A series of three programs designed to encourage outdoor exploration for children will be presented at Engler Park in Farmington over the next few months.
The activities are designed for kids aged 6-12, although all ages are welcome. Janet Price, an award-winning naturalist, will lead the activities. A parent or legally responsible adult must accompany children. The program is free but donations to East Ozarks Audubon Society are appreciated.
On Saturday, “Fairy House Fun” explore the folklore of fairies in the Ozarks and will lead kids in building their own fairy house community. Activities will begin at 1 p.m. at the Bob Lewis Trailhead at the Crouch Nature Sanctuary at Engler Park in Farmington.
On Aug. 3, “Older Than Dirt” will explain about where dirt comes from and how it serves to beautify our world. Kids will use dirt to make “soil crayons” to make their own nature drawing. More details will be available on the East Ozarks Audubon Facebook page closer to the event date.
On Oct. 5, “Mosaic Magic” will lead a discussion of patterns found in nature. Kids will be encouraged to find patterns on their own and will use items found in nature to create patterns and mosaic magic. More details will be available on the East Ozarks Audubon Facebook page closer to the event date.
Price retired from the state of Missouri after 24 years as a naturalist at Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park. Previously she worked seasonally at Elephant Rocks, and worked at National Parks in Virginia and New Orleans. At Johnson’s Shut-Ins, Price worked on prescribed burns and invasive plant control in the winter and led hikes and conducted amphitheater programs during the tourist season. Over her career she has won several awards including in 2000 winning the Outstanding Professional Interpreter Award of the Association of Missouri Interpreters, and Best Interpretive Media-Newsletter Article of 2007. Price has also written articles for several publications over the years regarding natural resources.
Since her retirement, Price has shifted her emphasis to getting young kids out and familiar with nature in a hands-on way. She recently started a “Mudbugs” club at the Bonebrake Center of Nature and History in Salem and hopes to start a similar organization locally.
“They learn how to keep safe from things like poison ivy or how to deal with a tick if you encounter one,” she said. “What black bears are really like, they are not out to get you. What you see in the movies, they’re basically wrong."
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Price explained that the first event is designed for children to combine practical natural experience while stretching their imagination using common forest items.
“The objective is to get them out there,” she said. “We’re going to collect bark, forked sticks and grasses, whatever they can find, and then build a fairy house.”
Price added that the events are co-sponsored by and will highlight a local chapter of the Audubon Society that is attempting to reach new generations of people interested in nature.
“I also want to promote the East Ozarks Audubon Society,” she said. “We have a very active group, probably one of the most active in the state or even the nation. We do a lot of things not with just birds, but any aspect of nature and history.
“The new generation and even their parents are a lot more disconnected in general [with nature]. The Audubon group is a great way to remind people that there is a whole wonderful world out there. It’s not scary like in the movies, it really is a fun place.”
According to their Facebook page, the East Ozarks Audubon Society “[serves] the environmentally minded folks in the Missouri counties of Iron, Madison, Reynolds, Ste. Genevieve, St. Francois, and Washington.
“The mission of East Ozarks Audubon Society is to strengthen the communities of the East Ozarks region through environmental education, conservation awareness and advocacy, and responsible habitat stewardship that benefits birds and other wildlife.”
The nature programs at Engler Park are co-hosted by Farmington Parks and Recreation and the East Ozarks Audubon Society. For questions, contact Ann at 573-756-7246.