Tag Archives: Earthplace

Earthplace: Environmental Center Sponsors Fall Bash

One day last winter, Diana Mashia walked into Earthplace to drop off her kids for a vacation nature program.

She and a staff naturalist began chatting about environmental issues. When executive director Tony McDowell heard that Mashia had an impressive command of the issues Earthplace cares about — science, conservation and education — he did what any good leader does: He asked her to help.

Last month, Mashia — who already was active managing Sustainable Westport‘s social media — joined the Earthplace board. She focuses on the organization’s zero waste initiative, and community engagement.

Diana Mashia (Photo/Tomira Wilcox Photography)

It might seem an unusual passion for a woman who started her career as an equity research analyst. But as Mashia moved into venture capital finance, she specialized in consumers and innovation. She then founded a consulting practice, working with VC firms and startups.

Mashia certainly walks the talk. In addition to her day job and volunteer activities, she’s working on a master’s degree in management and innovation at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. She’s studying the intersection of public/private partnerships and sustainability.

“I’m a big proponent of community-building, volunteerism and engagement,” Mashia — who finds time to also be a Daisy troop leader, and dance with a local company — says.

She knows that — for all its wonderful work — Earthplace has a relatively low profile in town.

Earthplace summer campers enjoyed a downpour. (Photo/Jaime Bairaktaris)

“This is my passion project,” she says of her board activity. “Tony and his team really explore relevance in program. I love their basic idea: that humans are part of the natural world.

“We all exist in nature. But modern life often leaves us disconnected from the physical world. Being stewards for the environment, and creating better awareness, allows us to connect. It has positive impacts on human health and well-being.”

She believes it is particularly important to educate children to be stewards and leaders. They need to be inspired to seek innovative solutions to environmental problems. Mashia is “proud to live in a community that actively thinks about and finds local solutions” to those issues.

However, she notes, many Westporters think of Earthplace as primarily a pre-school, Mashia — whose own children are 6 and 3 — says.

They may not know about its environmental education and after-school programs, 60-acre sanctuary with walking trails, birds of prey exhibit and scholarships, or that it us home to Harbor Watch, the water quality project.

An Earthplace owl.

So Mashia is excited to pass along word of Earthplace’s Woodside Bash and Festival.

The big fundraiser is a 2-day event. It kicks off this Saturday (October 5, 7 to 10 p.m.) with an adults-only party. There’s a harvest dinner, open bar, live band, DJ, a “haunted trail” and the very popular mechanical bull.

Sunday (October 6, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) is for families. Traditional fall activities include an apple slingshot, donut-on-a-tree, pool of corn, climbing wall, food trucks, animal encounters and more.

Either day — or both — are excellent opportunities to support Earthplace (and, if you haven’t already been there, discover its wonders).

Like Diana Mashia, you might even end up as a passionate volunteer.

The earth would thank you.

(For more information and tickets, click here.)

Unsung Heroes #110

A couple of weeks ago, “06880” put out a call. Earthplace had lost its longtime supplier of food. They needed $14,000 to feed their raptors.

Readers responded immediately. But 2 young people went waaaaay beyond the call of duty.

Sienna DeSantis organized a lemonade stand on the hottest Sunday of the year. She raised $250.

Sienna DeSantis, and her lemonade stand.

Rising Staples High School senior Emma Borys works in the Earthplace Animal Hall. She donated her salary from 2 holidays — July 4th, and this coming Labor Day — to the campaign.

Emma Borys at work.

The ravens, owls, hawks and eagles thank you!

(Hat tip: Sophie Pollmann. To nominate an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net)

Earthplace Plea: Feed Our Raptors!

On any list of Earthplace highlights, the birds of prey nest near the top.

Brought to the nature center off Stony Brook Road because of injury, they’re cared for and nursed back to health. Each year, thousands of visitors — including many youngsters — marvel at them up close, and appreciate how special each one is.

They can’t survive in the wild, but find sanctuary at the sanctuary.

Unfortunately, Earthplace’s longtime supplier of food is unable to continue donating. The non-profit must raise $14,000 to keep their rescued raptors fed.

Earthplace is personalizing its appeal:

  • $25 feeds Edgar, the raven, for 2 weeks
  • $50 feeds Ladybird, the horned owl, for 2 weeks
  • $100 feeds Talon, the red-tailed hawk, for 1 month
  • $250 feeds Chatty and Cerena, the bald eagles, for 1 month.

