Outdoor Learning at the Ozark Natural Science Center

*this is a sponsored post

In a traditional school, different subjects require different teaching methods.  I remember learning math with a big chalkboard and pencils with good erasers.  English and reading were done in quiet classrooms or libraries and science was hands-on in a lab permanently encapsulated in its own unique smell.

Now, imagine yourself doing classwork in a 500-acre forest surrounded by flowers, trees, and birds.   Feeling the breeze on your face and the sun on your skin.  Smelling the damp earth of the forest floor.  Catching a glimpse of something scurrying about out of the corner of your eye.  Who wouldn’t want to learn like that?

The trails at the Ozark Natural Science Center provide beauty and nature at its best. See all their educational programs at onsc.us

Ozark Natural Science Center (ONSC) in Huntsville offers a unique way of bringing science and nature together in an environment conducive to learning.  Their mission is to develop an understanding and appreciation of our natural state by providing educational programs that promote stewardship and conservation of the Ozark ecosystems.

I arrived as a group of fifth-graders were preparing for a hike on one of the many trails.  Students are provided backpacks, water, and field journals and are encouraged to study the diversity of their surroundings.  Guided by a resident teacher-naturalist, we trekked through the woods stopping along the way to talk about trees, rocks, vegetation, and wildflowers.


The scenic vista at Wishing Rock overlook provided a nice spot to rest, record notes, or relax and admire the view.


The facility also offers indoor classrooms to study specimens collected


or outdoor facilities for informal studies or gatherings.


Huntsville fifth-grade science teacher, Jennifer Dunn, looks forward to bringing her students to ONSC.  She states, “I am committed to teaching the kids to take care of the planet for kids today and generations to come.  A big portion of our Earth Systems unit is learning how everyone can protect Earth’s natural resources.  I believe helping my students nurture a love of the environment will not only make a difference in their lives, but show them how they can influence others to also take care of resources and our planet.  In my opinion, it is the best Science educational field experience that I have found in my entire 20 years of teaching.”


Since 1990, ONSC has been reaching out to kids of all ages about environmental education.  Matthew Miller, Executive Director of ONSC, estimates during this time around 60,000 students have participated in the variety of programs the center has to offer.  “We want everyone to know we are here and to come and visit us,” he says.  He goes on to explain, “One of the great benefits of the program is the classes offered here meet state standards and, next school year (2017-18), teachers will be able to earn continuing education hours.”

Becky Olthof, Program Manager for ONSC, is also excited about the Adult Field School Programs.  Best described as “nature classes for grown-ups,” Olthof explains these classes range from one to three-day workshops.  Upcoming classes include nature, history, art, and photography taught by skilled instructors and experts in their respective fields.


ONSC is not just for education, though.  The three lodges on the property can be rented for meetings, conferences, weddings, and retreats.  Each event can be custom designed for your group and can include meals, hikes, and extended stays.


For more information about the Ozark Natural Science Center and the programs they offer, visit their website at onsc.us or call 479-202-8340.





Posted in Arkansas, Arkansas blogger, Birds, Bugs, Education, Family, Garden, Home | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Spring Has Sprung

Spring was a little early this year and it seems like every time I walked through the garden I would find something else blooming.

My sea of creeping phlox and creeping jenny is probably my favorite early spring combination.

Creeping phlox is one of the earliest blooming perennials in my garden. https://theblondegardener.com/2017/04/23/spring-has-sprung/

creeping phlox

Soloman’s Seal (Polygonatum) is an early bloomer for the shade garden.  A perennial in zones 3-9, it can grow up to two feet tall.  Tiny, delicate white flowers suspend from the stem and sometimes berries will form but I’ve not seen it yet with this variety.

Soloman's Seal

Soloman’s Seal

The dark foliage of Heuchera or Coral Bells is a nice contrast against the phlox.  In late spring/ early summer, it will shoot up white-ish flowers on long stalks.   Heuchera likes part shade and is a perennial in zones 4-9.



