Swaner EcoCenter story times develop Little Naturalists
What: Little Naturalist story time
When: 10-11 a.m., Monday, Jan. 7
Where: Swaner EcoCenter, 1258 Center Drive at Kimball Junction
Children ages 3 to 5 will be able to strap on snowshoes and venture onto the Swaner Preserve on Monday during the Swaner EcoCenter’s first Little Naturalist story time of 2019, said Natalie McHale, youth programs coordinator.
“Since this will be a lot of the kids’ first time doing this, we will provide the snowshoes,” McHale said. “We’ll also have snowshoes for parents and guardians who are required to attend with their children.”
Little Naturalist story time is held from 10-11 a.m. on two Mondays a month, according to McHale.
“We don’t have a set schedule in terms of holding it on the first and third or second and fourth Monday of the month,” she said. “With holidays and other scheduling conflicts, we move it around. So the best way to know when it will be going on is to visit our website.”
The story times open with a story and continues with an outdoor activity.
“We always try to get outside, but on those days we can’t because of weather, we’ll do an indoor activity that gets the kids moving,” she said.
The indoor activities can include yoga or an activity that including teaching about the life cycles of insects, wild animal habitats or other nature-centered topics.
“We also follow that with an age-appropriate craft,” McHale said. “The craft is nature-themed.”
Crafts have included pumpkin painting during the Halloween season or, recently, building bird feeders.
“We did the bird feeders a couple of weeks ago because we talked about migratory birds and how it’s nice to have something outside where they can get some food,” McHale said.
Other crafts include painting with watercolors or using sticks, Play-Doh and water to make functional “beaver” dams.
“The kids had fun learning how to structure and keep the dams together, especially when we added the water,” McHale said laughing. “I’m sure the adults were happy they didn’t do this at home.”
After the craft, the session ends with another story.
“Volunteers read picture books for both stories, because kids love seeing the pictures,” McHale said. “Typically one book is more educational and the other is more of a fun book that ties in with the theme of the day.”
Sometimes the Little Naturalist sessions will feature guests who will introduce the kids to live animals.
“When we schedule those presenters, we ask that kids show up a little early to make sure there is room for everyone,” McHale said.
Little Naturalist is one way the Swaner EcoCenter gets children excited about nature.
“A big goal for us is to make sure we have programming for all ages, so even people with infants can come and visit the EcoCenter,” McHale said. “Little Naturalist is our first structured program for young kids that we created a few years ago. We want to spark their imagination and develop an appreciation for the natural world.”
McHale said Little Naturalist is also her favorite program at the Utah State University-funded facility.
“It’s a blast working with these kids, because they are smart and have wonderful imaginations,” she said. “It’s fun for me to hear what they have to say, because what they say comes from an honest place that isn’t cynical.”
McHale also enjoys seeing parents and guardians getting into the program with the children.
“When kids see people they look up to participating in these activities, it really makes an impression,” she said. “We hope the kids will continue that desire as they grow older, because they will be the ones who will make the decisions when they are older.”
The cost for Little Naturalist is $2 per child, and registration isn’t necessary.
“They can just show up,” McHale said.
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