Of course, any amount helps. Click here for more information, and click here to contribute directly.

 

Earthplace owl.

Protect Longshore’s Plover

Alert — and environmentally conscious — “06880” reader Maureen Choe and her 7-year-old daughter had a magical morning walk with their dog Cookie this morning.

Around 8:15 a.m., Mirabelle discovered a perfect intact nest with a nervous squeaking mother bird nearby.

Maureen and Mirabelle think is a piping plover’s nest. They spotted beautiful eggs out in the open, at risk for dogs, other animals or curious people.

They went home, made a sign and put it up, warning folks to stay away.

They made calls to several local organizations. They finally reached Becky Newman, naturalist at Earthplace. She agreed that the public should remain far from the nest.

Becky also provided contacts at the Audubon Society in Milford, which holds special training programs on piping plovers.

It may not be a piping plover, Maureen notes. She’s unsure if it’s protected by the state or not.

Still, she says, it’s a vulnerable bird’s nest, out in the open near the Longshore pool. She hopes people give the bird — shown here sitting on her nest — and her eggs their space.

(Photos/Maureen Choe)

$10,000 Non-Profit Grants Available From Westport Woman’s Club

In 2015, a $5,000 grant enabled Earthplace to update maps of their 74-acre sanctuary. Visitors can now find all trails — including those suitable for wheelchairs and strollers.

In 2016, a gift of $10,000 helped Project Return repaint their historic North Compo Road home.

A 2017 grant of nearly $5,000 gave the Westport Astronomical Society a new solar telescope for its Rolnick Observatory.

Last year, Wakeman Town Farm used $1,200 to purchase an innovative mobile chicken coop.

Wakeman Town Farm’s mobile chicken coop.$10.

All of those “Ruegg Grants” came from the Westport Woman’s Club. Established in 1995 by former member Lea Ruegg, they’re given each spring to a local non-profit with a project that makes a meaningful difference in social services, health, safety, the arts or education.

Other previous recipients include ITN Coastal Connecticut, CLASP Homes, the Westport Police Department, Hall-Brooke Hospital, Interfaith Housing, Mercy Learning Center, Toquet Hall, the Westport Rotary Club, Staples Players and the Westport Library.

Your organization could be next. The Woman’s Club is accepting submissions now through March 8.

The Westport Woman’s Club is no Jenny-come-lately to the field of philanthropy. Since 1907 they’ve supported area educational, charitable, cultural and health services. (Their first projects: sidewalks, bathrooms at Compo Beach, and hot lunches and vaccinations in schools.)

Ruegg Grants are now one of their signature projects. For an application, click here. To learn more about the Westport Woman’s Club, click here or call 203-227-4240.

Rats!

Three or four times a year, for decades, Earthplace sent a truck to Charles River Laboratory in Kingston, New York.

They’d load it with frozen rats, mice, gerbils and guinea pigs. Back in Westport, volunteers would bag thousands of them, then pack them in 3 large freezers.

For the next few months, the dead animals were meals for Earthplace’s raptors and reptiles.

Dinner for an owl …

The food was free — excess from the research lab.

The last pickup was January 10. That’s when Charles River stopped donating their excess rodents.

Which means Earthplace must now find a new source of animals to feed its animals. At 75 cents a mouse and $2 per rat, that’s tens of thousands of dollars a year.

… and an eagle.

The Westport natural history museum, nature center and wildlife sanctuary already pays for chicks and quail from another supplier. (Hey, snakes like a varied diet too). And Stew Leonard’s donates salmon (!) for eagles, crows and vultures.

But, says Becky Newman — Earthplace’s director of nature programs — sourcing new rodents is tough.

So is paying for them.

If you know of a good source for rats, mice, gerbils and/or guinea pigs (be serious, please!), or can help fund them, please contact Becky (203-557-4563; b.newman@earthplace.org).

One of 3 freezers filled with dinners.

If you’re a grocery store that can donate outdated or unsalable (freezer burn, etc.) meat, Becky would love to hear from you too.

NOTE: Earthplace cannot accept rodents trapped in your house (they may contain poisons).

And — because I know my “06880” readers — no roadkill either. Sorry!