Bluebells or Wood Hyacinths, are also shade-loving, spring-blooming perennials. Planted in the fall for spring blooms, these bulbs will naturalize or spread throughout the garden when provided with good drainage and neglect (one of my favorite characteristics!)



Epimedium or Bishop’s hat is a native groundcover in my shade garden.  The tiny, yellow flowers will bloom for a short period of time and spread up to three feet.  I’ve had this growing next to my hydrangeas for several years and it’s only about two feet wide.  About the time it dies back, the hydrangeas are starting their spectacular show.

Native groundcover epimedium provides early spring color

Native columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) has spread quickly through the shade garden.  I started these flowers from seed a few years ago and I’m happy they are happy.  The red flowers attract the first hummingbirds of the season.  Seed collection is easy and, even though they will self-seed, I like to help by spreading them around the garden.  If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, “You just can’t have too many columbine flowers.”

Native Coumbine

Native Columbine

Arkansas Blue Star (Amsonia hubrichtii) is one of my all-time favorite shrubs.  It is just now starting to bloom.  I’ve talked about it here,  here, here, and here.  It’s pretty in the spring, summer and fall.   I kinda love it.

Arkansas Blue Star

Arkansas Blue Star

This is the second year for my Buckeye tree (Aesculus Pavia) that I started from a buckeye seed.  It’s a small tree so it needs some room.  I will probably have to relocate it since it’s doing so well.  The most popular Ozark folklore says carrying a buckeye in your pocket is good luck.  Another popular saying is, “You’ll never find a dead man with a buckeye in his pocket”. Others claim it helps keep rheumatism, hemorrhoids, migraines and other ailments away.  That’s one powerful seed.

Buckeye tree started from seed

Buckeye tree

By now you know I like to add other objects throughout the garden.  My spider and garden fairy came out of hibernation to watch over the phlox.

Spider Garden Art

SEyes in the gardenpider Garden Art


Garden fairy face peeking through the creeping phlox




And even Daisy, in her grumpiest of moods, likes to keep tabs on all of us.

IMG_2109What are you seeing in your garden?


sunflower emoji








Posted in Arkansas, Arkansas blogger, Family, Farm life, Flowers, Garden, Home, Native Plants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Coach Exhibits Love of the Game and Academics For Over Half a Century

This was a sponsored post but I’m so glad I was able to write about this coach from our hometown.  It was one of the most-read stories of the year for OnlyInArk  #ad

In the NW corner of the state, in the small town of Huntsville, a legend exists.  This particular legend doesn’t exist as a myth or folk tale passed down from generation to generation.  It exists as an 82 year-old basketball coach and teacher that has dedicated his entire life to coaching, teaching, and guiding the youth of Huntsville.

For the past 56 years, Charles Berry, a native of Huntsville, has been a coach and math teacher in the state of Arkansas.  A graduate of Huntsville State Vocational School in 1952, Berry was active in the sport of basketball and received the only award available for high school sports at the time-The All District award.

Looking back on his early basketball years, Berry laughingly admits he wasn’t the best player on the team.  What he did develop though, he says, was a love for the game that has never waned.


Berry (00) Senior Class 1951-52 (courtesy of the Berry family)

After graduation and serving in the Air Force, Berry returned to Arkansas.  He attended Arkansas Tech where he graduated with a degree in physical education and a minor in math. He later received his masters in physical education from the University of Arkansas.

In the beginning of his career, Berry coached football, baseball, track, and four basketball teams for a small school in Hector, AR.   He returned to Huntsville in 1968 to coach senior boys’ basketball and teach high school math.


