About 320 community members participated in Walk Walton, an annual nature fest and fundraising event for the Homewood Science Center, at Izaak Walton nature preserve on Sunday, Oct. 22, according to Homewood Science Center Executive Director Edie Dobrez.
“It’s a way to get families out enjoying the beautiful Izaak Walton preserve – but also learning about the natural world,” Dobrez said, describing the mission of Walk Walton.
Dobrez said a big part of the event is Homewood Science Center’s middle school conservation ecology interns telling the community what they’ve learned. She said they did this on tours of the preserve and at outreach tables. The conservation ecology interns showcased their ability to build birdhouses, something they learned how to do at the science center.
At the end of the event, the conservation ecology interns were each presented with certificates for their completion of the program.
New to this year’s event was a traveling exhibit about Illinois natural resources from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana’s Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS). The exhibit was in a trailer truck with numerous photos of snakes, birds, snails and other Illinois wildlife displayed on the outside.
The INHS is a research team that describes itself as “the guardian and recorder of the biological resources of Illinois.”
The traveling exhibit included but wasn’t limited to displays on endangered species in Illinois, prairies, wetlands and various ecological issues and programs.
“That was really exciting – a 320-square-foot exhibit right on the premises there at Izaak Walton,” Dobrez said.
Scientists from the University of Illinois were also at the event. They held out insects for adults and kids to touch. The Forest Preserve of Cook County showed community members a turtle. Kids decorated jack-o’-lanterns. University of Chicago’s Professor Cathy Pfister did a presentation showcasing local fish.
Walk Walton has been an annual event since 2016, the same year the Homewood Science Center was established. The event has always been in the fall and on a Sunday.
“When we started the science center, we realized that we didn’t want to restrict our programming just to our building. We know that science is everywhere. And one of the best ways to learn about our natural world is to be out in nature,” Dobrez said, adding that Izaak Walton is “a great place” to do this because it “really highlights all the ecosystems we have in Illinois.”
Dobrez clarified that Walk Walton isn’t the Homewood Science Center’s only programming that takes place outside of their building. This includes events at schools and the Homewood Public Library.
“We’re happy to host folks like them – nonprofits with similar interests. Science. Nature. Conservation,” Homewood Izaak Walton president John Brinkman said.
Brinkman said he was managing the Izaak Walton office at the time of the event, and he saw the conservation ecology interns building birdhouses from his window.
Next year’s Walk Walton will be on Oct. 20, Dobrez said.