Nature Center enables Scouts to participate in hands-on learning

Sunday, February 5, 2006

Four groups from the Boys Scouts and Girl Scouts converged on the Nature Center on Saturday to make discoveries about the environment that could earn a merit badge or complete requirements toward one. A total of 320 Scouts in first to sixth grade, representing Cape Girardeau, Perry, Bollinger, Union, Scott and Madison counties, attended throughout the day.

The event included career paths, animal habitats, identifying species and hiking.

Red wigglers may have inched their way off the counters in the resource science lab, but Brownies from Troop 195 in Jackson didn't care. The 11 girls had no qualms about picking up earthworms. They used flashlights to discover their earthworms' reactions to light.

Cheyenne Sander of Brownie Troop 195 said she learned earthworms have five hearts and that the worm's body flattens out when they crawl, similar to the movement of a snake. She said that a feather revealed that worms were ticklish on the nose.

"She loves it. This is great," said her mother, Martha.

Kristen Schlegel, a mother of a Brownie from Troop 195, said, "This is an exciting opportunity at the Nature Center. They can learn so much in one spot. Before they built this, it couldn't happen."

Scouts also used bird handbooks to identify what species were eating at the birdfeeders around the Nature Center's perimeter. William Keene, an 8-year-old Wolf Scout from Cape Girardeau Troop 1, picked out a robin, a cardinal and a woodpecker according to color, crests and identifying marks to earn merit badge electives. Brownies, Juniors and Webelos visited a lab classroom equipped with scopes and a magnifier to learn about the creatures and plants living in water. The Scouts spooned pond water into individual scopes for a better chance to discover dragonfly nymphs, tadpoles and snails by making comparisons to pictures. The plant and animal species were transferred for group viewing under a magnifier that produced a view on a television screen.

Some Scouts, despite frequent visits to the Nature Center, still learned new things.

Mikayla Flynn, a Brownie from Troop 279 in Jackson, made discoveries by petting a snake and a beaver pelt.

"I'm going to ask my dad to kill a beaver for a blanket," she said.

Nature Center manager April Dozier said another "Scoutin' Around" opportunity would be offered in November.

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