Learn more about Nature At The Confluence at Email or call (815) 200-6910.

Exploring Devil’s Staircase | Ice Age National Scenic Trail | Janesville, WI

Devils Staircase Rock River Trail Ice Age Trail Janesville Wisconsin (2)

By Therese Oldenburg | Wisconsin Master Naturalist | July 9, 2016

The Rock River Trail recently added Hiking Trails as one of the experiences you can enjoy along the trail. I manage the website for the Rock River Trail Initiative and helped put together the hiking map. While adding items to the map I was intrigued by the name of one of the sections along the Rock River in Janesville called “Devil’s Staircase”. I happened to be in Riverside Park in Janesville this weekend, watching my son coach a baseball game, and I remembered the trailhead for this section was right nearby. I decided to take a break from watching baseball during the 3rd inning (they were winning) and set off to find the entrance.

Devils Staircase Rock River Trail Ice Age Trail Janesville Wisconsin (3)

Discovering Hidden Beauty on the Rock River Trail

I came upon the Ice Age Trail sign near the “South Pavilion” (where the Scot family was busy having a family reunion) and set off on the trail. Once I stepped onto the trail and climbed the steps up the bluff I left behind the shouts of baseball fans and laughter from the family reunion and was immediately engulfed in a shady and lush oasis of ferns and other greenery. This rugged trail offers beautiful views as it hugs the 80′ limestone bluffs along the Rock River. I was on the trail for just over an hour  and portion of the trail I took wasn’t more than 1 mile in length (I did a round-trip loop).

As I wrapped up my quick hike and emerged from this beautiful oasis and returned back to “civilization” I heard shouts from the baseball diamond and was hoping Beloit’s Junior Legion team was still winning. I headed back to the diamond and was immediately drawn back into the fun and activity of a typical sunny Saturday at Riverside Park. I arrived at my spot on the bleachers to watch them win in the last inning, smiling from my quick escape into the hidden beauty on this gem of a trail along the Rock River.

I’m thankful I was able to enjoy a short walk on the Ice Age Trail and I highly recommend you explore this section of the trail.

Note: There are a few spots just along the trail that has poison ivy. Be sure you know what it looks like and take caution when venturing off the trail. See photo of poison ivy at bottom of page.

Devils Staircase Rock River Trail Ice Age Trail Janesville Wisconsin (4)

About Devil’s Staircase

“The Devil’s Staircase trail is a historic walking path built after the first World War in Janesville WI. In the 1980’s it was revived and added as a segment to the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. This rugged single track footpath traces the base of a stark sand and limestone escarpment on an elevated ledge above the Rock River – a stepped geological feature warranting the nick-name Devil’s Staircase. It’s linear 1.8 miles are mostly easy walking but also include a few short climbs negotiated on CCC styled stone steps – these climbs and its sometimes narrow and precarious route make it a moderate level hiking path.” From Wisconsin Explorer Blog (click to read more)Devils Staircase Rock River Trail Ice Age Trail Janesville Wisconsin (6)

Beautiful hiking opportunities abound along the Rock River Trail.

The Rock River Trail is a system of recreational trails on and along the Rock River that goes through 11 counties in Wisconsin and Illinois.  From its headwaters in Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin, all the way to to the Mississippi River at Rock Island, Illinois, the Rock River provides a multitude of recreational opportunities, scenic beauty and historic and cultural assets. While there is not a continous hiking trail along all 320 miles of the Rock River, we’ve identified over 35 locations that you can enjoy a hike of various lengths along the Rock River corridor.  We invite you to visit and hike at all of these locations to achieve the 320-Mile Award for Hiking. You can do it in any order, and in any time frame you choose. Learn more about Hiking the Rock River Trail. 

devils staircase ice age trail (1)

About the Ice Age Trail

During the past 2.5 million years, colossal ice sheets gripped the globe, perhaps 15 different times. Glaciers sculpted about one-third of the earth’s landmass. Sometimes 2 miles thick, they stretched from present-day New York to Montana, and from Ohio to Hudson Bay, Canada.

Today, the Ice Age Trail takes you through some of Wisconsin’s most scenic terrain – mature forests, expansive prairies and thousands of lakes and rivers. The story of how this landscape was sculpted starts with the glaciers… Learn more. 

devils staircase ice age trail (2)

Learning to identify and avoid Poison Ivy is a necessary skill when hiking.

Read more about the Ice Age Trail and Devil’s Staircase:

Wisconsin Trails Article “A Natural Oasis in Janesville”

Wisconsin Explorer “Hiking the Ice Age Trail Devil’s Staircase

Ice Age Trail Website

Map showing Devil’s Staircase Trailhead


Rock River Trail Stories image for websiteDo you have a Rock River Trail story?

We’d love to feature your story on the Rock River Trail website in our new section called “Rock River Trail Stories”. In this new section we are looking to feature unique and authentic experiences, features, flavors of the communities found along the Rock River Trail. So, whether you’re an individual, belong to a group, or represent a community, we’d love to hear from you. Please send as an email if you’re interested in submitting your story.

