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Published: Thursday, 6/27/2013

Leaping frogs, slithering snakes among outdoor lessons for children at Metroparks camp

BY NATALIE TRUSSO CAFARELLO
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Gianna Lamontagne, 10, inspects a piece of the owl pellet she is dissecting during Nature Camp at Wildwood Preserve Metropark. Gianna Lamontagne, 10, inspects a piece of the owl pellet she is dissecting during Nature Camp at Wildwood Preserve Metropark.
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Leaping frogs, beautifully colored monarch butterflies, and slithering snakes were just some creatures introduced personally to children during a summer camp.

At the week-long Nature Camp, held at Wildwood Preserve in Sylvania Township, children ages 8 to 12 received a daily educational lessons this week on the animals that call the Metroparks home.

The camp, one of several camps being held through the summer at the Metroparks of Toledo, reveals facts in an interesting way about various plants and animals in a natural outdoor-classroom setting.

“I thought it was cool to learn that frogs can jump 20 times their length,” 11-year-old Mallory Elliott said.

A resident of Petersburg, Mich., this is Mallory’s third year attending nature camp.

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“It’s really fun because we do different things, like canoeing and swimming,” she said. On Tuesday, the campers, about 45 in all, went to Side Cut Metropark in Maumee to get see some indigenous frogs hopping around in the pond, and to learn about their natural life cycle.

On Wednesday afternoon, Mallory was sitting at a table inside Metroparks Hall at Wildwood with other campers, under a string of papier-mache cocoons the children made, as they learned about the monarch butterfly.

Mallory and several other girls were concentrating on dissecting a bunch of owl droppings.

“Normally there is a little gross factor in the beginning, but after their into it, they love it,” said Mike Mathis, nature camp coordinator.

Toledo resident Katherine Wilt, 8, found something unusual in her dissection, a whole mouse skull, with hooked tooth still attached.

The table of boys next to them screamed "gross" at their findings, but it was all in the name of fun.

“I’ve made lots of friends here,” McCay Longley of Toledo said. A second-timer at camp, McCay said that, out of all the things they’ve done so far, including wading in the Maumee River to catch crayfish, his favorite activity was playtime at the Rolf Park Pool in Maumee.

Another designated field trip day was set for today when the children will investigate the ecosystem at Oak Openings, fish, and go canoeing.

Those who love the outdoors enjoy camp, but more importantly, Mr. Mathis said, those who are not are urged to step out of their comfort zone in the name of exploration and education. The camps, he said, teach youngsters an early appreciation for the world outside.

Outside Metroparks Hall, other campers were on their snack break, but it also entailed a lesson on the variety of bird beaks.

In front of Malin Files, 9, was a colorful plate filled with gummy worms, sprinkles, dried cranberries, and goldfish crackers. With one hand behind his back, he used tweezers to pick up the sprinkles, which proved a bit difficult.

After using spoons, toothpicks, and other utensils that simulated bird beaks, nature program interpreter Ashley Smith asked the children whether they were ready to eat their snacks. “Yes,” they screamed back with excitement.

The summer camps, each named after the natural wildlife or plant where they are based, are running for ages 3 to 5, 5 to 7, and 8 to 12, throughout the summer at Wildwood Preserve and Oak Openings Preserve. For a listing and registration information, visit www.metroparkstoledo.com. The cost is $115 per child, and there is a scholarship available to help fund the cost.

Contact Natalie Trusso Cafarello at: 419-206-0356 or ntrusso@theblade.com. 



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