Using words to explain how a toad flicks out its tongue to snatch up food might not entice kids to learn about nature. But give them a blowout noisemaker and ask them to use it to snatch up foam “insects,” and that’s a lesson they can get into. Finding relatable ways to teach kids about the natural world is key to the weekly programs at OC Parks’ Muth Interpretive Center at the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve.
The programs are the perfect way for kids (and their parents) to learn about the biological and ecological significance of the seaside portion of the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks. From storytelling to crafts to fun activities and hands-on experience, OC Parks Resource Specialist Sue Stoffel uses a variety of techniques to pique kids’ interest in the ecology of the Back Bay. Since 2006, Stoffel has led weekly programs that highlight the flora and fauna in the preserve in a way that kids can learn from.
The programs feature a mix of storytime, crafts, nature walks and up-close time with the center’s live small animals. To keep the kids’ attention, each class starts off with some indoor activities, then leads outside for a short nature walk, then back in for more educational playtime. There are two types of classes: Tideland Tykes on Thursdays and Wild Tales on Fridays. Both involve crafts and outdoor time, with Wild Tales focusing more on stories about the outdoor world. Both are geared toward kids 5-8 years old.
These hour-long programs begin at 10:30 a.m. every Thursday and Friday at the Muth Interpretive Center. Parking is free, and the program fee is $5 per child. Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian, and pre-registration is required. To learn more about upcoming programs or to participate, visit the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve website at www.ocparks.com/parks/newport.