'Critter Camp' explores nature
By Colin Rajala - Staff Writer
Windsor - posted Thu., Dec. 27, 2012
Spending all day cooped up inside the house glued to the television screen is no way for a child to spend winter break. Northwest Park held an all-day “Critter Camp” on Dec. 26-28 for children in grades one through six to get out of the house and learn about nature in a hands-on, educational environment.
“We didn’t have snow the last couple of years, so these kids haven’t had the opportunity to go outside and play as often as they would like in the winter months,” said Jen Filer, camp director and environmental educator. “It’s critical to let them go out in the winter knowing if I just put on a hat and some gloves, I can still have fun, I can build a fort, play with sticks and learn.”
The camp's main focus is on how living things, mainly animals, prepare for and survive throughout the winter months. The camp opened with the children walking the trails of the park with Filer, looking at animal tracks and identifying what animals had recently passed through. The kids discovered a variety of tracks, including birds, squirrels, dogs and rabbits, and some of the kids even contested they saw some bear tracks.
During their exploration of the park, they learned about the processes of hibernation and migration, learning which animals use these techniques to survive, and why. Campers did a variety of projects to help animals prepare for the winter, including making bird houses for those birds that do not migrate or are left behind. They also prepared fruit kabobs and pine cones with peanut butter and bird seed to hang from trees. They revisited the food later in the week to see what animals had come there to eat.
Children also had an opportunity to snow-shoe for the very first time. As they navigated the park, children discovered what animals stick around the park all winter long, learning how to call and track animals to their dens while observing them from blinds.
“Watching their imagination and creativity in play is one of the best feelings in the world,” said Filer. “You don’t get that when they are sitting in front of you, you’re giving them a lecture, you’re trying to teach them; it’s when they experience it and they have those ‘a-ha’ moments.”