Swaner EcoCenter Story times are for Little Naturalists | ParkRecord.com

Swaner EcoCenter Story times are for Little Naturalists

Scott Iwasaki

Children between the ages of 3 and 5 have the opportunity to learn about animals, insects, arachnids, the environment, seasons and recycling through the Swaner EcoCenter and Preserve’s Little Naturalist story times.

These one-hour sessions are held twice a month at the EcoCenter, located at Kimball Junction, said Natalie McHale, the EcoCenter’s education assistant.

"We usually hold them the first and third Monday of each month, but sometimes we have to reschedule with the holidays and things like that," McHale said during an interview. "But we make sure there will always be two sessions a month."

The next will be held Monday, Oct. 19, from 10 a.m. until 11 a.m. The stories will be "Fall Is Not Easy" by Mary Kelley, and "Fletcher and the Falling Leaves" by Julia Rawlinson. The craft will be a leaf print.

"These stories and craft are all nature-themed," McHale said. "We also try to do an outdoor activity if weather permits or at least a hands-on activity. This gets the kids engaged more and they might want to get outside more or at least step away from technology. This is a way for us to get kids excited about nature or at least interested, so they go home with questions or want to come and explore the preserve or the exhibits we have."

The story times are also designed to pique the interest of young families.

"It’s always nice for us to engage parents or caretakers," McHale said. "Many kids at that age look up to their parents, so it’s nice them engaged in the story time or doing the crafts, and they will, hopefully, hang around and eventually participate in our summer camps."

Each story time features a theme.

"Those themes can be seasonal, like this next one, which is about the fall," McHale explained. "Themes can also be about recycling, or different animals that we may find on the Preserve."

Regardless, they all pertain to Utah, or at least fit in with the mission of the EcoCenter, which is to "preserve the land and the human connection to the natural landscape, to educate the local and broader communities about the value of nature, and to nurture both the ecosystem and the people connected with it," McHale said.

Since the program is geared for ages 3 to 5, it doesn’t get too deeply scientific.

"We tell fun stories and inject some educational elements into them," McHale said.

The books for the sessions are selected every year.

"We look at subjects we haven’t talked about and look at different books, especially those that are age-appropriate and that will be enjoyable for the kids," McHale explained. The stories are read by two volunteers, Karan Swanger and Donna Fisher, who alternate sessions.

"They have both previously been teachers in Park City schools and have been with us four years," McHale said. "We meet with them the week before to go over the books they’ll be reading and the activity and craft they’ll be doing."

In addition to either Swanger or Fisher, McHale attends the story times to check people in.

"I’m lucky because I get to sit back and catch little excited facial expressions during the story time or see the excitement these kids have when they get to go out onto the preserve," McHale said. "It seems natural to these kids, because they are still on that verge of innocence, and everything that comes out of their mouths is raw and real and they don’t just say something to make me feel good."

Little Naturalist story time will be held the first and third Mondays of the month at the Swaner EcoCenter, 1258 Center Dr. at Kimball Junction, from 10 a.m. until 11 a.m. Registration is $2 per family, or an eight-session punch pass for $8. Space is limited. For more information, visit http://www.swanerecocenter.org .