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Thaw your mind

Things to do outdoors at the U, summer 2011

Compiled by Adam Overland

Summer at the U - 300
Photo by Nicole Holdorph. Know this bird? It's a Great Crested Flycatcher. Help scientists identify all the plants and animals at a specific location at BioBlitz, June 10–11.

June 1, 2011

Minnesotans like to pack in as much fun as possible during the summer, as though winter were imminent and could befall us at anytime, lest we battle its encroachment at every turn.

With memories of a harsh winter finally fading, this summer you can truly thaw your mind and move your body with education and fun in the great outdoors with the University of Minnesota.

Once you're out from under the covers, the U has you covered with science, art, food, theatre, stargazing, gardening, camps for kids and adults, and much more. Have a look and don’t look back.

A Day for Discovery: Science Field Day 2011
June 4, 12:30–4:30 p.m., Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve
(30 minutes north of the Twin Cities). A team of University scientists (including world-famous Regents Professors David Tilman and Peter Reich) use the U of M College of Biological Science’s Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve as their living laboratory to understand how agriculture, energy use, and other human activities are affecting global ecosystems.

But on June 4, the gates of the internationally acclaimed Cedar Creek will be thrown open to the public. It’s a chance to see and be inspired by one of the most unique ecological sites in the world—right in Minnesota’s backyard. Visitors will be able to take tours, talk with graduate student researchers, and learn about the current research under way in plant ecology and global change, as well as explore Cedar Creek’s unique natural areas.

Bring a water bottle, light snack, camera, comfortable clothes suited for the weather on that day and shoes (closed-toe) suitable for walking along sandy trails and rustic wooden boardwalks. For more information, email Mary Spivey or see Cedar Creek.

June 10–11, 5 p.m.–5 p.m. Katharine Ordway Natural History Study Area, Inver Grove Heights
. You have 24 hours to help scientists find all the plants and animals at a specific location. Designed as part contest, part festival, part educational event, and part scientific endeavor, each year Minnesota BioBlitz attracts hundreds of families and scientists from around the state who use sonar detectors, bug lights, live traps, and laptops to count and chronicle an area's floral and fauna. Volunteers of all ages (including little, aspiring scientists) work alongside biologists to collect plants, insects, and live-trap animals, which are identified before being released back into the wild. For more information, see Bioblitz.

The event aims to increase the public's awareness of an area's biological diversity (locations change every year), offers a chance for citizens to work with scientists, and provides an environmental benchmark for natural resource managers of Minnesota's natural lands.

Science Discovery Day Camps

June 13–Sept. 2, Bell Museum.
Gotta hand it to the Bell Museum for creative and off-beat programming. From mammals to invertebrates, outer space to the environment, the Bell's Science Discovery Day Camps engage children in science through authentic objects and unforgettable learning experiences. The week-long camps include hands-on, inquiry-based classroom and laboratory activities, as well as outdoor exploration and recreation. There are 16 age-appropriate camps to choose from, varying in topic from amateur entomology to forensics with the U police department. There’s even a class about things that smell bad, like bat poop and blue cheese, called Rot-O-Rama—A Celebration of Stinky Delights. What kid wouldn’t like that? For more information, see Discovery Day Camps or call 612-624-9050.

University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum events
Third Thursday Happy Hour
Thursdays at the U of M Landscape Arboretum, already an "admission bargain" after 4:30 p.m., just got even better this summer with Third Thursday Happy Hour. On June 16, July 21, and Aug 18, from 4:30–6 p.m., sample wine flights, beer, and specially priced appetizers while enjoying the Arboretum garden views.
Steelroots: Touching Earth & Sky at the ArboretumSteelroots Romeo&Juliet 165
You can see a U of M Facebook photo album of this incredible exhibit, or read an events review online, but there’s no better way to see it than in person. World-famous sculptor Steve Tobin's 16 root-shaped sculptures are absolutely incredible. They’ll open your eyes to the awe of an underground world come alive in art, providing you with new perspectives on nature. Open through Jan. 2012.
Family Weekends at the Arboretum
From noon to 4 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday, bring the kids to the Arboretum's Learning Center for Family Weekends at the Arb. In June the theme is "Root Roast" (all about plant roots), in July, it's "Hummingbirds and Flowers," and in August, it's "Prairie Natives." Free with Arboretum admission ($9 for adults; free for members and ages 15 and younger).
Toast & Taste in the Gardens
Sample cuisine from the Twin Cities' best independent restaurants and sip Minnesota wines and beers while strolling the pristine gardens. July 28, 6–9 p.m. Tickets: $75–$125. Proceeds benefit the Arboretum.
Winemaking classes at the Arboretum
Understanding Wine Faults, July 14; Introduction to Winemaking, July 23; The Chemistry of Wine, Aug. 6; Advanced Winemaking, Aug. 20.

