Amazing Animal Senses

By Bridget Sharry, Community Relations Manager at Tanglewood Nature Center

This summer is a perfect one for exploring our senses – we have the time and the space to deeply reflect on how we perceive the world around us! Humans are not the only animals that engage with our environment through vision, hearing, feeling, smell, and taste. Meet a few fellow creatures at Tanglewood Nature Center with Bridget Sharry and compare whether their senses are finer or duller than our own.

I don’t think anyone was surprised to learn that owl hearing is stronger than human hearing, but you might be surprised to ponder the ways that snakes can “see” heat without using their eyeballs at all! And many animals have senses that humans don’t – tarantula hairs can sense vibrations like a cat’s whiskers, and even better than that, many animals ranging from arachnids to avians can see colors (like ultraviolet) that humans cannot see. 

Science and art give us more ways to learn about and appreciate the unique and rich lived experiences of others. We can study a scorpion and determine that their skin “sees” ultraviolet light, and do experiments to confirm that owls can detect tiny details in nearly pitch-black conditions. But we’ll never quite be able to know what it’s like to be a spider taking in a spider’s life, or what a snake is really thinking about and how a snake imagines her world.

There are so many specialized sensory experiences of the world that we’ll just never know and never be able to try out ourselves! That’s a fun mystery for us. We can use our imaginations and empathy, and keep on learning about our planet all summer long and throughout our lives. 

Here are links to additional resources and information:

Making Sense of Animal Senses by Nancy Volk

WSKG PBS – How Animals Use Their Senses to Find Food

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Sights and Sounds at the Heritage Village & Mystery Box Challenge

For week 4 of Garden of Fire, partnering artists and educators present two virtual programs!

Sights and Sounds at the Heritage Village

Pat Monahan, Education/Events Coordinator

The Heritage Village of the Southern Finger Lakes is thrilled to provide a virtual experience of their historical site. Join Pat Monahan to explore the village with an eye on history using your senses of sight and hearing. See the Patterson Inn and compare a bedroom from long ago to your own bedroom. Learn about cooking food over a hearth with Mary Franklin, and discover how people kept rodents out of their kitchen in the 1700s. Then, visit with blacksmith Leon Golder in the Cooley Blacksmith Shop to learn how metal is shaped and forged in a fire.

Heritage Village Seek and Find Game: See if you can spot Ben Patterson’s pack and canteen in one of the spaces you visit virtually. It is just like Where’s Waldo.

Bonus: At the end of the video, Pat will tell you how to receive a free gift when you visit the Heritage Village in person.

Mystery Box: Turn Your Curiosity into Creativity

Gwen Quigley, Visual Artist
Tony Moretti, Visual Artist

Artists Gwen Quigley and Tony Moretti present a Mystery Box art project. The box contains all the elements to make a magical destination, and all it needs is you and your creativity for the materials to be transformed into an imagined world. 

But wait! Before you open your box to see what’s packed inside, take this challenge. Carefully, with your eyes closed or blindfolded, remove each item from your mystery box and use your senses, except your sense of sight to guess what each item is.

Close your eyes again for a minute and let yourself imagine. If you could go anywhere with your physical body, and if you could bring all your senses to explore, where would you like to go? Using the materials in the box, and the box itself, create your magical destination diorama. Then go exploring in the woods, in a garden or in your backyard to find new materials to add to your diorama scene. Can you find all the colors of the rainbow in nature? You can continue to add elements from nature to your special creation over time.

If you did not receive a Mystery Box, create your own box with art supplies and natural materials to complete this project. You can use a shoe box, shipping box or scraps of cardboard. Be creative and have fun!

When you’re done, please take a moment to fill out this survey to let us know how you did. Take Survey >>

Exploring Art with your Mind & Senses

Carly Nichols, Support Services Manager
Ann Recotta, Education and Volunteer Programs Coordinator
Amy Ruza, Youth and Family Programs Educator

In this video session, The Rockwell Museum and CareFirst educators explore American landscape paintings in the Rockwell Collection and provide ways to use your senses to imagine what you might see, smell, touch, hear and taste.

Carly Nichols, Support Services Manager at CareFirst begins with a breathing meditative exercise focusing on an artwork that depicts a serene landscape with a forest and rushing waterfall. She acknowledges how stressful the past several months have been, and demonstrates how you can use your senses to bring down your level of stress and worry. She introduces a S.A.F.E box, which stands for “Sensing All Feelings and Emotions”.  You can fill this box with all sorts of things that activate your senses and help you to feel calm and relaxed. 

After you are focused, Ann Recotta, Education and Volunteer Programs Coordinator at The Rockwell will show you how to explore the painted landscape scene using your senses. This is a fun way to connect with artwork and to think about how it makes you feel. The next time you visit The Rockwell Museum, try doing this!

Next, Amy Ruza, Youth and Family Programs Educator presents a more abstract landscape painting where the bright and vibrant colors are exaggerated and the expressive style captures the spirit of the place. She points out how the artist creates perspective by including “vanishing points” in her painting, where two lines meet to create a more three-dimensional scene on a flat surface. The artist also paints different textures and plays with scale to create layers of depth.

