Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

December 31, 2012

Ballard Nature Center holds Winter Olympics

Bill Grimes
Effingham Daily News

ALTAMONT — The real Winter Olympics aren't scheduled until 2014, but the folks at Ballard Nature Center near Altamont held their own Winter Olympics Friday.

    A group of 14 elementary school children gathered at the center to learn about area animals in an interactive manner.

    "We want to show the kids how amazing animals are, and see how we compare to them when we try to imitate their activities," said center co-director Karan Greuel. "They see cheetahs and zebras on TV, but sometimes they don't realize how amazing the creatures in our own backyard are."

    The kids spent part of the afternoon pretending to be creatures such as blue herons, snapping turtles and bobcats stalking prey. Later in the afternoon, the group went to the creek that flows near the center's main building to see an actual beaver dam.

    Before the beaver dam trip, the kids learned about animals that build structures, such as birds, hornets ... and beavers. Greuel said the short walk outside helped reinforce the lessons from herself and center co-director Patty Gillespie.

    "It's important to get them outside and see what these creatures can do," Greuel said.

    Several parents and grandparents hung around the center while their kids learned about various types of critters.

    "It's something fun to do over Christmas break," said parent Sandy Davis, of Dieterich. "It gets them out of the house and away from the TV and computer."

    Grandparent Stacy Mette of Effingham wanted to expose visiting granddaughters Annie and Trinity, who live in St. Louis, to the joys of a place that she frequently visits herself.

    "My husband and I come out to the nature center a lot," Mette said. "I knew they would like this because they like nature things."

    <I>Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or at bill.grimes@effinghamdailynews.com<I>.