Our Second “Bridges: Creating Pathways to Nature Event” Winter Survival Day Camp

At the end of January we kicked off our second Bridges: Creating Pathways to Nature Event as part of a collaboration with the Milton R Owen Nature Center. The Foundation for the Enhancement of Mitchell County (FEMC) is generously funding all seven events we are offering for mentors and their mentees and nature packs ($100 value) that each mentee who attends three events is eligible to receive.

Mitchell County Naturalist Chelsea Ewen provided our mentors and mentees with a lesson in Winter Survival as well as tools and instruments they can take a long with them in the car in case of an emergency. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate as far as our original plan for the survival camp of activities that included sledding, snow shoeing, ice skating and more. We made up for it though and had a fabulous time learning other things about winter time. Once the overall lesson was completed we put on all out outside gear to go outside and explore. Mentors and Mentees were challenged with the following activities listed below.

  • Geocaching/Compasses (do an animal track treasure hunt) Learning about wintertime animals (using the tracks from the geocaching) and doing a study on hibernation and keeping warm in the winter. We divided everyone into teams of 2. The mentees had a lot of success locating the objects from their treasure map which included deer tracks, dog tracks, pine cones, berries, trash, birds nest, etc while the mentors had better success locating the hibernating animal.
  • CHelsea is teaching everyone how to work their electronic cum pus. .

    Chelsea is teaching everyone how to work their electronic compass.

    The mentees were far a head of the adults as they were having such a great time on the trail through the nature center.

    The mentees were far a head of the adults as they were having such a great time on the trail through the nature center.

    Here Ashley found a hibernating beer track.

    Here Ashley found a hibernating bear track.

    After the geocatching activity we went inside to warm up a bit and enjoyed some hot chocolate and learned more about the activities and programming that the nature center offers throughout the year. Please keep in mind, that in part of our grant collaboration with the nature center our mentees are able to attend any nature center event/activity for the rest of the year at a discounted price.

  • Jello Critter Shelter Building (mentees and mentors have to build a shelter to protect their “critter” from the cold. Many of our attendees buried their critter in the snow or under a piece of wood or miscellaneous scraps that were laying around. One of our mentees discovered a hole in the ground and that is where she buried her critter. We discovered that her critter would have survived the longest as it was surrounded by snow, grass, and the ground which was great for keeping the critter cold.
    Tori with her jello critter next to the spot where she built it's shelter.

    Tori with her jello critter next to the spot where she built it’s shelter.


  • Fire Starting – Here everyone was in pairs again as they learned how to start a fire outside. We gave each pair a small pie tin, laundry lint, a magnesium fire starter (looks similar to a lighter, but you have to make it work by hand). Everyone gathered the grass, sticks, leaves, etc that they felt were necessary to start a fire. Everyone was able to start a fire, the trouble was keeping it lit.
  • Cooking over the fire– Chelsea and her assistant started a fire outside in the fire pit. This is where everyone was taught how to make apple crisp dessert over the fire. This dessert was delicious and only few ingredients are needed. It would be a great thing to make while camping.

1. Cast Iron Pan

2. One box of spice cake mix

3. Canned sliced apples

4. 1 stick of butter

5. Tinfoil

How to prepare the Apple Crisp Dessert.

First make sure the fire has a steady flame.

Coat the entire cast iron pan with tinfoil.

Rub the butter on the tinfoil until it is evenly coated. Once coated just keep the butter in the pan.

Pour in your canned apples on the bottom.

On top of the apples pour your cake mix.

Cook anywhere from 15-30 minutes until the apples are soft and the cake mix has melted.


Everyone enjoying their apple crisp dessert

We invite our mentors and mentees on a bus trip to Living History Farms in May (date and time TBA). As always if you have any interest in becoming a mentor please contact Lacey at lwaller@nicao-online.org.

Celebrating Mentoring At Our 2015 Mentor Appreciation Dinner

Each year Bridges Mentors and Advisory Board Members donate thousands of hours back to their community. In addition to getting together with their mentees for at least four hours per month, our volunteers also help us with fundraising efforts. We are always grateful for our volunteers and and for the families that open their homes to our mentors. Together, they make mentoring in Mitchell County possible.

We try to plan our annual Mentoring Appreciation Dinner during January to coincide with National Mentoring Month. It seems like the perfect time of year to celebrate mentoring in Mitchell County. This year, we returned to City Limits Eatery located in Saint Ansgar, Iowa. They are generous hosts and made a huge effort to provide a special evening.


Together, we enjoyed a spaghetti supper complete with their salad bar, freshly baked bread, and dessert. This dinner is just one small way we can say thank you to our volunteers each year.


We’d also like to thank Shop on State for their 2015 grant which helped to sponsor this dinner.

Mentor Collage

The designation of January as National Mentoring Month is a huge opportunity to tell our communities about mentoring. Jim Cross, a reporter at the Mitchell County Press News, recently wrote two fantastic articles this week about one of our mentor-mentee matches and our new Creating Pathways to Nature programming.

Just this month, we’ve received many inquiries from people who were interested in learning more about becoming a mentor. Every match makes a huge difference in encouraging healthy youth development in Mitchell County. We’re happy to meet with anyone who’d like to learn more about mentoring, from families to prospective volunteers. Contact our Program Coordinator Lacey for more information.