(Hat tip: Matthew Mandell)

Photo Challenge #214

Last week’s Photo Challenge was so challenging, it first fooled even the reader who eventually got the right answer.

And he works there.

Amy Schneider’s image showed a weathervane — a trail direction post — at Earthplace. Jaime Bairaktaris helps with the youth program there. He loves the place. (Click here for the photo.)

But he first pegged the vane at Christie’s Country Store. Other folks guessed Wakeman Town Farm, Greens Farms Congregational Church, the Senior Center, fire stations, Police headquarters, and Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center.

Jaime is one of the most observant Westporters I know. The photos he shares on “06880” are wonderful. It’s clear he’s got a great eye, and he loves this town.

He was a bit embarrassed at not identifying the Earthplace photo immediately. He shouldn’t be. That just means he’s spending all his time looking out for the kids in his care.

This week’s Photo Challenge comes courtesy of John Pollak. If you know where in Westport you’d see it, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/John Pollak)

Special Resources, For Special Kids

For many Westport parents, kids’ activities — sports, arts, organizations, lessons, you name it — are easy to access. And there are gazillions of them.

For parents with special needs children, it’s not as easy. There are many excellent programs, but they can be hard to find.

And even though the PTAs’ SpED (Special Education) committee spreads the word through an info-filled weekly email — including options outside of school, and resources for parents too — plenty of Westporters don’t even know they can join that list.

Some of the programs — here and in nearby towns — are inclusive. Others are adapted, making them attainable to those who did not think they could participate.

So how can parents learn what’s out there?

Westporter Johanna Kiev has compiled a massive database of material. She’s shared it with “06880” — which is honored to offer it to our readers.

(Johanna has also developed a Facebook resource page — click here to see it).

Thanks, Johanna. And everyone: Feel free to forward this far and wide!

About the Westport SpED Committee

Westport SpED PTA committee representatives work closely with each school’s administration, and the district’s assistant superintendent of pupil services. They meet monthly. Co-chairs are Julie McMahon and Kate Grijns.

Members are parents of children who receive special education services. The committee hosts social events and shares information, such as:

  • Sip ’N Chat – informal parent coffees held monthly at Panera Bread
  • Community Fun Day each November
  • Teen Nights at the Westport Weston Family Y
  • Parent education seminars on topics like “Navigating Your IEP” and “Assistive Technology”
  • Weekly emails with information about local events and activities, plus summer opportunities and post-high school transition options

The committee also works with local agencies like the Parks & Recreation Department and Westport Library, for advocacy and programming.

To be added to the PTA SpED mailing list — or if you would like to add information about a program not listed below, or are a business that can help — email westportspedpta@gmail.com.

Programming Options for Children with Special Needs:

The Westport Weston Family Y sponsors:

Swim Team: The program includes participation in Connecticut Special Olympics summer games. Fee: $100 (September-June)

Basketball: Junior Team (8 -12 years): Saturdays 8:45 to 9:30 p.m.
Senior Team (13+ years): Saturdays 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.
This program includes participation in the CT Unified Sports tournament. Fee: $65 (September-February)

Track & Field: This program includes participation in the Connecticut Special Olympics summer games. Fee: $45 (March-June)

Floor Hockey: This began for the first time last month. Fee: $45 (December-March)

Smiles all around on the Y’s Special Olympics swim team.

Special Needs Swim Lessons: The Y offers private and semi-private swim lessons at a greatly reduced rate for children with special needs. Lessons can be booked at any time, but because the pool can get noisy and distracting, instructors are also available during quieter hours (evenings, Fridays, early Saturday and Sunday morning). Rates: Private 30-minute lesson, $25; 2-person 30-minute lesson, $15 each.

Long Distance Running: This program is for children who are interested in completing a 5k (combination of walking and running). Practice times: Tuesdays, 4-4:45 p.m.; Saturdays, 10:45 to 11:30 a.m.

SPED Teen Fun Nights: Offered on various dates.

For more information or to register for any Westport Weston YMCA special needs activity, click here or call 203-226-8981

Earthplace

Earthplace provides necessary resources to allow children to access and enjoy all programming. For more information or to register, click here or call 203-557-4400.