--For more information on all of these events, see U Arboretum, call 612-625-9875, or email

Minnesota Centennial Showboat: Sweeney Todd

Opening June 17 as part of the Minnesota’s centennial celebration in 1958, this year’s summertime productions mark the 53rd year for the U of M Showboat Players. They feature an interactive style of theatre based upon old-time vaudeville traditions and offer great music, wit, charm, and lots of laughter. This summer, the Showboat presents The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: The Melodrama of Sweeney Todd, beginning June 17. Tickets sell fast, so if you are intrigued by a production that will be both "deliciously murderous" and child-friendly (so we're told), get thee to the Showboat.

University Youth & Community Programs one-week day camps
Throughout the summer. University Youth and Community Programs has been offering summer learning and recreation experiences on campus for more than 20 years. The one-week day camp format attracts approximately 2,600 youth each summer for a full day of enrichment, recreation, and campus exploration in a high-quality and convenient format. Camps include featured recreational activities such as an indoor rock wall, swimming, crafts, organized games, art instruction, campus exploration, weekly themes, and more. Participants age 5 to 15 mix and match their choice of weekly camp topics to create their own unique and healthy summer. Registration continues until camps are full, or one week prior to the camp start date. For more information, see one-week day camps. A sampling of camps with openings remaining include:

  • Digital Originals, ages 8–9, June 20–24. This camp combines writing skills and technology to create and illustrate unique prose on the computer.
  • Grossology, ages 10–11, June 20–24.  Grossology camp provides a new look at the unusual and sometimes unconventional habits of hawks, owls, falcons, eagles, and more.
  • Chinese Language & Culture, ages 9–11, July 25–29. Youth experience a wide variety of tradition and culture along with daily lessons in the Chinese language.
  • Numeric Patterns, ages 11–12, Aug. 1–5. A camp for mathematically promising students to investigate the framework of numerical systems to discover the language of mathematics using visualization and modeling.
  • Write Around U, ages 12–15, Aug. 15–19. Aspiring Shakespeares and Hemmingways will explore the nature, landscape, and special features around the Twin Cities campus and document their discoveries in a field guide to campus life.
  • Diving, ages 12–15, July 18–22. The University Aquatic Center is a fabulous venue for youth to learn the safe and proper techniques for diving from the same platform and springboard where top athletes compete. 

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute
Throughout the summer. As long as life goes on, education never really ends, particularly if you keep taking classes. OLLI (the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) lets you do just that with its special summer guest membership and short courses, with literally pages and pages of great short courses, including Scandinavian Film, Black Bears, and Three Views of God at the McNamara Alumni Center; plus Hands-On Botany at the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and a week-long Raku Clay Camp at the Northern Clay Center among many other one-day and extended courses that take place throughout the metro area. OLLI is offering a special summer guest membership for $75, which buys you up to two courses during the session and more on a space available basis. For more information, see Osher Institute. See Summer 2011 Insights for a complete schedule; the course guide starts on page 11.

Universe in the Park summer program
Throughout the summer. The University of Minnesota brings to you the University of the Universe; we are enrolled, and there is much to learn. For the summer of 2011, Universe in the Park has events scheduled at 15 different parks and nature centers around the state. The summer outreach program hosted by the U's Department of Astronomy and area state parks gives kids, families, and other stargazers a telescopic view of astronomical topics, such as the history of matter, how astronomers "see," and a journey through our solar system. Afterwards, if weather allows, attendees have the opportunity to view the sky through multiple eight-inch reflecting telescopes. At the events, representatives of the U’s Department of Astronomy will present short public talks and slide shows.

Events are scheduled Fridays and Saturdays (rain or shine), starting June 24 and ending Aug. 27. Presentations typically run from 8:30 to 10 or 11 p.m. The events are free, but the park may require a vehicle permit for entry. Get studying. For more information, see Universe in the Park.

Tour Public Art on Campus
Art on Campus: Rokker VAll year round. That’s right…although the Weisman is closed for construction this summer—to reopen in grand, expanded fashion in October—WAM's public art collection in the great outdoors is always open.

