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On August 3rd the Chrisman Public Library held the program entitled ‘Off The Beaten Path’ with a visit from Douglas Hart Nature Center.
Keegan Payne, Environmental Educator at the nature center lead the program. The program was surrounded on a story about ‘Camp Read’. “I like reading and being read to, but sometimes I just wish that I got to pick the way that my favorite stories end,” Payne said.
Payne handed ‘Choose Your Own’ Adventure book to the children in attendance, with crayons to create their own story.
The cover on the book featured a tent with ‘Camp Read’ as the title. Inside, the book was blank so the children could choose what happens in the story.
“All through the story, you come to choices,” Payne said. “It will say do you want to do this, or do you want to do this. You get to pick what the characters do and where the characters go.”
The story began with an introduction of ‘Camp Read’ that was full of happy campers that wanted to go for a hike in the woods, but they couldn’t decide where they wanted to hike to. When decisions were to be made, the children were able to vote on what they thought should happen next.
“I’ll show you a couple of different hand signals and then we’ll vote using those hand signals which way we want to go,” Payne told the kids.
The first decision for the children was if they should hike up the mountain or down the trail. It was close, but most of the children wanted to go up the trail. They then stood and ‘hiked’ in place up the mountain.
When they reached the mountain, the children then learned about what types of animals they would find in the mountain habitats and how they survive in their habitat. “A habitat is an animal’s home.” In the mountain habitat, the animals learned about eagles, mountain goats, marmots and hares.
As they learned about mountain goats, Keegan laid down a piece of rope with numbers to see if the children could jump as far as a mountain goat, an animal which can jump twelve feet.
A few of them jumped six feet and others shorter distances.
Suddenly, a land slide happened while the children were on top of the mountain. Thinking quickly, the children made the decision to run down the mountain to escape.
After getting off of the mountain, the campers found themselves in a forest habitat. Owls, deer, turtles, beavers, salamanders, and fish are sometimes found in the forest habitat.
With many plants in the forest, it’s the perfect habitat for the herbivores to eat and provides shelter for them to hide and raise their young. Payne passed around oak leaves and blue belles for the children to look at. “All around the forest is a pretty good home for all the animals,” Payne said.
While talking about forest animals, Payne mentioned that some creatures like to carry their home on their backs. Much to the children’s delight, Keegan had brought a friend from the nature center for the children to see.
Windle, an Eastern Box Turtle, a common turtle that’s seen in the area, was introduced to the children. “We take care of him, but turtles like him would live in the forest.” Turtles similar to Windle tend to eat worms, plants and berries. Payne went on to ask the kids if he would be able to find his favorite food in the forest.
After learning more about box turtles, Payne took Windle around the circle of kids so they could pet him and get a closer look. The gender of box turtles can be found by the color of their eyes. Male box turtles have red eyes, while the female have yellow.
The Camp Read campers continued their journey out of the forest, but got lost. The choices were to climb a tree to see where they were supposed to go or follow the river. They decided to climb up the tree.
Once up the tree, they found the way to the wetland habitat. “A wetland is a place that’s covered with water either all year around, like a pond or a river, or in the rainy seasons like marshes,” Payne said.
The animals found in this habitat are snapping turtles, cranes, ducks, frogs, fish and many other animals.
Keegan pulled various items out of a box, then asked the children how it’s connected to the wetlands.
In the next activity, one of the children volunteered to be dressed so they could survive in the habitat. He was dressed in a parka, swimming fins and goggles. “We’re not made to live in the wetlands, we would have to bring special things,” Keegan told the kids.
After learning about the wetlands and night quickly approaching, the campers made their way back to camp, but were very surprised when all the animals followed them back. Keegan made a circle with pictures of the different habitats and handed the children pictures of the animals that followed them back.
A game of ‘Musical Habitats’ was played, which is similar to musical chairs. The children walked around in a circle and stopped next to the habitat. If it wasn’t where their animal lived, they had to continue until they found the animals’ home.
Before she left, Keegan brought Windle back out for the kids to say goodbye. As the children left the library, they were able to take a special snack on their way out.