Predator versus prey at Ponderosa Park

Kids learn the art of disguise at Discover Nature Day

By Monicia Warner / The Bulletin

Published Aug 20, 2014 at 12:01AM

The soggy ground, warm weather and humidity didn’t stop kids from channeling their inner animals at Discover Nature Day last week at Ponderosa Park.

“We kind of have a following at this point,” said Katie Chipko, Deschutes Children’s Forest coordinator. “Most of these kids have been to at least one (event).”

Discover Nature Days are a series of programs hosted by Deschutes Children’s Forest designed to get kids outside and closer to nature. During the summer session, six weekly events are put on by the group’s partners at six local parks.

“Discover Nature Days are providing positive, fun outdoor experiences for families that are educational,” Chipko said Thursday. “It’s a great way for (families) to get their younger kids out and exploring different parks around Bend.”

More than 30 kids attended Thursday’s “Predators and Prey” program, which used games and hands-on learning to focus on predators and how prey adapt to them.

Using two interactive games, Jackie Wilson, education director for The Environmental Center, introduced the kids to omnivores, carnivores and herbivores with nine skull models and to how prey disguise themselves.

“With younger students, part of the importance is teaching them how to connect with nature,” Wilson said.

“The game component allows them to be part of it and be really experiential. They also learn if they’re prey animals, they have to camouflage and look around to avoid predation.”

In one of the games, Quick Frozen Critters, two kids acted as foxes while the rest were rabbits. The rabbits had to navigate to the other side of the field covered with hula hoops and gather chips, or food, while avoiding being tagged, or captured, by the foxes.

“Part of the survival mechanisms they learned are that they could either completely freeze or hide in the hoops, which were dens,” Wilson said.

LeighAnne Medina, 31, of Bend, has brought her kids — Kaelyn, 8, Brendan, 6, and Elin, 4 — to three of the Discover Nature Days programs. Medina said it’s important to her that they’re still learning during the summer.

“Just to get outside and learn about the nature around us and to be active and be with other kids — they love it,” Medina said. “They’re always asking, ‘Are we going to go to nature in the park?’ ”

Kaelyn said her favorite part of Nature Days is getting to be outside.

“I like to come here and learn about what they’re teaching us,” she said. “The games are fun.”

Elin agreed.

“I like the same things, too.”

Wilson said she hopes the kids developed more appreciation for animals and will carry it with them as they get older.

“It’s a good time to play like an animal and be like an animal,” Wilson said. “It was super fun and they had a great time.”

— Reporter: 541-633-2117, mwarner@bendbulletin.com