March can be a rather bleak month in Wisconsin, but it’s made brighter every year by a constellation of Aldo Leopold Weekend events: community gatherings focused on celebrating a local land ethic. In Wisconsin, the event is officially celebrated statewide on the first weekend of March to commemorate the date that Aldo Leopold’s “Foreword” (his final contribution to A Sand County Almanac) was written. In Leopold’s home state of Iowa, they also have their own official statewide celebration, which covers the first full week of March. But this is not just a Midwest event– in the last fifteen years, community organizers have planned and hosted Aldo Leopold Weekend celebrations in twenty states and one foreign country (Turkey)! Whether you live in a state with an “official” set of dates for Aldo Leopold Weekend or not, we invite you to consider being involved by hosting a Leopold event in your community in March 2016. This post will highlight some fun program ideas to inspire you and get the planning started. We hope to be able to one day see Leopold Weekend celebrations happening in every state!
1. Host a Community Reading of A Sand County Almanac
Hearing Leopold’s words read aloud brings a whole new life to them. Did you ever laugh out loud reading your copy of the Almanac? No? Believe it or not, laughter is a very common sound when Leopold’s essays are read aloud. It’s always great to see how community voices give new life to Leopold’s timeless (and witty) words. Public reading events are where Aldo Leopold Weekend events began and they are a classic way to introduce Leopold’s ideas to your community! You can also do this on a smaller scale and read and discuss the Almanac in a book group format. (Request our discussion questions to get you started.)
2. Have a Movie Night
Yes, we do have our own film to suggest in this category, but we also think that Leopold Weekend (and sometimes inclement March weather) can be a great excuse to fire up the popcorn popper and take the opportunity to gather as a community to learn together. Here are just a few of the films that I’ve really enjoyed in recent years– let us know in the comments what others might you add to this list!
- Green Fire—Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for our Time. This EMMY® award-winning movie explores Aldo Leopold’s life in the context of American conservation and environmental history, while also illustrating how Leopold’s legacy lives on today in the work of people and organizations across the nation and around the world. (We even wrote the discussion questions for you!)
- From Billions to None. A documentary film about how the Passenger Pigeon was driven by humans to extinction in just two decades. Our own Senior Fellows Stan Temple and Curt Meine are among the experts that discuss the serious human threats to species that still exist today.
- Mission Blue is the name of both a film and an organization launched by noted oceanographer and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia Earle. Both the film and the larger effort focus on ongoing efforts to save the ocean, including a focus on “hope spots” around the globe.
- Play Again. Did you know that most kids spend five to fifteen hours a day behind some kind of screen? Play Again unplugs six Oregon teenagers and takes them on their first wilderness adventure to see what happens when there is no electricity, no cell phone coverage, and no virtual reality. The results are quite inspiring.
3. Build Something
Once you know what the design for a Leopold bench looks like, you will start seeing them everywhere! Nature centers, parks, and private citizens all over the world use this classic style of bench to provide a welcome place to rest along the trail. The Aldo Leopold Foundation has not developed official bench plans, but a quick Google search will turn up plenty of results. People often ask for Aldo’s “official bench plans,” but he never wrote them down. In fact, the originals were constructed from scrap lumber, so each one was a bit different. The good news is, that means that Leopold bench building is an activity that definitely allows room for you to be creative!
You can let people take their benches home, or use them as a way to give back to the community. Benches can be donated or auctioned off to support community environmental education programs. How great is that? Another fun building project for giving back to the community is to make a Little Free Library stocked with books about the environment. If you are really handy, you can try to replicate this Shack version!
4. Feed People
Whether it be a wild game meal or a chance to try your hand cooking with a Dutch oven over the coals of the fire, if you cook it, they will come! Making food together is always a fun and easy way to create community connections, and incorporating local or wild harvested foods is a way to deepen those connections even further. Our resident Dutch oven cooking expert is Luann Waters, Oklahoma state coordinator for the Leopold Education Project. Contact us to request Luann’s recipe handout. (Hint: it’s much easier than you think!)
5. Get Outside
No matter where you live, spring is a time of change and renewal on the landscape. Whether you take a group of people out on a spring nature walk, or simply grab your binoculars and head on on your own, I can think of almost nothing more “Leopoldian” than simply taking the time to get outdoors.
One of my favorite things about Aldo Leopold Weekend events is that they are all different– communities can use this event model to come together and reflect the unique ways that a land ethic is important to their sense of place. Please let us know about your plans for 2016 Aldo Leopold Weekend community celebrations! Individuals can join the fun too- let us know how you are celebrating on social media with the hashtag #LeopoldWeek.
How Will You Celebrate?