Then, create your own fantasy landscape inspired by the paintings in The Rockwell collection using your imagination and mixed-media materials. Construct a place you want to visit, and think about who you may want to take with you. It can be real or invented. Your scene can take place on land, in water, in the sky, in outer space or event another dimension. Write about your special place, and think about the senses that you will experience in your scene. Where is your scene located? Why is it special to you? What do you see, smell, taste, touch and hear?

Keep your writing and any small objects you like in your S.A.F.E. box as a reminder of a place that can provide relief from the stresses of your life and ground you with nature. Using your mind and body to experience art and connect with your inner emotions is a wonderful way to take a deep breath and find peace and solace within your life.  

When you’re done, please take a moment to fill out this survey to let us know how you did. Take Survey >>

Shape, Rattle, and roll

By Amanda Warren, Ceramics Technician and Instructor

Welcome to the second virtual week of Garden of Fire: Summer of Exploring Your Senses! This week 171 Cedar Arts Center’s Ceramics Technician and Instructor, Amanda Warren, demonstrates how to make your own noise maker rattle. Using design inspiration from some ceramic vessels in The Rockwell Museum’s collection, Amanda will show you how to create a rattle using kiln-fired clay and air dry Model Magic clay. Experience touch, sound, and sight with this claytastic, hands-on activity.

When you’re done, please take a moment to fill out this survey to let us know how you did. Take Survey >>

Kiln-fired Clay

Air Dry Model Magic Clay

Experiencing Your Senses with Zumba

By Vicki Rossettie, Dance Instructor

In this video session you will hear the music and use your vision to watch and dance along as best you can. Notice how you feel as you move to the music; your breathing, heart rate, air flowing over your moving limbs, and overall happier feeling. Also, notice your other senses such as smell. Did being active “wake up” your other senses? If you replay the songs do you feel even more confident moving to the music? See if you can follow the steps or try making up your own steps. Replay and repeat as many times as you like. Experience all of your senses as you work up a nice sweat.

When you’re done, please take a moment to fill out this survey to let us know how you did. Take Survey >>


By Amy Ruza

The Garden of Fire summer collaborative program, which includes 10-partner organizations, is excited to offer a 2020 virtual program! In response to the unprecedented circumstances we are experiencing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the decision to create an adapted immersive program experience is a precautionary measure for public health and safety to best serve the needs of Steuben County youth centers.

The 2020 theme is “Exploring Our Senses”, and partners are thrilled to share imaginative and diverse lessons connected to STEAM initiatives that explore sights, sounds, smells, taste and tactile experiences through a fresh lens. The new hybrid virtual programmatic approach is designed to connect with families in the region and beyond. View highlights from the 2019 program to get a glimpse into what Garden of Fire is all about. 

The 2020 virtual program series will feature six pre-recorded video sessions with organizations and professional artists. In addition, select videos will have complementary hands-on activity kits to engage learners in a multi-faceted experience. Check out the 2020 Schedule tab for details and the G.O.F. Video tab for the weekly release of new videos starting July 6.

Garden of Fire aims to build capacity, depth and integration of cultural arts, history and science for youth participants. The program is unique, because in addition to the academic subject areas that are taught to bridge the summer gap of learning, Garden of Fire incorporates healing and wellness as a holistic approach to weave in tools for coping with stress, anxiety and mental health issues. This mind, body, soul comprehensive method addresses the many challenges we face, especially this year as we persevere through a global pandemic together.

Motion with an E

By Carly Nichols, Chelsea Ambrose, and April Hortman

Motion plays in integral part in our daily lives.  For many cultures around the world and throughout history, this has taken the form of dance, and has been the foundation of building friendships and community.  This type of connection often sparks another form of motion: E-motion.  Emotions, too, are entangled in our lives; the things we do, the places we go, the people we meet.  During the final programming week of the Garden of Fire, youth had the opportunity to experience motion, with an E.

CareFirst partnered with 171 Cedar Arts, their artist, Vicki Rosettie, and The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes with their artists, Pat and Kathleen Kane, for week five of the Garden of Fire.  Through the dance sessions, the kids heard and participated in traditional Irish dance, and better understood the origins of dance from many other countries.

Dance is a form of motion that is used to not only remain active and build connections with others, but can help us relate to the e-motions we feel.  What do we feel when we watch someone dance?  Is that different from how we feel when we dance ourselves?  How does it feel if we don’t express our emotions?  How can motion help us express how we feel and improve coping?  These questions and more were explored together and helped the youth better understand the power of physical expression.


CareFirst Grief Services Team

Carly Nichols, Chelsea Ambrose, April Hortman

Arts in Action

By Amy Ruza

This week, youth visited The Rockwell Museum to experience ART IN ACTION! We looked at art using our senses and played movement-themed games.

In the Nancy Lamb: Through the Artist Lens exhibition, we looked at large scale oil paintings that depict people in different social environments. The artist, Nancy Lamb captures people in candid poses and with different facial expressions. These moments, when we are not posing for the camera, capture our distinctive personalities that make us unique and special.