What Have Our Mentors & Mentees Been Up To Lately? Winter Edition

We’re starting out the New Year with snow storms and sub-zero temperatures in North Iowa. We’re accustomed this Midwestern winter weather and it doesn’t stop us from having fun. Here are some of the activities our mentors and mentees enjoyed this winter. There’s always something to do in Mitchell County.

Office Winter Pic edited

  • Browsing Pinterest for craft ideas. Creating a special board to save ideas for another time.
  • Attending a mentee’s wresting meet at school.
  • Enjoying dinner at mentor’s house.
  • Wrapping Christmas gifts together.
  • Making Christmas cards and delivered them to a local nursing home.
  • Swimming at the Cedar River Complex.
  • Completing a lot of holiday baking! Lemon bars, no bake cookies, frosted sugar cookies
  • Playing video games and watching movies.
  • Studying for an upcoming test.
  • Catching a movie at Watts Theater.
  • Playing board games at Kountry Kupboard Cafe and Taste.
  • Attending the Bridges archery event at the Mitchell County Nature Center.

January Reminder:

01/31/15 Winter Survival Day Camp: Mentors are invited to take their mentees to our second “Creating Pathways to Nature” event, Winter Survival Day camp. This event will take place at the Nature Center in Osage between 9:30-1 pm. Activities depend on the weather, but may include ice skating, cross country skiing and igloo building. The Nature Center is also equipped with comfortable, indoor facilities complete with a restroom and full kitchen. Mentors and mentees can pop inside to warm up over a glass of hot chocolate as needed. Lunch is provided.

Questions or concerns? Contact us or give us a call at 641-732-3566. We are always happy to find a time to connect in person.

Our First “Creating Pathways To Nature Event”: Archery

Earlier this week, we kicked-off our first “Creating Pathways to Nature” event as part of a collaboration with the Milton R Owen Nature Center. The Foundation for the Enhancement of Mitchell County (FEMC) is generously funding all seven events we are offering for mentors and their mentees and nature packs ($100 value) that each mentee who attends three events is eligible to receive.

Our first event took place at the Nature Center. Mitchell County Naturalist Chelsea Ewen provided us with a lesson in archery. Not only does she teach archery at the Nature Center, but through Osage Public Schools as part of gym class.

archery photos Lesson Group

After she taught us essential archery safety guidelines, we all got to try using the bow and arrows.

Archery Sue and mentee

Our mentees demonstrated impressive effort and skills. The mentors also gave archery a try and both hit some bullseyes. We also enjoyed dinner together. The Nature Center is equipped with a full kitchen in which we prepared a baked potato dinner complete with all of the toppings.

Potato Bar edited

We invite our mentors to take their mentees back to the Nature Center on Saturday, January 31st between 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. for Winter Survival Day Camp. Don’t worry! We won’t be stuck outside all day. There will be plenty of opportunities to warm up with hot chocolate inside the Nature Center between activities like ice skating, cross country skiing and igloo-building. Plus, we’ll also serve lunch. RSVP to Lacey at lwaller@nicao-online.org.

Announcing Bridges: Creating Pathways To Nature

We’re excited to announce we just received a generous grant from the Foundation for the Enhancement of Mitchell County (FEMC) to offer nature-centered programming for Bridges mentors and mentees in collaboration with the Milton R Owen Nature Center.

Many of our Bridges mentors and parents have asked that we provide seasonal learning opportunities for them and their mentees.  This collaboration will provide mentors/mentees with opportunities to participate in meaningful learning experiences together at no cost.

Creating Pathways to Nature will offer total of six small events and one large trip over the next year. Nature Discovery packs will be awarded to mentees that attend three or more of the events valued at over $100. The nature discovery pack will consist of education materials from each event that mentees can take home with them to continue exploring the natural world.

Butterfly Net

Here’s a taste of what’s to come. Dates may be subject to change:

  • Monday December 29th, 2014 from 5pm-7pm-  Archery– Participants will get the opportunity to learn about Archery and shoot bows and arrows. You can also tour the facilities. A meal will be provided, so come hungry.
  • Saturday January 31st 2015 from 9:30am-1:30pm-  Winter Survival Day Camp– Participants will spend the day outdoors learning about winter survival and safety as well as experience winter recreation opportunities, games, activities, crossed country skiing, ice skating, and sledding. Please dress warm, where snow pants, coats, mittens, hats, boots, etc. Lunch will be provided.
  • May 2015(date TBD) – Living History Farms Bus Trip- Attendees will travel to Des Moines, to visit living history farms, an educational facility that specialized in hands on, active teaching about 1800’s life. We ask that the mentor provide a sack lunch for their mentee to bring a long so we can have a lunch picnic.
  • Saturday July 11th 2015- Time to be determined-  Canoe the Cedar– Mentors and Mentees will travel the Cedar River via Canoe and will also get the opportunity to fish. Lunch will be provided.
  • Monday September 1st 2015 from 4-6pm. Butterfly Garden Trail Tour – Tour the butterfly gardens at the Wapsi-Great Western Line Trailhead in Riceville. Here mentors and mentees will learn about pollinators and capture, tag, and release Monarchs. We will also take a walk down the nature trail.
  • September 2015 (Date & Time TBD-  Rockford Fossil and Prairie Park – Learn about the prairie and the history of fossils in Rockford Iowa. Transportation will be provided.

Bridges is so grateful to have so many wonderful people involved in this program. We hope to see a lot of faces at each event. Thank you to the FEMC for making this programming possible!