Second Sunday Summer Hiatus Begins May 2015



Reminder:  Friends’ Second Sunday events run from September through April.  Second Sunday is now on its Summer Hiatus from May through August.

Watch for details of our new fall schedule starting in August!

Have a wonderful summer – and remember to use the Second Sunday afternoon time slot (2:30-4:00pm) to venture outside to explore the Robinson Nature Center trails, visit our beautiful river, or  just enjoy nature!

Trivia Night Returns! April 23 7:30pm-10:00pm

One of the "Trivia Night" teams focuses on questions during the October 2014 event.Are you a civil war history buff?  Would you like to learn more about history? Whichever question describes your interest in the civil war period, the Robinson Nature Center’s Trivia Night this coming April has something for you!

Since its introduction last fall, Trivia Night has grown to be a very popular evening event geared toward those 21 and over. You will find the evening filled with laughter, a decidedly convivial atmosphere, and friendly challengers.

Bring friends to form your own team or join a team at the event. Light refreshments will be served and contestants may enjoy a cash bar that serves soft drinks and sample micro-brews from local breweries.

Entry fee is $10 per person. Program fees as well as donations and beverage sales from the event help fund the Friends of the Robinson Nature Center’s Field Trip Sponsorship for Title I schools in Howard County and the Friends’ fund to purchase play pieces for the Center’s new outdoor discovery zone, the Nature Place. Join us and have fun raising money for two worthy causes.

Mark your calendars for Thursday night, April 23 from 7:30pm-10:0pm and watch our Events Calendar for coming details.

The Nature Place – A Population Explosion

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On Friday, February 6th, during one of our First Friday planning sessions, some Friends got together to create play pieces for the Center’s new outdoor discovery zone: The Nature Place.  The Robinson Nature Center describes the Nature Place like this:

“Have you ever spent time in our Children’s Discovery Room and wished your child could take that same opportunity for inquisitive play outdoors? Your wish can become a reality in the new Nature Place coming to Robinson!…our concept plan for the Nature Place…was developed through over a year of research and planning in consultation with a design team from the nationally-recognized Nature Explore group.”

What will children do in the Nature Place?  Use their imaginations! Breathe fresh air and feel warm sunshine! Hear the sounds of nature!

What can you do to help?  You can help support this innovative concept of outdoor play in many ways.  Examples of items that your donation can purchase:

$10 -  a rain stick

$25 -  dancing scarves

$50  – tree building blocks

$100 – wooden bench

$500 – a nature art table

Of course, your donations will play an especially important part in maintaining the play pieces and purchasing new items as they are needed.

How do you make a donation? Click on our Donation Page.  Next, click the box to target your donation. Then, select The Nature Place from the drop-down menu. Finally, pick the donation level that is comfortable for you.  It’s that easy to support imaginative play at the Nature Place.

And now, I am pleased to introduce our newest inhabitants of the Nature Place. They are excited for the completion of the build-out of the outdoor space. They’ve seen the first wood carvings, by artist Evelyn Mogren, that will live at The Nature Place. They can’t wait for the children to come out to play!


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Click on picture to enlarge.


“Meteorites and Other Celestial Leftovers” – Second Sunday Smash


January 11 was a very special day for Friends (and Friends of Friends). Our Second Sunday event was back after a brief hiatus for the December holidays. Our very own Stardoc, Dr. Joel Goodman, presented a discussion about meteors, meteorites and comets and other celestial stuff that was nothing short of amazing to this listener.

The one comment that kept floating into my mind was “how does he keep all that info in his head!”  Dr. Joel was a veritable fountain of statistics and little-known (to me, anyway) facts about the makeup of our bodies, the makeup of the universe, the “big bang” theory, stars, and the celestial stuff that rains down on our planet every day. He enchanted us with information about the size of the object that produces the long comet’s tail (most are about the size of a grain of sand apparently—who knew?) — and that we could touch a meteorite right after it lands because it isn’t hot like we would think.

Dr. Joel is also one of the panel of astronomers who will host the Center’s third Trivia Night!  Join us January 29!




