Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

July 22, 2013

Kids spread their wings during program

Nicole Dominique
Effingham Daily News

ALTAMONT — Many children shy away from creepy-crawlies, but Ballard Nature Center showcased insects Friday by helping children catch, hold and learn about the creatures.

At the Six-Legged Friends program, center Co-Director Karan Greuel went over qualities that define an insect: three main body parts (head, thorax and abdomen), six legs, wings in most cases and compound eyes.

To the naked eye, insects look like they have two bugged-out eyes, but those orbs are actually each made of a myriad of smaller lenses.

Greuel also explained the importance of insects, but 6-year-old Connor Eggers still wasn’t convinced. Upon realizing there were insects (in jars) at the center, he squealed.

The children went on a safari through the center’s nature trails, rustling through the brush with their nets to stir up the winged creatures.

With the assistance of their parents and Greuel, the youngsters managed to capture Japanese beetles, butterflies, moths and other insects they later identified by bending over the pages of picture books.

As an educator, parent Kevin Schultz likes to utilize Ballard Nature Center’s kids programs during the summer so children Keegan, 6, and Kennedi, 4, stay engaged in education.

“I like to bring them here,” he said. “We like to come out here. You get to learn in the summer.”

Greuel quizzed the children on the benefits of insects, animals that eat them, and let them get up close and personal with a dragonfly.

The children then set their insects free, and Connor’s attitude toward the insects changed when he made friends with a stinkbug he found in the grass, although he couldn’t get it to “stink” for him.

So far this summer Ballard Nature Center has presented programs on animal babies, wetlands and creatures that fly at night. The next program is Sounds of the Night at 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 26. It is free to the public, but requires preregistration.