Page from a naturalist's notebook

Monday, June 6, 2005

Five-year-old Isabelle Singh petted a coyote at the new Cape Girardeau County nature center on Sunday.

But she wasn't bitten because the fur she touched was on a pelt laid out by the Department of Conservation to educate children about Missouri mammals in the center's first "Naturalist's Notebook" presentation.

Isabelle and other children experienced one of many programs that the new center will offer, an informal lecture about mammals delivered by education specialist Jeremy Soucy. Children and adults competed at guessing what mammal was being described with clues.

"I thought it was neat," Isabelle said. "I think it's fun because you can learn about all the animals. I want to come back every day."

Her grandfather, Ron Obermann, also liked what he saw Sunday. "I thought we should come out and see what this place had to offer, and I'm glad we did," he said. "I think the center is fantastic, money well spent. You can tell the kids really enjoy it."

Soucy said that the center plans on holding "Naturalist's Notebook" from 2 to 3 p.m. the first Sunday of each month. The event features a naturalist lecturing, setting up discovery tables or discussing current natural events.

"We want to do less formal things, like snake demos and fur programs," Soucy said. "We want to get people outside, try to get them active."

Soucy has been with the Department of Conservation for only a month, but has worked for three years at different state parks. He said the new center would be a benefit to the region.

"It's a great tool for education. Not only that, but it's a big pull to the area. I've met people from St. Louis, Illinois and Arkansas all coming to see the center," he said.

"Everyone who's come here so far has a wonderful time. People seem to appreciate what we're doing for the area."

Soucy said the new center has programs for all age groups. Children ages 3 to 6 can experience Southeast Missouri's plants and animals through sensory exploration. Children ages 7 to 11 can explore with hands-on activities. Teens ages 12 to 17 practice conservation and learn outdoor skills. Even older folks can experience what the center has to offer, with adult-only hikes and seminars.

Peggy Raddle of Cape Girardeau enjoyed Sunday's mammal program. "This is my first trip here," she said. "The lecture was interesting. I'm anxious to see the rest of the center."

Soucy said he was looking forward to delivering future "Naturalist's Notebook" presentations. "Our main goal is to try and get people connected with the land."

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