Coach Charles Berry 1970 (courtesy of the Berry family)

In addition to coaching and teaching, he became athletic director in 1971 and continued to do so for thirty years. In 1976, seeing the interest for more athletic programs, Berry started the baseball, volleyball, and softball programs and reestablished the girls’ basketball program.  In 1988, he became the head coach for the senior girls’ basketball program and continues in this capacity today.


photo courtesy of Mike Haley Photography

Throughout his coaching career, Berry has accumulated over 1350 wins, countless tournament victories, and numerous conference, district, and regional championships.  He has taken 30 teams to state tournaments, had four teams in the finals, and brought home two state championships.

To Berry, though, his success on the court is not solely based on wins. He would like to think of it as developing a sense of pride in a person, team, and community. He feels that working together as a team, not only in sports but in school and the community, is the biggest challenge young people face today.

Motivating players is another aspect of coaching.   Former players recall various phrases Berry used in practice and games.  One former player remembered early morning practices before school where he always said, “Let’s hit it with great exuberance!”  She continued, “It was so early in the morning, but we did it for him.”   Another player recalls a pep talk right before a game when he told the team, “There are a billion people in this world that don’t care if we win this game.  It’s up to you to make it happen.”


photo courtesy of Mike Haley Photography

Berry’s list of accomplishments and achievements are long.  Statewide and locally, he has been awarded numerous coaching and civic awards by many organizations.   In 2007, he was recognized nationally as the National Girls Coach of the Year.  The most recent accomplishment was presented in July of 2016 when Berry was inducted into the Arkansas Activity Association’s (AAA) Arkansas High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame


Courtesy of the Berry family

One of his most memorable recognitions, he recalled, was when the basketball gym, which he had seen built and coached in for years, was renamed in his honor.  The Charles H. Berry Gymnasium was dedicated in 2006 and Huntsville rallied around their beloved coach to show support and appreciation for all he has done for the athletic program and the youth in the community.

When Berry is not in the gym, he can be found in the classroom teaching honors geometry.  “I love teaching and I love the camaraderie with the students and I love my work.  We have some bright, gifted students.  It keeps me going,” he states.

Former students say the same about him.  When asked about his teaching methods, many former students recalled his desire for them to really ‘get it’. “He would go over a geometry problem time and time again until we all understood.  He never gave up trying to teach us and he never told us to go figure it out on our own. I respected him for that,” a former student said.

With his 49th season as an Eagle coach coming to an end, coach Charles Berry doesn’t have any plans to retire.  “I still love my work and I love the teachers and coaches I work with.  I wouldn’t know what to do if I retired. I’m not one to sit around and I know I would miss it terribly.”

I have a feeling the community of Huntsville feels the same.




Posted in Arkansas, Education, Home | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Don Tyson School of Innovation

This post is sponsored but all opinions are my own

It’s been a long time since I was in school.  When I attended Springdale High School 35+ years ago, the front lobby was the hub of communication and general meeting spot for early morning discussions.  If you needed to call anyone, you used the pay phones on the wall.  Class started at eight and ended at three.  For research, the Encyclopedia Brittanica or the library, either at school or in town, was the go-to source .  Typewriters were the fastest way to write your term papers and I still miss the click, click, click of the keys followed by the distinctive ding when you reached the far side of your paper.  You saved your work by putting it in your 3-ring binder.

Times have changed and technology has definitely changed.  I experienced this first hand when I visited the Don Tyson School of Innovation (DTSOI) in Springdale, Arkansas.


Named in honor of the late Don Tyson of Tyson’s Foods, the school is bursting with curriculum involving science, technology, engineering, and math or STEM classes.   These classes were developed by local teachers and business leaders to prepare students for life outside of the classroom.

The school is designed to be open and adaptable to any size class.  Movable tables and chairs can be arranged accordingly.  Some classes can be tucked in a corner enclave


while larger groups can occupy separate learning stations.


Smaller ‘think tanks’ are used for working on specific projects


and larger working labs are scattered throughout the building.

Not only does the school offer basic classes, it has paired up with the University of Arkansas, NW Arkansas Community College (NWACC) and Northwest Technical Institute (NTI) to provide students with a wide variety of academic and technical choices.