Ned Tillman’s Book Signing on Second Sunday in October – Sold Out Performance!

fall @ rnc On a beautiful fall Sunday in October, local author Ned Tillman appeared at the Robinson Nature Center as the featured speaker at the Friends’ Second Sunday event.  His presentation made Friends’ history as the most well attended program of the year. Ned Tillman photo

Mr. Tillman’s presentation focused on how each of us can save the natural and wild places that we love. Indeed, we have to make a special effort because those places may be different for each one of us. We can make a difference should be our mantra.

Mr. Tillman invited his audience to share with him their favorite places in the world and encouraged each of them to discover what they, as individuals, can do to save those places for future generations.


Ned Tillman’s book “Saving the Places We Love: Paths to Environmental Stewardship”  is available directly from the author.  Contact Ned by email at


“Leave Your Mark” Artists Sparkle in August

IMAG0861 (3)Being an artist’s assistant for the Friends “Leave Your Mark” tile project is always so much fun. Time and time again we’ve been impressed by the talent and enthusiasm that all of our artists bring to the table. August 2nd was no exception to the rule.

Adults and children alike put a lot of thought and care into each of their unique art panels. It’s easy to see the care reflected in the tiles themselves as they take their places on the Discovery Room walls.

It’s been a joy to play a small part in the quality time families spend together while making the artwork. Parents encourage and give positive feedback on the children’s efforts. Some families have made “family tiles” where everyone in the family contributes something to the art work. What wonderful memories are made on tile project day!

Only two dates remain to create your own tile for the Leave Your Mark project: September 12th and October 17th. Both days are Howard County “school’s out” days so if you haven’t  already left your mark — or if you want to leave a second footprint of your visit there — join us from 11:00am – 12:30pm. You can pre-register on this website from the “Events” page.

Remember, your “Leave Your Mark” dollars do double-duty. They provide a beautiful and unique artwork for permanent display on the Nature Center’s Discovery Room walls. In addition, proceeds from the tile project fund the Friends’ Field Trip Sponsorship Awards to Title I schools to help offset the cost of field trips to the Nature Center for Title I students, regardless of their families’ ability to pay.


Baltimore Orioles Return to Robinson Nature Center Woods

Baltimore Oriole with geolocator at Robinson Nature CenterProf. Kevin Omland from the Biology Department at UMBC and his graduate students are conducting research into the migration habits of both our Baltimore Orioles and Bluebirds here at the Robinson Nature Center as well as other sites in Howard County. Prof. Omland’s students identify and net the birds. Then they attach geolocators to them before the birds head South to their winter homes. The devices gather data to help researchers determine flight patterns and winter destinations of our beloved birds.

We are delighted to find out that not only do we have Baltimore Orioles living in the Center’s woods but we have several nesting pairs. The Orioles tagged in last year’s research returned to our woods successfully this May. Initial data appears to indicate that our Orioles traveled all the way to South America for the winter! Prof. Omland’s research on the Bluebirds appears to indicate that they wintered in Florida.

Prof. Omland and his students are busy identifying and catching the birds from last year and downloading the data from the geolocators. They will attach geolocators to more birds before they head South again at the end of July.

We invite all Friends to come to the Center to “bird watch”.  Try to find and identify our very own Baltimore Orioles hiding in the Center’s treetops before they leave again for the winter. How many will we have next year???

Second Sunday Ends Season on High Note!

Copies available from Robinson Nature Center gift shop.

April’s Second Sunday event was its highest attended lecture this year. Lee Preston, Jr. was the featured speaker and what an educational and enjoyable presentation he provided. Following the lecture, Mr. Preston signed autographs for purchasers of his latest book “Archaeology in Howard County and Beyond”.

Mr. Preston’s audience learned about the history of the Simpsonville Mill and industries of the area. He brought to life the Middle Patuxent River as the lifeblood of Howard County commerce. Mr. Preston’s presentation connected the dots between Howard County’s early families and the industries that were supported by the Simpsonville Mill.

How marvelous that the Simpsonville Mill area is beginning to rise again. It’s much too easy for us to ride down Cedar Lane each day and, in our 21st century haste, ignore the river and the other important historical markers that exist just beyond the shoulder of our roadway. As the Robinson Nature Center grounds become more accessible to visitors – with the opening of the pavillion and Annie’s Garden scheduled for 2014 – our shared history of the mill area will again take a permanent place in our minds.

