outdoor play area

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Food, firewood, nature lore, and kid play areas made with wood will all be part of the free Urban Woodsman event 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 17, at the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center. Visitors can view wood working art, learn firewood splitting skills, taste homemade maple syrup, and learn about those masters at felling trees, beavers. Plus, an MDC staffer will show how to skin and cook a beaver, and offer a taste sample of beaver meat.

Cold winter weekends are a good time to fire up fireplaces. Wood splitting skills come in handy for readying fuel for fireplaces or campfires. MDC staff will teach techniques for using an ax, a splitting maul, and wedges to split large chunks of wood. They will discuss how efficiently different types of wood produce heat. Visitors will learn the correct size for a cord of wood so they’ll get their money’s worth when buying firewood.

“A lot of people like to burn oak or hickory,” said Pat Whalen, MDC education specialist. “But for campfires, a lot of people like ash because it has less smoke and burns hotter.”

Discovery Center staff has tapped several species of trees on the grounds to collect sap, including a maple tree. Visitors can learn how to make maple syrup, and they’ll get a bite-sized taste of pancake with locally-made syrup and hickory nuts.

James Worley, MDC education specialist, will talk about beavers, their role in American history and ecology. But beavers are still an active part of Missouri’s great outdoors and are sometimes active at streams and lakes in urban areas. Worley will demonstrate how to skin and prepare a beaver for cooking. A taste test of cooked beaver meat will be offered. Properly prepared, beaver meat can taste like roast beef, Worley said.

Special guests for the day will be the Kansas City Woodworkers Guild and the Northland Woodcarvers. They will demonstrate how they make beautiful bowls, vases, and other works of inspired wood art.

Kids will find a special play area set up in the Discovery Center’s outdoor classroom and garden at 4750 Troost Ave. in Kansas City, just east of the Country Club Plaza. The “Kids Kamp” will have teepees, primitive shelters, mammal pelts, and turtle shells to explore. There will also be crafts such as making a “Mountain Kid” hatband with turkey feathers and recycled fur from coats.

“It’s still winter, but the tree sap is starting to run and there’s wood to split for the fireplace,” Whalen said. “It’s time to get outside, get moving, and start thinking of spring.”

For more information, call the Discovery Center at 816-759-7300, or visit http://mdc.mo.gov/discoverycenter.