5 Reasons You Should Get Your Dose of Vitamin N (Nature)

Get Your Vitamin Nature at the confluence 4 (Custom)5 Reasons You Should to Get Your Dose of Vitamin N (Nature)
By Be Active Outdoors and Nature At The Confluence.

We know nature makes us feel good. That’s why when the sun comes out everybody jumps for joy and heads to the lakes, rivers and woods. But did you know that nature can heal your over-stressed brain? Yes it can! And it can affect your body in other positive ways. But what dosage of Vitamin N (nature) is needed?

Studies show that just spending 10 minutes in nature 2-3 times a week can really make a difference in how you feel.  But how does it do that? Have you ever wondered what’s going on in your brain and body while you are engaging in outdoor activities?

Here’s the top five ways that nature can help you be a better you!


This is Your Brain on Nature

A recent study showed a 90-minute walk through a natural environment has a remarkably positive impact on people. Participants in the study who took the natural walk showed far lower levels of anxiety or obsessive worry. The group who spent 90 minutes walking through a city did not share the nature group’s good mood.

Get Your Vitamin Nature at the confluence 5 (Custom)


Get a natural high on Vitamin N!

Studies comparing indoor versus outdoor activity conducted in natural environments suggest that outdoor activities cause greater feelings of revitalization and positive engagement. All types of green exercise activities also improve self-esteem and combat negative moods like tension, anger and depression. Interestingly, the first five minutes of green exercise appears to have the biggest impact on mood and self-esteem, which suggests there is an immediate psychological health benefit.

Nature may be a solution to stress. Hormones like adrenaline, noradrenaline and the stress hormone cortisol all fall after being within nature.

Get Your Vitamin Nature at the confluence 2 (Custom) (2)


Are you stressing about a big project or a test? Take a walk in the woods!

Another study showed that after a four day-long hike in the wilderness, with no access to technology, participants scored a whopping 50% higher on a creativity and problem solving test. Problem-solving skills are thought to originate in the same area of the brain that we also use for selective attention and threat detection. These scientists are concerned that our ability to think creatively is likely being overwhelmed by the constant stimulus of digital and indoor life.

Get Your Vitamin Nature at the confluence


Sick of getting sick?

Walking in nature has been found to improve your immune function in the form of increased natural killer cell activity. Natural killer cells are our body’s weapon against invading bacteria and viruses. Without these guys, we would be in big trouble. In one study, natural killer cell activity increased for up to 30 days after a three-day trip to a forest. Essentially, our interaction with nature helps us defend ourselves from bugs we catch!

Get Your Vitamin Nature at the confluence healthy 2 (Custom)


Exposure to nature helps us make better eating choices

Hanging out and watching TV has been found to be associated with snacking more frequently, and frequent viewers also report more consumption of energy-dense snacks. So, a healthy benefit of outdoor recreation is a decreased likelihood of overeating.

Ready to make a change? Take the Vitamin N Challenge.

Give me my #VitaminN

vitamin n challenge nature at the confluenceTwo local organizations, Be Active Outdoors and Nature At The Confluence, are partnering up to encourage people of all ages to take the Vitamin N Challenge, an initiative of Child & Nature Network.

This challenge was initiated by Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder,  Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life and Child and Nature Network. Learn more about the Vitamin N challenge.

Choose Your Challenge

Vitamin N Challenges come in many shapes and sizes. Yours may be a single project or experience. It may be a lifestyle change over the course of a week, month, or year. To choose your challenge, think about where there is room for more Vitamin N in your life. How can it serve your family, school, place of worship, library, health care facility or community in connecting people to nature. Feel free to adopt any of the actions suggested in Vitamin N or similar books, to get inspired by ideas from others or to come up with your own actions and innovations.

Maybe your challenge means designating one day each week “friends and family hike day.” Or perhaps you’d like to lead your community in a habitat restoration project. Whatever idea you choose, whatever scale, remember to treat Vitamin N like your other vitamins– don’t skip it!

Share Your Experience

Tell us about your personal Vitamin N Challenge. How did you get your dose of Vitamin N?  What worked and what didn’t? Let them know how your life and the lives of others are changed. There are many ways to share your experience.

  • SHARE your tips, photos and videos on TwitterFacebook orInstagram. Use the hashtags #VitaminN #beaactiveoutdoors
  • WRITE a blog for Be Active Outdoor or Nature At The Confluence. Share about about your personal challenge! Email us at


Ten Reasons Why Childen and Adults Need Vitamin N – Richard Louv

Nature At The Confluence, Find Nature Where Turtle Creek and the Rock River Meet, South Beloit, IL

Be Active Outdoors  – “We promote outdoor recreation and active lifestyles by endorsing the health and wellness aspect of outdoor activity.”  Beloit, WI

Excerpts from this article came from:

Photos from Unsplash

Transcendence Mural will inspire those who use the Fox River Trail

Transcendence Mural Martin Soto Hesed House Aurora Illinois Public Art Fox River Trail (Custom)Be Active Outdoors is a non-profit with the mission to be a catalyst to encourage individuals to seek outdoor activities. We are pleased to support the transformation of the back of Hesed House Comprehensive Resource Center building in Aurora, Illinios into a beautiful, inspirational mural that captures the spirit of not only the mission of Hesed House, but captures the spirit of the people of Aurora. Hesed House serves the homeless in Aurora and the building sits along the Fox River Trail. The artist Martin Soto appropriately named this mural “Transcendence”, a word that’s origin means “to climb beyond”, or go beyond the ordinary limits… excelling.

