By Jason Klaiber
In tandem with the Community Library of DeWitt & Jamesville, the Friends of Clark Reservation presented a story time and a connected nature activity on July 2 at the state park located in Jamesville.
The newly introduced, nature-themed storytelling program came to life after the Friends group contacted Nan Brown, whose work at the library centers on young adult and community outreach services.
Brown, who also reads to local retirement communities, agreed to partner with the Friends group and read books to children gathered outdoors at Clark Reservation State Park.
“I think it’s very important to have kids connect with nature,” Brown said.
For the summer program’s first installment, which centered around butterflies for its theme, Brown started by reading “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Syracuse-born writer and illustrator Eric Carle.
The picture book, published in 1969, follows a caterpillar as he eats every bit of food in sight before pupating and turning into a butterfly.
Brown then read Lois Ehlert’s “Waiting for Wings,” a rhyming children’s book from 2001 that tells about the life cycle, wing movements and diets of butterflies while providing tips on how to grow a beautiful garden.
In the midst of reading “Waiting for Wings,” Brown and park volunteer Molly Mulhare instructed the children in attendance to look around the Native Plant Garden for milkweed, the flower on which monarch butterflies lay their eggs.
“A lot of people don’t realize that the butterflies are so dependent on specific food sources, like monarchs with milkweed,” Brown said. “If we don’t have that in our environment, we won’t have monarch butterflies and they can’t eat or lay their eggs or anything else.”
For the event, Mulhare coordinated other recereationl acitivites including a version of “Simon Says” that involved acting out the butterfly’s life cycle.
The roughly dozen children present crouched into positions mirroring the egg stage, folded up like chrysalises, laid down to resemble caterpillars and flapped their arms like butterflies would their wings.
Accompanying parents then joined the children at the park’s picnic tables to color in pictures of caterpillars and butterflies, later cutting them out and hanging them on the back of the Nature Center door.
The story time and nature play, open to all children but mainly those ages three to eight, had been designed to keep visiting kids active and in touch with nature without sending them off on a task like a difficult hike through the woods.
“I think the kids were captivated the entire time,” Mulhare, the Nature Center and outreach program intern, said.
The program will continue on a biweekly basis, each time taking place from 1 to 2 p.m. at the state park.
On July 16, the topic will be forests, a theme that will encompass information about trees and deforestation.
The July 30 event will address ways to properly observe one’s surroundings in nature.
On Aug. 13, the program will cover the water cycle, while the concluding event on Aug. 27 will touch on the seasons of the year.
No registration is necessary for these events.
Admission to Clark Reservation State Park is also free Monday through Friday.