The University of Minnesota has one of the country's largest and most dynamic public art programs, with art at more than three dozen locales around the UMTC campus—building entrances and hallways, courtyards and plazas, playing fields, and even an underground mine. You don’t have to go mining to find great art at the U. But you can see the website for a guide.

Save the Date! WAM will throw open its doors with a special day for U faculty and staff Sept. 27, 4:30–6:30 p.m., (and to the public Oct. 2), with five new galleries as part of its major expansion. The opening shows focus on displaying unseen treasures from the permanent collection, previously in storage. Make sure you are part of the day and save the date. Are you a member? Your membership supports WAM exhibitions and programs, and keeps admission to the galleries free. See the latest building construction live on WAMcam. For more information, email Erin Lauderman.

4-H summer camps and other adventures for youth
Throughout summer and the year. With an expansive network reaching every corner of the country, 4-H is the nation’s largest youth development organization. A program of the nation’s 109 land-grant universities and the Extension system, 4-H fosters an innovative, “learn by doing” approach with proven results. U of M Extension administers Minnesota’s 4-H program, conducting camps all year long throughout the state, with most camps are held in the summer.

Camps may vary in length from daylong to two-week adventures, and themes range from “Operation: Military Kids,” a free camp that helps youth affected by deployment to understand the deployment process and connect with other military youth, to Bay Lake 4-H summer camp, a unique island adventure on Bay Lake in Deerwood, MN. Learn more about camp opportunities for kids around the state, or check with your local Extension office to find local 4-H events and activities.

Summer Music Festival at Northrop
Throughout the summer. This yearly program, formerly called Summer at Northrop, has been reinvented as the Summer Music Festival at Northrop (SMFN). The free, outdoor summer concert series will feature fewer of its signature noontime concerts on Northrop Plaza (June 1, 22, and July 27), but evening shows, three "Too Much Love" noontime dance parties (June 8, 28, and July 13), outdoor movies at Coffman, noontime shows on the St. Paul campus, and even a flash mob are in the mix. The music line-up includes an eclectic taste of everything from hip-hop, dance music, singer-songwriter, folk, Latin, and spoken word. For more information, see SMFN.

University of Minnesota Farmers Market
Farmers Market 2009 July 13–Oct. 5, 11 a.m.–2 p.m. The University of Minnesota Farmers Market will return this summer to Church Street, East Bank campus, on Wednesdays through Oct. 5. The Farmers Market features vendors who are contracted to sell locally grown produce, berries, and fresh flowers. The produce is freshly picked and arrives from gardens, fields, and farms located within 2.5 hours of the Twin Cities. Also at this year’s market: free organic mint tea tastings, chair massages, fitness tips, and more. For more information, see U Farmers Market.

Master Gardener 2011 Learning Garden Tour
July 9, 9 a.m.–4 p.m. A lot of people don’t know about the U Master Gardener program, and that’s too bad because you’re probably smelling and eating their hard work more often than you know. This summer, save the date for the annual University of Minnesota Extension Hennepin County Master Gardener Learning Garden Tour.

Visit 10 beautiful gardens designed and maintained by Extension master gardeners, offering great inspiration along with the latest gardening techniques. This year’s gardens are clustered in a convenient route through the South Minneapolis area.

Representing a multitude of garden styles and interests, find your favorite among native plant gardens, butterfly gardens, waterfront gardens, kitchen gardens, container gardens and more! Master gardeners will be on hand to answer all gardening questions. On-site demonstrations will provide an educational dimension, for both beginning and advanced gardeners. Still not satiated? Learn more by reading "Gardening Minnesota."

Enjoy the River anytime with these walks
Located on the continent's most important river, the U of M keeps the Mississippi River central to its academic and cultural life. One of the major benefits of the UMTC campus is its proximity to the Mississippi. It's a major industrial transit way, natural resource, and recreation area all in one. Summer is the perfect time to explore the campus riverfront, so get out and enjoy it with these custom crafted walks (created by U staffer Kelly O’Brien), each an easy 1.6 miles. If you have just 30 to 45 minutes over the lunch hour, you can take a nature break, clear your mind, and get your body moving—it's healthy on every possible measure.

Bridge walk: From Northrop Plaza walk to the pedestrian bridge behind the Education Sciences building. As you cross the river, look up for raptors, including bald eagles.
East River Flats
: From Coffman or points near the Academic Health Center, access the East River Flats. Did you know there is a secret staircase at the end of Harvard Street that leads to the park below?

