Highlights from Summer 2017!

Hoppin Around River Bend was a camp full of frog catching, lily pad tag jumping kiddos! We searched through the duck weed and sticks at Turtle Pond in search of tadpoles, caught frogs everywhere we turned, and even had a few kids bold enough to hold them on their own!


Wonders of the Woods was a half day camp of ALL GIRLS! Let me tell you, they were the cutest batch of explorers I could have ever asked for! We made our own binoculars and magnifying glasses to help us see and document all the animals and creatures we saw out in the woods! We also stuck play-do to different trees and objects to see the different textures we have out in nature! ….We also sang a lot of Frozen and Moana… I can’t complain.




Intro to Rock Climbing was soo rewarding to teach because you constantly saw “light bulb” or “ah-ha” moments with every child. The moment they conquered a really hard ledge or had the courage to reach up and grab a hold without knowing if they could make it, was amazing. These kids really knew how to push themselves…I may have had blisters all over my hands afterwards, but it was totally worth it.




Wilderness Games I and II were the craziest camps I taught, without a doubt. We always started the camp with a water day; full of water relays and slip-n-slide kickball as the huge finale game. But the best part of this camp isn’t water day (BELIEVE IT OR NOT!) it is Hunger Games day! We split up the kids into three districts, and their goal was to find as many of our hidden care packages as possible. We gave them a couple of acres to roam around in, walkie-talkies, and bandanas to use as lives, and let them loose! It may sound scary, but both groups did AMAZINGLY well with the freedom to run around and find the care packages! We also put in some water balloon throwing camp assistants to shake things up a bit…if you were hit with a water balloon a camp assistant got one of your lives. The kids absolutely loved it!




Fascinating Beasts was a hard one for me to plan, I wasn’t sure what direction I should go in. SO! I decided that teaching about the wonders of Minnesota would be the best way to go! We made Paul Bunyon beards and toilet paper tube Babes, we searched for Big Foot and FOUND him…not to mention we were able to ride Pepie the Lake Pepin monster around RBNC!



A Bug’s Life was full of BUTTERFLIES!



In Dinosaurs and Dragons we hunted for dinosaur bones like real life archaeologists, we made our own dragons, and we followed T-Rex tracks all the way to a treasure chest!!



There were so many more camps but this post is already too long! Until next summer RBNC…I will miss you!!!!!!





It Seemed to be Serendipity

At the beginning of the summer I was told I had a job with a company my mother works for. It honestly sounded like a dream; good pay, flexible hours, and I would get to see my mom every day!

However, when I came home after my college graduation I was told my position was filled with an intern from the previous summer. I will admit, I cried. I had no idea how I was going to make money this summer and save up for student teaching in the fall and I had no idea what direction I should go in.


~~And then~~


As destiny would have it, I saw a Naturalist Educator position on a job hunting website. I hungrily read the description, emailed my resume and waited anxiously. I kept thinking to myself, you’re an English teacher…why would they hire an English teacher?  And then I received a phone call from Amber asking for an interview. Lo’ and behold a week later I was offered the position and from that point this summer has been one for the books. **wink wink**


I have been able to let my creative juices flow, work with kids, TEACH, and most importantly have fun. If it seems like I am SELLING you this job, truth is, I am. I could gush about all of the moments that made this summer the best (and I will, on the next blog post) but something everyone should know is how amazing the River Bend Nature Center staff truly is.



  • Amber, our Education Coordinator is one of the most selfless and nurturing humans I have ever met. She helps you find your goals, listens to you when you feel like you’re not achieving them, pep-talks you into continuing, and then celebrates right alongside you when you have reached them. Whether those goals are in life or in education, she is the perfect person to have by your side as a mentor.




  • Our Administrative Coordinator, Cindy, is the chronic office smiler. I have never seen her frown in the 85 days that I have been working here. She is just so exuberant in everything she does; she’s like a breath of fresh air. You would think with a title like “Administrative Coordinator” she would be somewhat scary, but if she sees a butterfly in the garden or a wild turkey at the front door she will be the first person to come and tell you to take a look. Everyone needs a Cindy in the office.



  • Karen, is our part-time receptionist as well as our summer staff part-time mom. She has done my dishes almost every day even though I tell her not to, and she’s always the first to ask you how your camps/kids were that day.……She also laughs at all my jokes (even though I KNOW some of them aren’t funny)…which is only something a mother would do.




  • Stephanie is our Interim Naturalist/Monarch Butterfly Hotel Coordinator. If you have walked into River Bend, I am sure you have noticed the swarm of beautiful butterflies we have and are breeding, and this is the lady behind it all! She is the smartest, goofiest, most loving ball of crazy and scientific facts I have laid eyes on. She seems to memorize everything in life from FRIENDS episodes to baking recipes to geo-caching.



So I guess what I’m trying to say is….if you ever wanted to work in a creative and highly rewarding environment with some of the most amazing people you could possibly meet in MN, then I advise you to put in an application to educate with River Bend Nature Center.  It’ll be the best thing you do all year.

fam photo.jpg

Left to right: Jen, Kenzie, Breanna, Emily, Jason

Stephanie, Amber, Cindy, Sydney



This is Kenzie,

Signing out.


