Dodge Log

Stories from Dodge Nature Center and Preschool

Welcome to the Dodge Log

Discover the stories behind Dodge Nature Center and Preschool. In blog posts filled with photos, you’ll hear from naturalists, teachers, and students about their meaningful, memorable experiences at Dodge.


Legacy: Leaders from within

April 13, 2023
More than 55 years ago, Olivia Irvine Dodge had the vision to preserve natural space amid a rapidly expanding urban area. Her legacy lives on through long-time staff whose dedication keeps Dodge a thriving oasis for outdoor learning. Read how 20+ year Dodge staff members are creating lasting legacies of their own.

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Sustainability: Revitalizing habitat and human connections

April 13, 2023
The Lilly Property, Dodge’s 170-acre nature destination in Mendota Heights, is home to abundant wildlife and flourishing native habitat—but rarely hosts guided nature programs for school and family groups. Hear from Buildings and Grounds Director Sean Gokey on how space for hiking and habitat still offers opportunity for environmental education.

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Access: Nourishing lifelong learning

April 13, 2023
Senior programming returned in Dodge in 2022, increasing access for older adults to experience outdoor learning at Dodge. Green Seniors welcomes lifelong learners interested in the natural world—and fosters connections with each other.

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Taking pride in nature

September 16, 2022
Naturalist Fellow Allie Steffen noticed a gap in Dodge’s programming—LGBTQIA+ youth in our community need more outdoor opportunities and places to be themselves. She stepped up and created Pride Outside, a nature and outdoor skills program for 5th-12th grade youth of any sexual or gender identity.

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Shepard Farm stepping forward

September 16, 2022
On April 2, 2022, Shepard Farm opened to the public and welcomed people of all ages to the trails. Longtime fans and first-time visitors explored this new nature destination in Cottage Grove and learned what’s coming next Shepard Farm.

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Making strides in access

June 21, 2021
Dodge is paving the way for greater access to the wonders of the natural world, thanks to the support of the Nourishing Everyone’s Need for Nature comprehensive campaign. With parking lot and trail improvements, more people can explore the wetland habitats and reach educational programs in all four seasons.

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Nature is magnetic

December 4, 2020
The last session of Outdoor Learning Days was one for the geologic record books. In the latest post on the Dodge Log, settle into your seats at the School of Rocks. Join juvenile geologists as they sweep for magnetic minerals, cement their understanding of sedimentation and unbottle volcanic activity.

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Off screens and outdoors

November 4, 2020
Dodge wants to do more for middle schoolers, an age at which many kids stop visiting the nature center. The pandemic ended up being the perfect time to pilot a program for this age group. In this blog post, learn how Dodge naturalist Mary Dybvig developed the after-school program to get middle school girls learning together outside, provide them female role models, and foster their interest in science at critical age.

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An arborist with roots at Dodge

July 21, 2020
If you spend your childhood summers at Dodge, what could you grow up to be? Maryland arborist Meg Smolinski says her interest in horticulture stemmed from happy days hiking at the nature center. In the latest post on the Dodge Log, Meg reconnects with one of the naturalists that cultivated her love of trees, gardens and growing a greener world.

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Furry, feathery, leathery and loved

July 13, 2020
Whooo would you say is the most excellent educational animal at Dodge? An owl? A fowl? A pig with big jowls? Some of our staff select their favorite resident animals in the latest Dodge Log post.

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Magic and nature of teaching

June 22, 2020
“I love hearing the audible ‘wow!’” Every Dodge naturalist aims for those kinds of marvelous moments in their classes and camps. In this post, they talk about what they like to teach best and their standout memories in the outdoor classroom.

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Wild, edible and sometimes Stone Age

June 8, 2020
What’s fiery, fun and foraged from the forest? Campfire cooking at Dodge! Outdoor cooking is a great way to bring a little Dodge into your yard, and naturalists Mick and Pete have the wild-style recipes to get you going.

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Best book picks from Dodge Nature Preschool

April 16, 2020
Dodge preschoolers may be staying home, but that doesn’t mean learning—or reading—stop! Our teachers have savvy selections for books to keep your preschooler laughing, lively and feeling loved. Picks range from fiction to nonfiction, fantasy to nature-based, animals to animation, and silly to serious. Snuggle up for some stories!

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Sights and sounds of spring

March 9, 2020
Dodge naturalist Teresa Root developed the Signs of Spring contest to honor a feeling shared by many Minnesotans in early March: “You’re so tired of winter, and really looking forward to spring.”

Springtime activities—watching wildlife, identifying flowers, listening closely to bird calls—are available to all. Out in nature, you can de-stress and deepen your observational abilities. Take advice from a naturalist: “Just sit in a chair in your backyard, slow down, take time, really notice.”

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Polar esteem

February 21, 2020
Dodge doesn’t pause when temps drop. Horses prep to pull sleighs, Naturalist Fellows dig snow shelters (no, they don’t have to live in them), and bonfires bring some warmth to the most Siberian season.

In taking kids outside all winter, naturalists and preschool teachers ascribe to the motto, “There is no such thing as bad weather—only the wrong clothes.”

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Naturalists up next

February 4, 2020
Dodge’s yearlong Naturalist Fellowship trains college graduates as environmental educators, readying them to teach everything from Animal Tracks to Wilderness Survival.

What’s teacher training like at Dodge? It’s outside, it’s hands-on—and it’s crammed with questions.

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