A Weekend in the woods: Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories
Sept. 23–25. Say goodbye to summer and hello to a beautiful fall with a weekend at a true Minnesota gem. Donors, U alumni, and their families are invited to enjoy the natural beauty of Itasca, mingle with friends, and learn about the past year’s progress at Itasca during this special "Weekend in the Woods." The weekend will feature faculty-led classes at the station and/or group outings. A reception and dinner will end with a short program led by the College of Biological Sciences dean Bob Elde, followed by a bonfire. The following morning, guests will gather for a farewell breakfast before departing at noon.

Just for U
2011 Celebrate U! employee appreciation event
Aug. 24, 11 a.m.–2 p.m., Northrop Mall. The 2011 Celebrate U! Employee Appreciation annual event recognizes the dedication and many contributions of U of M faculty and staff. It’s a unique opportunity to gather and celebrate the rich diversity of this great university. In addition to a complimentary gift, treat, and water, employees are invited to view the many booths and interactive displays on the Mall. Last year, more than 40 departments, colleges, and organizations presented examples of their work—from the Centaurus II solar car to laughter yoga on the lawn. The event also includes live music, free blood pressure checks, and nearby U of M Farmers Market on Church Street.

Happy Hour at the Campus Club
Weekdays, 2–6 p.m. Yes, it is sad but true. The second phase of the Coffman Union tuckpointing will be on the east and north sides of the building, which include the Campus Club outdoor Terrace. The process is loud and messy, and so the Terrace will be closed until the work is finished. But sometime later this summer (mid to late July), one of the best rooftop decks in the city—with spectacular views of the Mississippi and downtown Minneapolis—will reopen to the U community. In the meantime, as happens every summer, the Campus Club graciously opens its doors to all U faculty and staff, no membership required, weekdays, from 2-6 p.m., through Sept. 2.

St. Paul and coordinate campuses

St. Paul campus

Music, cheese, and meat
If you're already on the St. Paul campus, lucky you. If not, beginning June 23, stop by on Thursdays through Aug. 4 (and except on July 7) for a noontime concert. It's an easy jaunt on the Campus Connector from the east or west bank.

On Wednesdays, eat ice cream (or cheese) to your tongue's content, courtesy of the Dairy Food Products Salesroom, open to the public on Wednesdays, 3–5 p.m., 166 Andrew Boss Lab of Meat Science. The Dairy Store sells items that are produced in Minnesota and certified by students, faculty, and staff. Sales fund research and maintenance of the facility. Gift boxes are also available for special occasions.

And while you're at the Andrew Boss Lab of Meat Science, you might as well grab some BBQ'ing supplies. The lab sells bratwurst and much more on Wednesdays, 2–5 p.m.

Finish off your day with a relaxing, sight and scent filled tour of the Department of Horticultural Science's beautiful Display and Trial Garden.

University of Minnesota, Crookston

Ox Cart Days ice cream social.
Aug. 17, 2–4:30 p.m., Campus Mall. The theme this year for Crookston’s popular Ox Cart Days is “Proud of the past, poised for the future," and the University of Minnesota, Crookston, is proud to have been integral to the community’s past and its promising future with educational service to Northwestern Minnesota. UMC is an integral part of the U’s statewide, land-grant mission, and it intends to celebrate with all flavors of ice cream and some great fiddling music (by the Valley Fiddlers)! Ox Cart Days is free and everyone is welcome.

University of Minnesota, Duluth

Farmers Market
Beginning May 18 and every Wednesday through Sept. 28, farmers on the UMD campus sell plants, fruits, vegetables, flowers, and other locally grown produce fresh from farms and gardens. The market also offers baked goods, jams, jellies, meat, eggs, and more.

University of Minnesota, Morris

West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC) Horticulture Night
July 28, 5–9 p.m. The annual WCROC event provides tours of the University of Minnesota's Horticultural Gardens. Activities include discussions on various gardening topics, gardening technique demonstrations, games in the Children's Garden, and a picnic dinner.

University of Minnesota, Rochester
Thursdays on 1st & 3rd
June 9–Sept. 1, 11 a.m.–8:30 p.m. Thursdays on 1st & 3rd features a weekly outdoor market of more than 100 vendors, food, arts and crafts, and live entertainment every Thursday throughout the summer—right by UMR’s location at 111 South Broadway. Sit back and relax with friends and family with live dance and performing arts, live music, and more.