MusicWorks! Individual Music Therapy Sessions for Children with Special Needs

MusicWorks! (Westport School of Music, 18 Woods Grove Road) sessions employ structured and improvised musical activities including singing, instrument playing, rhythm and movement, songwriting, listening, imaging and relaxation to meet individual needs. Activities are specifically designed for cognitive, emotional, psychological, physical and social concerns. They are facilitated by board-certified music therapist Patricia Ashford, who encourages children and adults to express themselves without judgment and to grow in creativity and self-confidence.

For more information or to register, call director Sarah Miller: 203-227-4931.

Music Works! is specially designed for children with special needs.

“Break an Egg – The Social Kitchen”: 

Break an Egg – The Social Kitchen” builds the communication skills of people with special needs through the motivating element of food. Each participant in the cooking class prepares a new recipe each week. The fall/winter program includes pumpkin muffins, apple berry salsa with cinnamon chips, garlic and lemon butternut squash noodles, and apple stir fry with whipped cream. Dietary needs can be accommodated.

Classes are taught by licensed speech and language pathologist Shari Goldstein, and Penney Parkes, a food technologist and mom of a special needs young adult.

Classes are held in Fairfield on Tuesdays and Saturdays. They can be held at home kitchens if parents form a group of youngsters to cook together. There are classes for elementary, middle and high school students. A preschool class could be organized too.

For more information or to sign up, email Shari@breakaneggsocialkitchen.com or Penney@breakaneggsocialkitchen.com

The Drew Friedman Foundation: New Arts Program for Kids

The Foundation introduces a pilot youth arts program for children with special needs this month in Westport. The hands-on program, conducted by local artists, includes 10 to 15 children around ages 8 to 16 to work on a mosaic-type project.

For more information, email michellevitulich@gmail.com or call 203-349-0455.

Inclusive Ice Skating : Ages 5 – 13

Saturdays, 11am to 11:45am (through February 9) at the Westport PAL Rink at Longshore.

Individual and group instruction in basic skills is offered at the Westport PAL Rink at Longshore. Parents are encouraged to skate with their children. The program runs Saturdays through February 9 (11 to 11:45 a.m.). To register, click here.

Little League Baseball – Challenger Program

This program pairs young volunteers with children with special needs. Details on the spring season will be available soon; click here.

Hillary Lipper shares a laugh with Coach Scott, during the 2013 Challenger season.

Circle of Friends

Norwalk-based Circle of Friends includes many Westporters. The organization matches special needs children with teenage volunteers for play dates. The group also organizes monthly gatherings for youngsters with special needs. For more information, click here.

The Jewish Community Center of Stamford

The JCC  offers winter programs designed to improve children’s social skills and build positive peer interactions:

  • Music, Movement & Yoga – fun and interactive for all ability levels.
  • Music Mania – provides opportunities for children to explore their creativity, using music to improve skills.
  • Zumba Kids Jr – kid-friendly routines based on original Zumba choreography.
  • Ready, Set, Move – enables children to engage their muscles by moving through an obstacle course and yoga positions.

(Have we missed any programs? Click “Comments” below!)

E. Coli In Westport’s Waters: Here’s The Poop

First the bad news: Of 20 rivers in 17 Fairfield County towns, 77% exceed one or both of Connecticut’s criteria for acceptable levels of E. coli. The bacteria can indicate the presence of sewage pollution.

The slightly better news: The Saugatuck River had the lowest percentage of failing sites.

The worse news: Muddy Brook — which drains into Sherwood Mill Pond — was one of 8 rivers tied for the most bacteria. (The others: Bruce Brook, Deep Brook, Goodwives River, Greenwich Creek, Keelers Brook, Pootatuck River and Rooster River.)

The Saugatuck River gets high marks from Harbor Watch. (Drone photo copyright Ben Berkley/@youreyeabove

That’s this morning’s news from Harbor Watch. The group — Earthplace’s water quality research program — studied data from 169 stations, at those 20 rivers. They released their report this morning.

Harbor Watch director Dr. Sarah Crosby says: “The high incidence of failing bacteria concentrations shows us that there is still a great deal of work to be done to improve water quality in the Long Island Sound watershed.”

No s—.

(Click here to read the full report.)

Janet Beasley Memorial Service Set For Sunday

The life of Janet Beasley — Holocaust survivor and educator, wildlife advocate, and beloved wife of Dr. Albert Beasley — will be celebrated this Sunday (November 18).

A memorial service is set for Earthplace — an organization she served well for decades — beginning at 10:30 a.m.

Janet Beasley