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Swaner EcoCenter’s Little Naturalist explorers will learn about nocturnal animals

Session includes story time, craft and an outdoor excursion

Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter Youth Programs Coordinator Brianna Cencak gets a group of Little Naturalist explorers to raise their hands during a story time. The next interactive session will be Friday, Oct. 22, and will cover nocturnal animals that are found on the preserve.
Courtesy of Brianna Cencak

The Swaner EcoCenter’s Little Naturalist participants will take a step into the night with a daytime session called “Nocturnal Animals.”

The story time session for children ages 3 to 5 will run from 10-11 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 22, at the EcoCenter, 1258 Center Drive at Kimball Junction, said Youth Programs Coordinator Brianna Cencak.

“Since we’re getting close to Halloween, I wanted to do something that tied into the season,” Cencak said. “When we think of Halloween, it’s dark and spooky. So I decided to pick nocturnal animals.”



In addition, some of the animals in the EcoCenter’s current exhibit, “Survival of the Slowest,” and others that live on the preserve, are active at night, which complemented Cencak’s idea.

“We will talk about skunks, hedgehogs, bats, beavers and coyotes,” she said. “We will explore the adaptations that these animals do that help them hunt, communicate and be active in the darkness.”



The story time will start with a reading of Divya Srinivasan’s 2013 children’s book, “LIttle Owl’s Night,” Cencak said

“This is a fun book because it’s about a baby owl who explores the forest at night,” she said. “It’s about the different animals he encounters.”

The reading will be followed by a hands-on craft, which will involve making an owl headband, according to Cencak.

“We plan to utilize the headband during some imaginative replay,” she said.

The event will also include an excursion onto the Swaner Preserve.

“Even though we may not see any of these nocturnal animals, we will talk about them and look for signs of them when we go out to explore,” Cencak said.

Cencak enjoys planning each Little Naturalist session.

“I try to pick books and themes that align to what’s happening on the preserve with the changing seasons or what kinds of exhibits we have going on at the EcoCenter,” she said.

Next month Little Naturalist will explore beavers and their ecological benefits, Cencak said.

“We’ll also highlight the Survival of the Slowest exhibit, and those animals that are here,” she said.

Cencak has enjoyed hosting Little Naturalist in person, after taking last year off for online sessions.

“It was a bummer to transition it into a virtual format, because it missed that interactive piece and getting the kids out on the preserve,” she said. “Getting them out on the preserve is one of my favorite things to do, and the goal of Little Naturalist is piquing the kids’ curiosity in the natural world.”

Hosting the story times on Fridays is another change for this season’s Little Naturalist program, Cencak said.

“After we did the virtual format last year, we conducted a community survey, and we found that Fridays would be a better day to have our explorers come to Little Naturalist,” she said.

While the day has changed, the frequency hasn’t, Cencak said.

“We still generally host Little Naturalist twice a month, every other Friday, but the best way to be sure is to check the schedule on our website,” she said.

Since the Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter are affiliated with Utah State University, staff and administration cannot require the COVID-19 protocol of wearing masks, but they do strongly encourage it.

“I, myself, will wear a mask indoors, and then take it off outside,” Cencak said. “We will also have hand sanitizer available, and the restrooms are open for people to wash their hands after an activity. And if anyone feels sick, we ask them to just stay home.”

Little Naturalist ‘Nocturnal Animals’

When: 10 a.m., Friday, Oct. 22

Where: Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter, 1258 Center Drive

Cost: $4 at the door per youth participant

Web: swanerecocenter.org


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