It’s been exciting to see the community come together to paint this beautiful mural stroke by stroke, bit by bit this fall. Transforming an eyesore into a beautiful public art installation along the trail. I look forward to seeing the completed project.

Since Be Active Outdoors became involved with the City of Aurora several years ago with our Amped Up Adventure Races, the city has been in a state of transformation and truly has been excelling at revitalizing the heart of the community along the river. It’s exciting to see the positive momentum that has created outdoor activities and animation of your riverfront.

Thank you to Charlie Zine for seeing an opportunity to improve the Fox River Trail, and thank you Martin Soto for creating a mural that truly depicts the spirit of this community.

Submitted by Therese Oldenburg, president, Be Active Outsoors, Inc.

Read more about the project:

Let The Trees Heal | Shinrin Yoku (Forest Therapy)

Go to a Forest. Walk slowly. Breathe. Open all your senses. This is the healing way of Shinrin-yoku Forest Therapy, the medicine of simply being in the forest.

Article From

Shinrin-yoku is a term that means “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing.” It was developed in Japan during the 1980s and has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine. Researchers primarily in Japan and South Korea have established a robust body of scientific literature on the health benefits of spending time under the canopy of a living forest. Now their research is helping to establish shinrin-yoku and forest therapy throughout the world.

Shinrin Yoku Forest Therapy Therese Oldenburg Wisconsin (Custom)The idea is simple: if a person simply visits a natural area and walks in a relaxed way there are calming, rejuvenating and restorative benefits to be achieved.

We have always known this intuitively. But in the past several decades there have been many scientific studies that are demonstrating the mechanisms behind the healing effects of simply being in wild and natural areas. (some of this research is available here). For example, many trees give off organic compounds that support our “NK” (natural killer) cells that are part of our immune system’s way of fighting cancer.

The scientifically-proven benefits of Shinrin-yoku include:

  • Boosted immune system functioning, with an increase in the count of the body’s Natural Killer (NK) cells.
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Reduced stress
  • Improved mood
  • Increased ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
  • Accelerated recovery from surgery or illness
  • Increased energy level
  • Improved sleep

Just as impressive are the results that we are experiencing as we make this part of our regular practice:

  • Deeper and clearer intuition
  • Increased flow of energy
  • Increased capacity to communicate with the land and its species
  • Increased flow of eros/life force
  • Deepening of friendships
  • Overall increase in sense of happiness

Opening our senses to nature also develops our intuition. We learn to contact in new ways the world around us.

We recognize that forest therapy approaches such as Shinrin-yoku have roots in many cultures throughout history. John Muir wrote, “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home. Wilderness is a necessity.”

Article credit to

Learn more:

Learn More About Shinrin-Yoku or Forest Therapy at these links:

Compiled by Therese Oldenburg, Wisconsin Master Naturalist. Want to learn more about Forest Therapy in Wisconsin and Illinois? Send us an email:

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Nature-based outdoor environments gain momentum

We share this article about a new “nature-based playground” that will be built in Midland, Michigan.

November 29, 2014 – Railway Family Center receives funding for ‘nature-based playground – From the Midland Daily News – Midland, MI – Read original story

Nature At The Confluence South Beloit WIllowbrook School children (14)The movement from traditional playground structures to nature-based outdoor environments for children has been gaining momentum over the past decade across the country. With new research on environment, childhood obesity, horticultural therapy, participation rates, bullying, injury rates and more, these play spaces offer an inclusive alternative to traditional playgrounds.

“Play is vital to the development of children’s social, emotional, cognitive and physical development, as well as creativity and imagination,” said Misty Janks, Railway executive director. “This new style of playground will be more stimulating and exciting for children and reintroduces them to nature. We’re thrilled to have this opportunity to get kids outside and keep them active in a learning environment that’s fun.”

A nature playground has plants that are native to North America. All flowers, trees, shrubs and fallen logs are designed to bring nature in and provide children a space to play and learn. Birds nesting in the trees, bugs in the logs, and worms in the compost allow for endless teaching opportunities in this outdoor classroom. In these type of playgrounds children gain respect for their environment and understand their place in it.

These play spaces have no minimum fitness level, allowing children to participate rather than watch from the sidelines. They are designated to be inclusive, for every child regardless of ability. And, they present opportunities for children to increase their fitness level through natural play in a natural setting.

“Natural playgrounds are inviting, not intimidating; suggestive, not prescriptive; inclusive, not exclusive, and open to all who want to explore their own imagination,” Janks said.

From the Midland Daily News – Midland, MI – Read whole story

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