For example, the University of Arkansas is sponsoring  the popular robotics program. NWACC works with students who are interested in taking classes for college credit, and NTI is partnering with the school to offer diesel mechanics, welding, and certified nursing certificates to name a few.   These variety of choices provide the students with  options other than college or allow them to graduate high school with an Associate of Arts or Science degree.

I was particularly fascinated by the hydroponics operation they have on campus.


Housed in a small trailer on campus, the school is experimenting with several varieties of lettuce, spinach, kale, and swiss chard.

If you are not into agriculture, construction classes from birdhouses (which are painted by the talented art students,)


to storage buildings are being made.


For those students interested in building a drone, they have a class for that as well.  Using specific software to design their project, a 3-D printer is used to make the final product.



Need a shoe? Design and make it right in class.


Here, let me give you a hand.


This amazing school is part of the Springdale School district but any student in the state of Arkansas (including homeschoolers) are eligible to attend by enrolling in the online school.  DTSOI also offers a flexible, hybrid learning option which is a combination of attending class on campus while taking additional classes online.  There is no fee for any of the traditional classes and a small fee for the college classes.

For students attending public schools, the deadline to enroll for the 2017-2018 school year is May 1, 2017.  This deadline does not apply to homeschoolers and they may apply at any time.   If you would like more information about the Don Tyson School of Innovation, please visit their Facebook page or website at http://soisdale.org


I, for one, can’t help but compare the difference in learning to when I was a student.  I’m not going to throw away my encyclopedias yet, but when I think about these students being our future leaders, I feel better about the world. 






Posted in Arkansas, Arkansas blogger, Education, Garden | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Time To Tidy Up

This time of year starts a frenzy of garden to-do lists.  Seed packets are organized, new seed varieties are studied, and plans are being made for the gardens.  Not much can be planted outside now, but the greenhouse space is already filling up.

For my garden, ornamental grasses, climbing roses, and hydrangeas can be cut back in preparation for spring.  Timing for this is usually late winter but it seems late winter came in January this year.

My daffodils were in full bloom by the third week of February and have survived a couple of hard freezes.  You have to be a tough plant to live in my garden and these have garnered much respect this year.


Ornamental grasses can be cut back to make room for spring growth.  In this case, I found blooming daffodils.


Cutting back hydrangeas depend on the type you have.  Some hydrangeas bloom on new wood and some on old wood.  My ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea blooms on new wood, so I can cut them back and get a fresh flush of growth in spring and abundant flowers in the summer.


If your hydrangea blooms on old wood, cutting the plant down will not give you any blooms for the year and that’s just tragic.  In my opinion, summertime shade gardens are not complete without the spectacular blooms of a hydrangea.  If you are unsure what type you have, just leave it alone for a season and it will show you.


If you don’t have time to cut back your new wood bloomers,  don’t worry, they will still bloom.  I just don’t like looking at naked branches mixed in with blooms.  Not that you can really see them but, by March, my pruning disorder has kicked in and makes me a crazy, twig-trimming women.  From now until fall, pruners will be part of my wardrobe, snug in my back pocket, ready to be whipped out at a moments notice.

Sometimes, as I’m trimming up plants, I find surprises.


These are praying mantis egg sacs.  They are so tightly woven, they are almost impossible to penetrate.  This particular shrub had five on it.  Considering each case holds approximately 300 babies means I will have an army of bug eaters working for me this summer.  Unfortunately, praying mantis cannot distinguish good bugs from bad bugs.  I have seen them pounce on a grasshopper, munch on a spider and, sadly, eat a butterfly.  I read they will also eat bees, mice and small frogs.   I can only hope they develop a taste for moles because, looking at all the tunnels I have in my yard, I must have hundreds.