“I am trying to catch the true spirit of the moment” – Nancy Lamb

 Youth were asked to react to the paintings by imitating poses, creating small actions and responding to the emotions portrayed. We stood in a circle around selected paintings and imitated each other’s movements in silence. It was fun bending and twisting our bodies in a theatrical way to interpret the art.

Then, we played the “Object Game.” A basket of small random objects was passed out. Students walked and carefully looked around the gallery to select an artwork that they thought connected to their object and then placed their object in front of their selected artwork. The activity was an engaging way for the youth to slow down and look closely at the artwork to make creative connections to art and their objects.

It was fascinating to listen to the youth share about why they paired their object with a particular artwork. In this game there was no right or wrong pairing. It was all about making an imaginative connection to objects and art.

We looked at the handkerchief installation, Needle-and-Bowl by artist Melissa Vandenberg. For this antigravity installation, we all turned our heads up to the ceiling to see the hundreds of hanging handkerchiefs. We talked about what a handkerchief is used for – sweat, tears and SNOT! These handkerchiefs literally held microscopic pieces of a person’s DNA in their fibers. Don’t worry, the ones on display have been washed.

We talked about how the modern day disposable tissue replaced the handkerchief about 100 years ago, so most people don’t carry around hankies anymore. We noticed the different colors, patterns and ornamentation in the elegantly hanging handkerchiefs. We pondered, why would something that is going to get dirty be so pretty?

The display of handkerchiefs memorialize, or help us remember, their users. Each handkerchief in the installation represents a person and their unique life.

In the Museum’s Education Center, students designed and painted their own special one-of-a-kind handkerchief inspired by nature, gardens, and the art from the Museum collection. We talked about the places we enjoy visiting to experience nature, the types of plants that grow there, the animals that live there, and what you see in the sky above or in the dirt below your feet. The handkerchiefs were full of colorful patterns and nature symbols that expressed the individuality of each student.

During the project process, we had to wait for the designs to dry before adding a wash of color. While waiting, youth played a game called Picaria, a traditional tic-tac-toe style board game played by the Zuni Tribe of the American Southwest. Learning games that are similar to the ones we are familiar with was a great way to expose students to different cultures and how certain games can have multiple versions.

The gallery and project experiences aimed to help build students’ confidence, encouraged problem-solving and fostered a greater appreciation for arts and culture. Experiencing the museum using our whole bodies and all of our senses provided a different perspective on how we can appreciate art and the world around us.

I look forward to seeing all the brightly colored handkerchiefs on display at the upcoming Garden of Fire Festival on August 9 at CareFirst when we all come together to celebrate the youth accomplishments.

Animals in Motion!

By Ian McLaughlin

Animals can move by slithering, crawling, walking, jumping, flying, hopping, swimming, and more, so the possibilities for what the children could expect for their adventure were endless. At Tanglewood Nature Center we paired an animal with their most common movement and at the end of the 45-minute show the kids had the chance to try and move like them. It was quite entertaining watching them popcorn like a guinea pig, crawl like a cockroach, twist like a gecko, stick to the wall like a tree frog, and fly like an owl. My favorite animal movement has to be the tree frog because, lacking the ability to climb, we simply imitated our Gray Tree Frog “Gluey” by sticking our hands to the wall and holding them there. The kids expected more movement with that initial gesture so we all got a good laugh when I immediately moved on to the next animal movement.

It is the Garden of Fire Summer of Motion this year and I spent the past week traveling all over beautiful Steuben County to bring animals to the different youth centers. I visited the Salvation Army of Corning, Corning Youth Center, Addison Youth Center, and I met up with Paul Shepard for the Canisteo/Hornell program in a beautiful indoor facility in Canisteo this year. I drove back through a torrential rainstorm and lived to tell the tale.

What a great week!


Land, Air and Sea at the Heritage Village

By Pat Monahan

We continued the Garden of Fire 2019 theme of movement at the Heritage Village of the Southern Finger Lakes from July 16-19.  Addison Youth Center, Corning Youth Center, Hornell Area Concern for Youth and the Salvation Army (Corning) will step back in time to movement in the 1800s.  Nothing traveled at the speed of light other than light.  Movement consisted of feet on the ground, boats in the water, and the first attempts at air travel using a biplane and a propeller in 1903.  Everyone who visits the Heritage Village with the Garden of Fire will have fun with movement in the air, on the land and in the sea.  Here is what the kids did during their visit to the Heritage Village;

  • Games of the 1800s included outdoor games such as using stilts, playing bocce ball, racing with hoops and sticks, and playing checkers, shut the box and dominoes inside.
  • Racin’ on the Water succeeded in pitting one sailboat or a barge against another for a race to the finish line.
  • Flyin’ through the air saw us make paper airplanes designed to fly through a hoop in midair and hit a bullseye using different materials to build the plane.

I don’t know what your idea of fun is, but at the Heritage Village we like to try things that you have never done before and have a blast doing it.  Kids did exactly that in the 1800s and so can you in 2019.

Where Young Minds Grow