AND REMEMBER! **Adventure is out there!!**

New Summer, New Faces!


Here are the newest members of the River Bend Nature Center family! These three ladies are here for the entirety of the summer, helping out and teaching summer camps to all the little humans that come walking through our doors! Scroll down to get to know the new faces of RBNC!



Hello! I’m MacKenzie Nagel, but most people just call me Kenzie! I graduated from Bemidji State University this last Spring with my Literature and Arts Bachelor’s Degree, and will graduate this Fall with my Bachelor’s Degree in English Education. I LOVE the craziness, spontaneity, and creativity of kids- they make ME think out of the box on the daily and I just can’t get enough of that! I have a huge extended family, and am the eldest of five, so family is the core of my very existence. I am an avid reader, lover of all movies, Disney Karaoke World Finalist, professional sarcastic comment giver, 22 year old. I am constantly referred to as the “female Steve Erwin” if that gives you a better picture in your mind (not because I’m amazing with animals, but because I am so overwhelmingly charming …and the Australian accent helps.)


Favorite food: ANYTHING THAT IS MADE OUT OF POTATOES. And Chinese food.

Life motto: “Let your freak flag fly!”

Favorite Trail: Rabbit Trail, for SURE!

MN Spirit Animal: Coyote. I am very good at adapting to new situations, I love joking around, and I find joy in all the things I do. I am super close to my family, love to work with children, and know how to be myself! I feel like that is the very core of a coyote!

Favorite Outdoor Recreation: Sleeping…….outside…..in a hammock.



Sydney (Syd)


My name is Safari Sydney, Syd to my co-workers. I am a recent graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and decided to leave the Great Smoky Mountains for the Minnesota plains. I enjoy biking and hiking around River Bend, my favorite trail being Trout Lily since it follows the river bank and is a shaded, peaceful ride. My favorite outdoor activity would have to be sea or flat water kayaking, I’ve always had luck seeing a variety of wildlife as a kayaker. I enjoy eating hot wings. My Minnesota spirit animal would be a Plains Hog-nosed Snake because these fascinating little snakes fake their own deaths and flatten their necks like cobras to defend themselves, pretty clever!




I’m from Grand Meadow, MN. I am the oldest of 4 kids. I graduated from Winona State University in 2013 and majored in Recreation & Tourism. I’ve been teaching Environmental Education for a few years now and have travelled somewhat extensively throughout the U.S. working in different places. My favorite outdoor recreational activities would probably be hiking, biking, fishing, and kayaking. My favorite trails here at River Bend so far are Walnut and Raccoon. My favorite foods are Buffalo Wings (Garlic Parmesan), BBQ Ribs, and Chicken Fettucine Alfredo. My Minnesota spirit animal would be a lynx. My life motto would be the Henry David Thoreau quote, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”



That’s all we have for THIS blog post folks!

And remember!!

Adventure is out there!



Read for a Good Time!



To the Newbies of River Bend!

WELCOOME! Just a few short weeks ago, I too, was a newbie of RBNC. I lived and grew up in Owatonna, and somehow had never heard of this magical little corner of the world until I filled out an application to be a Temporary Environmental Educator this summer! (Which is by far the best decision I have ever made.)


The first thing you see while walking into the Nature Center, is a smile from every employee and amazing murals covering every wall. Kids will be thrilled to see and possibly meet our various adorable Animal Ambassadors, fur friends are welcomed (on a leash) and will be amazed at the many trails they can sniff and walk their four paws on, and the general public will love the scenery and the pure smell of the outdoors.


Here are some of my FAVORITE MUST-SEE spots!



If you are looking for an entrance into another world, or have a daughter who is obsessed with faeries or Rapunzel from the Disney movie Tangled, THIS is the trail for you! The moment you step foot onto Rabbit Trail you are engulfed in long grasses and tall trees…add to that, blue skies, and you have yourself a perfect day and a gorgeous hike. In the early summer this picture perfect path turns into a sea of purple when Dames Rocket (an invasive but beautiful flower) pops up and blooms. This is a GORGEOUS MUST SEE!

Trail Difficulty: Easy

Length: 2 miles there and back


(photo credit: Jen)

If you are looking for a SUPER SHORT “hike” or it just rained for 5 days straight and you need to get out of the house for the afternoon…go to our charming home grown waterfall! The trickling of the waters, and the buzz of animal life around you provides the perfect background noise for a short adventure! Have the kids search for salamanders, see if they can make out some floating water bugs gliding on the streams surface, walk down the stream a ways to spot some deer…and don’t forget to take a gorgeous picture on our leaning tree on the way out!

Trail Difficulty: Medium (simply because it is somewhat steep)







Fact of the matter is, ANYWHERE you go while at River Bend Nature Center holds possible adventures and memories! So get out there!


This is Kenzie, SIGNING OUT!

And remember……!!!!


(photo credit: Google)