DECATUR – Attention spans are short when children are small.
That's why activities at Rock Springs Nature Center's “I'm a Turtle” camp for kids 1 to 5 years old were short and fun and concentrated on information easily digested by tots.
“What does a turtle eat?” asked naturalist Jenny Garver. “Would they eat (camp counselor) Miss Terri (Dawson)? Do they eat spaghetti and meatballs? Macaroni and cheese?”
Most turtles, she said, live on bugs and worms, and the box turtles at the center like grapes. Turtles can pull their whole bodies into their shell and hide when they're threatened or want to sleep, and she picked up a snail hand puppet to show the kids that other creatures have similar shells.
“What is this?” she asked.
“It's a bunny!” said Carter Schniepp, age 3.
The adults in the room laughed, and Garver explained that no, it's a snail in spite of the plush antennae that did bear a striking resemblance to bunny ears. Snails can withdraw into their shells, too, if they need to, she added.
The camp included a song about turtles, making a model of the animal using a tiny flower pot colored with crayons, and a trip outdoors to see the pond where water turtles live.
Younger children, Garver said, have not developed a fear of wild things or getting dirty that older children sometimes do, and accompanied by a trusted adult, can develop a love of all things outdoors that will last their whole lives. The point of the camps is to give them a chance to meet other children, let parents connect with other parents, and allow all of them to explore nature together.
“It gives us a chance to get out of the house, and I like that I can come with him,” said Quinn Devlin, who brought 2-year-old Brody and his baby sister, Adeline, 3 months.
Carter Schniepp and brother Connor, 17 months, have been to a previous mini-camp, said their dad, Nathan, and enjoyed it enough that their parents brought them back Thursday.
“Carter wore his name tag for days afterward,” said mom, Carrie.