POCANTICO HILLS, N.Y. -- When you can’t get the kids out into nature, what do you do? You bring nature to the kids.
The Teatown Lake Reservation, a nonprofit nature preserve in Ossining, has been packing up every critter from rabbits and turtles to snakes and frogs and bringing them to visit Pre-K students at the Pocantico Hills School in Tarrytown.
Teatown’s “Nurtured by Nature” program is intended to familiarize children with the animals, plants and trees that live right in their own backyards.
The partnership, which began this year, backs up classroom instruction and helps children get a better understanding of nature and how they fit into the natural world.
Students participant in about two dozen 30-minute sessions spaced out over the school year so they can learn about seasonal changes.
Winter currently has the Hudson Valley in its cold and clammy grip; a perfect springboard for teaching about hibernation and reptiles such as the box turtle.
“They love to meet the animals,” said Mary Haley, an environmental educator at Teatown. “By far, that’s their favorite part.”
Students are allowed to carefully touch the creatures.
Haley also uses teaching tools such as furs, skulls, seeds, leaves and puppets.
Recently, the wide-eyed little explorers peppered Haley with questions such as : “Why are its eyes red?” as the turtle du jour lazily prowled a play rug in their classroom. (Because the turtle is male.)
They also were surprised that the little guy was a lot speedier than they had expected.
Haley had to smile when one commented: “He walks slow, fast!”
“It is a joy to see the children make so many discoveries, to see their eyes light up when they make a connection, or share an important fact or memory from their own lives,” she said.