“All children deserve the chance to learn and grow and connect with nature,” stated Mary Michaud on a recent Wisconsin Public Radio program about Madison, Wisconsin being selected as part of a nationwide initiative to “get more kids into nature.” Michaud, policy director for Public Health Madison and Dane County, continued, “as kids, we use our senses to learn … [there are] cognitive benefits that come from hands-on participation with the things you’re learning about.”
During the winter months it can be hard to get children outside to explore nature in a hands-on way. This winter, The Ridges Sanctuary designed a program that blends learning and connecting with nature through stories and crafts.
During one of those programs on Feb. 27, dozens of children and their families filled The Cook Albert-Fuller Center to hear naturalist Shannon Pump read the book Owl Babies. Following the story, creativity filled the room as pinecones, felt, feathers, googly eyes and sticks turned into imaginative owl creations.
“[Owls] fly quietly,” my almost five-year-old son Mylo later recounted of the story as he placed his owl on a stick to perch.
Once craft time was finished, participants moved to the lobby and explored nature in the hands-on discovery area.
“There was a turtle shell out that I got to look at,” exclaimed Mylo when I returned from chasing Theo, my one-and-a-half year old son, around the building. “I liked reading the book and making the owl and that there are different books and crafts each time,” Mylo told me as he asked if we could go to the next story time.
The owl now hangs in our living room and sometimes at night we listen for hooting and ponder the nocturnal adventures he will have while we sleep. During the day, we speculate what and how much food our very hungry caterpillar magnets, which Mylo made a few weeks earlier at The Ridges and that are now colorfully decorating our living room clock, will eat and when they will decide it’s time to build a cocoon for their butterfly transformation. As spring draws near, we are looking forward to watching milkweed emerge and guessing how many monarch caterpillars we will count on them this year.
Though story time is indoors, The Ridges offers many family-friendly outdoor activities as well. Pump said, “Story time is a great way to get families into The Ridges to see all of the things we offer for children.”
Whether you’re looking for an alternative to Saturday morning cartoons or something fun to do with your kids, stop by The Ridges for stories, hands-on nature discoveries, or an afternoon hike on the Family Discovery Trail and inspire children to use their senses to grow with nature.
SPRING 2016 STORY HOURS
Story Hours are at 11 am on Saturdays. Supplies and hot chocolate are provided and the events are free, but donations are appreciated.
March 12 – Where the Wild Things Are
March 19 – Verdi
March 26 – Tale of Peter Rabbit
April 2 – Hurry and the Monarch
April 9 – The Scaredy Squirrel
April 16 – Waiting for Wings
April 23 – Just-So Stories, a special Rudyard Kipling story time from 12 – 3 pm