What’s happening in your garden?


sunflower emoji

I am linking this post to the Chicken Chick Blog Hop

Posted in Arkansas, Bugs, Flowers, Garden, Home, Pruning | Tagged , , , , , | 20 Comments

When I Can’t Garden, I Cook

Dreary days in the winter don’t work for me.  I can tolerate the cold if the sun is shining, but when it’s not, it can be so depressing.  Usually when this happens, I head to the kitchen and cook.  It’s still January though and everyone is still trying to get their holiday indulgences corrected so, therefore, I have been banned from making my signature dessert.


I started making cookies when I was a little girl and like to feel I have become an accomplished cookie maker (if there is such a thing.)   So, when our Master Gardener group put out a call needing cookies for their upcoming training, I jumped on it.

After the meeting, I got a text saying several people wanted the recipe, so I thought the best way to share is to put it here.  I’m going to add a couple of more recipes as well.  Hope you don’t mind.

Making cookies is not hard and my grandkids love to help me when they are here.  But, there is a science to cooking and that’s why recipes have specific measurements.  I know some people do a pinch of this or that, but that never worked well for me. I like to follow directions.

We like our cookies soft and chewy so I always use a good quality, unsalted butter.  I get mine from the Amish store in my town.  It comes in a round, wheel shape, not sticks, so it has to be softened and then measured.  There are many reasons why you use unsalted vs. salted that I won’t go in to, but feel free to research the topic if you like.  I also make my own vanilla, which is super easy, and has a more vanilla-y taste to it.  You can find out how I made my own here and here.  If you don’t want to do that, then be sure and buy pure vanilla extract and not imitation.  It’s a bit more pricey, but worth it.

Sorry, I don’t have many pictures, I never thought about taking them while I was cooking.

I feel this first recipe needs a disclaimer.  IT IS PURE SUGAR and I am not responsible for any cavities you may incur during the eating of this cookie.  Please brush and floss and see your dentist and hygienist every six months.  Consider yourself warned and eat at your own risk.

2-1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups chopped pecans
2-1/2 cups grated coconut

1. Combine pecans, coconut, and vanilla and set aside.
2. Mix sugar, evaporated milk, corn syrup, and butter in a
large saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 3 minutes.
3. Remove from heat and add pecans, coconut, and vanilla.
4. Stir for about 4 minutes.
5. Take a spoonful of batter and place on wax paper. Let sit until hardened.

The next recipe calls for zucchini and is a different way to use the extra we always seem to have during garden season.  It also calls for granola cereal, but I have always made these with homemade granola so I will include that recipe as well.

3/4 c. unsalted butter, softened
1-1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 Tbs. grated orange peel OR 2 Tbs. orange juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3-1/2 c. all-purpose flour
3 c. granola cereal (or homemade granola*)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
3 c. shredded zucchini
1 pkg. (10-12 oz.) semisweet chocolate or butterscotch chips (I leave
this out most of the time and like them better but that is a personal

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar. Beat in egg, orange peel
(or juice), and vanilla. Combine flour, granola, baking soda and salt.
Add to creamed mixture alternately with zucchini. The batter will be very stiff.  Stir in chips.
Drop by tablespoons 2 in. apart on baking sheets lined with
parchment paper. Bake at 350 for 8-10 min. or until lightly browned.
Remove to wire racks to cool. Makes approx. 6 dozen.


4 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
2 c. coarsely chopped nuts
Mix together in a large bowl and set aside.

In a saucepan, melt 1/2 c. butter then add
3/4 c. honey
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt
Bring to a boil and boil for 1 min.

Pour over the oat mixture and stir until well blended.
Spread on lightly greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 350 for 20 min. stirring every 5 min.
Cool and store in an airtight container.
For a different twist on granola see my Pumpkin Honey Granola recipe here.







Posted in Arkansas blogger, Cooking, Family, Garden, Home | Tagged , , , , , | 17 Comments

Pinterest Fails

Whenever I comment on a great food I have eaten or complement a cool project someone has done, it’s usually followed by the phrase, “I got it off Pinterest”.

