Cozying up to insects
Some children like being outdoors. Then, there are children like Ali Eggers, who love nature so much it’s impossible to keep them inside.
Whether it’s gardening, hiking, fishing — she baits her own hooks — or watching the hummingbird outside her house, Ali, 7, “just loves all of nature,” she said in a matter-of-fact tone.
In an effort to bring local children closer to the natural world, Colorado Parks and Wildlife sponsors a Junior Ranger program at James M. Robb-Colorado River State Park to educate children about area wildlife and environmental stewardship.
A similar program, successful in other parts of the state, has been offered locally in the past with limited participation, but now in her third year as interpretive ranger with Colorado River State Park, Cassandra Edwards agreed to revive the program with the hope more children — and families — will use this summer to connect to nature.
“It was important for us to get it out there to kids that there’s an opportunity to experience nature and the outdoors,” Edwards said.
Although the Junior Ranger program started two weeks ago, there are still numerous interactive programs for children to attend each Saturday this summer en route to getting a Junior Ranger badge and certificate at an Aug. 3 ceremony.
On Saturday, the specific topic was water insects.
On the surface, bugs can be annoying and gross. However, through games and Edwards’ presentation, the children learned that the type of insects at Corn Lake indicate the health of the ecosystem.
The children, including Ali, collected water in the hope insects or other macroinvertebrates would find their way into the waiting nets.
“I really want to learn about what lives out here, what we can explore, what we can’t explore,” said Ali, who completed her Junior Ranger booklet and most of her required programs in one week. (Again, she LOVES the outdoors.) “I am just curious.”
Discoveries of gilled snails, Mayfly nymph or Caddisfly larva in water samples indicate a healthy ecosystem because those macroinvertebrates can’t live in polluted water, Edwards said.
However, if all the girls found were aquatic worms and midges that would be bad, Edwards added.
Snails and nymphs were found.
The Junior Ranger program is free. The one cost is the $7 vehicle admission to the Colorado River State Park. An annual pass is available for $70.
Ali admitted she wants to be a park ranger like Edwards, and the girl’s enthusiasm for nature is exactly what Pete Firmin, park manager of James M. Robb-Colorado River State Park, wants to hear.
“If we have an educated populace that values outdoor education, that will benefit the environment as a whole,” he said.