The 20 or so kids in the day camp crowded around a pair of rough-skinned newts in a plastic container to watch their curious interaction.
Ronda Wiggins, the adult in charge of the camp, explained to the kids that the male in the pair was requesting the female lay her eggs by rubbing his chin on her nose.
Wiggins later released both newts into the nearby pond so as not to interfere further with the amphibian, ahem, courtship.
“Are they married?” one small girl asked Wiggins as she released the newts.
“They’re a pair,” she replied.
These moments occurred during the first day of Chintimini Wildlife Center’s spring break day camp, which gives students aged 6 to 11 a chance to do hands-on activities to learn about wildlife. Monday’s lesson was about amphibians, and so the kids got the chance to catch newts, tadpoles and aquatic insects in the wildlife center’s pond as part of their activities. Later this week they will study mammals and birds and get a chance to see some of the center’s education animals.
Wiggins, the center’s youth program director, said Chintimini has done the spring break camp for five years, and holds 10 weeks of camp during the summer.
“The purpose of the camps is to nurture the connections between kids and wildlife,” she said.
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Wiggins said this supports the center’s mission of protecting wildlife by ensuring the next generation feels connected to the outdoors. She added that it also gives students a chance to observe firsthand things they study in school, such as the food web.
“It gives them a place to experience nature,” she said.
Oliver Peetz, a third-grader at Lincoln Elementary, is attending the camp for the first time this week.
“I like it because it’s wet and you can go in the puddles because they let you borrow (rain boots),” he said. “But what I really like from the camp is how much you learn.’
Oliver said that he likes reading books and learns well from them, but said he also learns a lot from being in nature.
“Being outdoors you get to do more activities,” he said.
Sofia Emery, a Hoover Elementary third-grader, said she has done the summer camp in the past and she likes it.
“It’s about animals and I love animals,” she said. “We do lots of things every day and we get to learn.”
For more information about Chintimini and its programs, visit www.chintiminiwildlife.org.
Anthony Rimel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 541-758-9526, or via Twitter @anthonyrimel.