The Pueblo West View

Inspiring naturalists

Children can learn about nature and all the wonder that the outdoors has to offer through the Little Naturalists program at Lake Pueblo State Park.

The program is aimed at children ages 4 to 8, although older and younger siblings are welcome, too. An hour each Friday morning through the summer, Little Naturalists covers a variety of topics from fishing to bear awareness to owls, snakes and more.

“The idea is to inspire children and parents to enjoy the outdoors together,” said park naturalist Ann Gingrich. “My particular view is to just make it as interesting as possible for the kids to stimulate them to want to be outside.”

The first Little Naturalist program of the summer was an outdoor notebook for children to use all summer while they’re outdoors, exploring. During another June program children identified different fish located in the Arkansas River and Pueblo Reservoir and got to try their hand at fishing.

“We equip them to go outside with their parents, and to want to go outside,” said Gingrich. “And we try to make it a little different than something they would do at school. Make it really fun and interesting and hands-on or active.”

Upcoming programs include “Be Bear Aware: Help Keep Colorado Bears Wild” on July 11 and a program about owls on July 18, which will include the opportunity to examine owl pellets to determine what they eat.

Gingrich stressed that families are welcome to check out the Little Naturalist programs whenever they’d like – whether it’s their first time or they’ve come to every session, and whether they’re local or just visiting the area.

“We want to encourage people to come, even if they can only come once and try it out,” she said. Flyers are posted at the campground offices to encourage visiting campers to attend as well.

Most programs include a craft or activity that children get to take home with them.

The program is held at the Lake Pueblo Visitor’s Center (on the south side of the lake, prior to the gate entrance), from 9:30-10:30 a.m. on Fridays. Pre-registration is not required, and most programs don’t require purchase of a Park’s pass.

For the slightly older crowd there is the Junior Ranger program, which is an independent activity aimed at children ages 7-12. There are junior ranger books at the visitor’s center and campground offices that contain activities in them.

Once the activities are completed, children bring their book to an office and a Park Ranger will “swear in” the child, using a pledge in the back of the book that has the participate swear to protect the park. They also receive a badge and certificate about being a Junior Ranger.

The Junior Ranger program is at state parks throughout Colorado and can be a traveling activity.

For more information about the programs, contact Gingrich at 561-9320, extension 23.

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