Most of us would agree that remembering one’s personal and family history is important to understand where we came from and to record how far we’ve grown. Remembering our shared community history is significant, too. Historical events – good or bad – bind us as a family of citizens whether we were born here, grew up here, or transplanted here. We are called to investigate and remember the past. It’s the only way we truly can connect to our future.


Nature Center’s Bay Day Beats Winter Blahs

On February 23rd, the James and Anne Robinson Foundation and the Friends of the Robinson Nature Center proudly partnered with The Robinson Nature Center to bring Howard County residents the first annual Bay Day, celebrating the culture and history of the Chesapeake Bay. This educational and fun afternoon gave visitors the opportunity to learn about the Chesapeake Watershed; to ask everything they always wanted to know about oysters; and to be informed about the importance of oyster shell recycling.  And, of course,  there were scrumptous seafood treats to enjoy.

The James and Anne Robinson Foundation sponsored the featured speaker of the day, Captain John Van Alstine. Captain John kept his audience spellbound with descriptions of life as a “waterman” on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Even the littlest visitors were fascinated by the nets and oyster pots and tools he brought with him. Captain John gave a demonstration of the “sewing” of a fish net. He pointed out that Watermen (they are not called fishermen) have to be carpenters (to fix their boats), blacksmiths and welders (to make and fix tools) in addition to being fishermen. Waterman make their own tools of the trade because they are specialized.  Some of those tools have been used for over 100 years in basically the same style and made out of the same materials.

Life as a waterman is hard, physical work. For example, Captain John and his crew recycle oyster shells from their customers and other sources. It takes 6-8 hours just to unload oyster shells, without regard to collecting and storing them. Captain John then buys oyster larvae from the State of Maryland’s hatcheries and plants them in the recycled oyster shells on his 36 acre aqua culture farm. Then he has to wait for about three years for them to mature to a size that can be harvested and sold.

A few fun facts to remember

65% of summer catch is blue crabs. Watermen spend 8 hours a day picking crabs out of the pots. Jellyfish burn the watermen in August. They have to wear heavy shirts to protect their bodies and even then they get stung through the fabric.

Poaching is a big problem. There are not enough cops to board the boats to check on the catch.

Origami passenger pigeons created by Bay Day visitors at Friends’ table.

Oysters now bring $35 a bushel but can bring up to $100 a bushel if the waterman is licensed as a dealer. Dealers are licensed by the State of Maryland and must comply with stringent regulatory requirements in order to keep the license.

Licensed waterman can only fish in the tidal waters of Maryland, not fresh water.

If you want to taste the life of an Eastern Shore Waterman, Captain John is happy to oblige charters for fishing trips.  I’m game – how about you?

“Winter Skies” Entrances Second Sunday Viewers

P1000306The Friends’ January Second Sunday event was indeed a special one.  I think it’s no exaggeration to state that Dr. Joel “Stardoc” Goodman probably knows more about the NatureSphere than almost anyone else at the Center. We were so glad to have him as our host for the “Winter Skies” program. “Stardoc” teaches astronomy so we were lucky to have him for our event while he was on winter break. Also, this presentation had been rescheduled from December due to inclement weather.  How lucky were we that the weather cooperated in January, allowing us to search the skies in warmth and comfort.

Dr. Goodman’s presentation, entitled “Winter Skies”, provided a road map for amateur astronomers to find the various constellations in the sky during our cold winter months.  He also showed a public service message to his appreciative audience about the increasing problems light pollution causes our planet. The combination of his relaxed narrative style and his fascinating films even captivated the imagination of one three year old in attendance. It’s not easy to speak before such a wide ranging audience and satisfy both adults and children. Our adult visitors buzzed with excitement while they enjoyed after-show refreshments.

To those of you who haven’t yet tasted this beautiful planetarium or Dr. Goodman’s library of celestial films, I highly recommend the NatureSphere experience. The Center schedules two NatureSphere performances on the first Friday of each month, the earlier of which is specifically designed for families and the younger set. Visit the Nature Center’s website for further information on current NatureSphere performances.