St. Charles Park District: 'Tree-mendous Thursdays' taking place at Hickory Knolls Discovery Center

By CAROL HAGGAS - editorial@kcchronicle.com Published: Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017 5:29 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017 6:00 p.m. CDT
— Mike Frankowski jr

It’s that time of year! Fall is just around the corner, and the days are getting shorter.

Autumn weekends can be a madhouse scramble of soccer matches and errands – too many things to do in one 48-hour time period. So, why not get a jumpstart on the weekend by having some fun on “Tree-mendous Thursdays” at Hickory Knolls Discovery Center in St. Charles?

The center is even offering extended hours (4 to 8 p.m.) through Oct. 26 to help maximize the time you can spend outdoors. With the extended hours, the Discovery Center will offer programs that showcase the best of the season – everything from hands-on projects to scavenger hunts and campfire fun to critter visits.

“Everyone gets so busy and over-committed with things,” said Laura McCoy, nature programs supervisor. “We want to make it easy for people to fit some more fun into their lives.”

“Tree-mendous Thursday” programs will offer something for all age groups – from grandparents to toddlers, and busy 9-to-5-ers looking for a way to unwind at the end of a hectic day. Anyone who wants to get outside and enjoy a few more hours with Mother Nature will be able to do so, since most of the programs are free and operate on a drop-in basis, which is perfect for those looking for something exciting, educational and a little out of the ordinary.

With most programs starting at either 6 or 6:30 p.m., the decision about what, where and when to have an evening meal is also easily solved on “Tree-mendous Thursday” nights. Participants are encouraged to bring a picnic supper to enjoy on the grounds before program activities start.

“I know how hard it is to try to fit in a meal and go to an event that starts right around dinner time,” said McCoy. “We want to make it simple for someone to get to do it all.”

The “Tree-mendous Thursday” programs help participants connect to all five senses as they explore the facilities and grounds at Hickory Knolls Discovery Center. Some events will include storytimes, such as “PJ Party with the Critters” and “Fall Fireside Fun,” when narrators from the center’s staff and the St. Charles Public Library, respectively, encourage children to listen closely to stories about animals and nature.

Other programs – such as “A Tree-mendous Recharge, “Tree-mendous Leaves” and “Things That Make You Go Ewww” – are scavenger hunt-based programs that encourage participants to get out and explore the center using lists that might ask attendees to look for an animal track, smell a fragrant blossom or touch the bark of a tree. The challenge, said McCoy, is to go out into nature and forget about phones, TV, homework and deadlines for a bit.

Of course, fall in the Midwest is a glorious time of year. It’s when colors are both muted and vibrant, the air is crisper and the temperatures are in that “just-right” range. And just as families are transitioning from summertime freedom to back-to-school responsibilities, so, too, is Mother Nature transitioning from the lush growth explosions of summer to winter’s restful dormancy.

Many of these seasonal changes are being effected by changes in climate and, for those who are curious about how climate change impacts life right here in St. Charles, educator Allison Briddell will discuss the local effects of this global problem during the “Climate Change: A Hot Topic” program Sept. 14. Briddell will offer tips about environmental changes that can be implemented in the home and in the garden that can help make a difference.

Make a difference in another way during the “Bat House Helpers” program Oct. 26, when participants will work together to paint a bat house that will be hung on the Discovery Center grounds. Painters will then be invited to come back to the center to discover what bat may have decided to make the house its home.

Painting bat houses is not the only artistic event offered during “Tree-mendous Thursday” programming. Join a “Pumpkin Painting Party” on Oct. 5. The center will supply the pumpkins and paint, while attendees will supply the artistic inspiration to create a make-and- take seasonal centerpiece.

From ghosts and campfires to foliage and pumpkins, autumn abounds with things to do, see, explore and experience.

“I think fall is the best of all seasons,” said McCoy. “The 'Tree-mendous Thursday' programs let people enjoy it to the max.”