Pinterest is a great source for ideas and when my internal alarm clock goes off extra early, I find myself perusing the endless pictures of recipes and decorating ideas.  Through these sessions, I have created 59 boards of things I like and would like to do.

Many of our lake house ideas have come from Pinterest.  The corrugated metal shower and ceiling Allen and his brother constructed is one of my favorites.

lake house master bathroom lake house master bedroom

Along with the light fixture my dad made from a funnel.

lake house master bathroom

You can find ideas and tutorials on just about anything crafty, so when I found some ideas for garden décor, I was inspired to try a few.

Most of my projects turn out fine.  I like to incorporate simple accents throughout the garden to compliment the flowers which I see as the main focal point.

One project I used an old bed frame to border the back of my ornamental grasses.  flower bed with bed rail ornamental grass

It’s been painted a variety of colors over the years and was a super easy project.

This summer, on Pinterest, I saw where someone had made a flower from a kitchen whisk.

Looked easy enough.


from Pinterest

I was picturing in my mind what a whimsical accent this would be in a container planting.  So, I jumped in my car and headed straight for the dollar store.  I believe the price was $.97 so I bought one.


That gave me only one chance to make this work.  What they don’t tell you is how soft and bendable the wire is on these things.  Yet, once it’s bent, it is extremely hard to manipulate into another shape.

I should’ve bought two.


not bad, just sad

Overall, it wasn’t terrible.  Realistically though, it looked like a toddler had created it.  I still stuck it in a basket of dried hydrangea blooms and called it good.

Another project came to me as I was cleaning out the barn and found quite a bit of tie wire.  Tie wire is soft, easily cut, and used as a fastener.  I always keep some handy in case my chicken wire fences need to be reinforced.

I remember seeing another  Pinterest project that involved tie wire and a blow up beach ball.  You simply blow up a beach ball and wrap tie wire around the ball.  When you get your desired look, let the air out of the ball and voila, instant outdoor decor.

In my mind, I envisioned these balls decorated with solar lights hanging from the trees or sitting in my flower beds emitting a casual, relaxed glow.  It would be amazingly cute and talked about for decades.

Since it was summer, I just happen to have a beach ball handy and I quickly blew it up and began to work.  I could not get the beach ball nice and full to save my life.  I tried and tried to blow it up more but every time I tried to push the little plug back into the ball, more air would come out.  One step forward, two steps back kind of thing.

Maybe it was the tie wire.   The directions called for a specific gauge of wire but my original packaging was long gone.  The wire I had was very bendable and I could tell right away  this project was going south on a fast moving bus.

Optimistically, I continued.  Maybe it was one of those projects that would miraculously be perfect when I removed the beach ball.  As I carefully wrapped the wire around the not so full beach ball, I could tell this was not going to be the case.  My frustration increased as each and every wire wrap around the ball took on a hideous, distorted shape.

Realization set in and I knew in my heart this project was not going to turn out as I had expected.  So, with heavy heart, I let the air out of the beach ball to face the cold, hard truth.

It was then, that my frustration turned to laughter.  I laughed and laughed.  I walked away and when I returned, I laughed even more.  Never had a project turned out so bad and made me laugh so hard.


It made me think of the Sesame Street song, “One of these things is not like the other”

As bad as it was, I couldn’t make myself throw it out.

I decided to keep it in the barn, on the bench, so I can see it when I first walk in.

And every time, even months later,  it makes me laugh.  I’m also sure it will be talked about for decades-just not in the original way I had imagined.

Although some people (ok most) will see this as a Pinterest failure, I see it as a reminder to not take myself so seriously.  Don’t get me wrong, my pitiful garden globe will never see the outside of the barn.  It will, however, make me smile every time I see it.

And, for me, that is not a failure.

Happy Holidays!


I’m linking this post with The Chicken Chick Blog Hop



Posted in Arkansas blogger, crafts, do it yourself, Family, Garden, Home | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Comments