By AE2(AW) Samantha Jones
"Oh, I hope she doesn't bring out a snake," exclaimed a somewhat fearful Chloe Burke, 6, as NAS Jax Assistant Natural Resource Manager Angela Glass welcomed youngsters from the Youth Activities Center (YAC) to the base's Black Point Interpretive Center on March 19.
"This is where children of all ages can visit to learn the many interesting aspects of nature, ecology and conservation. These youth will learn how insects, birds, fish and other animals interact," explained Glass.
"They're really eager to learn how they can help make the environment better by conserving natural resources."
The first group to visit the environmental education facility center during the YAC spring break field trip were 5- to 7-year-olds who appeared to have a blast learning about nature through creative arts and crafts session.
The children were encouraged to let their imaginations run wild as they constructed a fish from either paper plates or discarded CDs.
As much fun as they had making their fish, the excitement in the room escalated as Glass introduced the children to one of the more friendly habitants of the center, a Florida Box Turtle.
The children were allowed to pet the turtle and asked Glass many questions regarding the reptile's shell.
Samia Calloway, 6, explained to one of her classmates some information she learned during the field trip, "turtles stay in their shells their whole lives because their spines are connected to their shell."
The second group to visit the environmental center was 8- to 12-year-olds whom Glass led outside for a hands-on learning experience.
"As an environmentalist, you may be asked to conduct a species survey to determine the population in a specific area," she said.
"For underground species, that means using a tool called a burrow scope - that consists of flexible tubing with a camera at one end and a video monitor at the other. The camera end is inserted into the burrow and the monitor allows the user to view what is inside."
The children were split into groups and used teamwork to conduct a species survey of a simulated burrow.
After each group had participated in the simulation, it was time to view a real burrow.
Glass led the children to a known Gopher tortoise burrow.
Since the species is threatened in this area, Glass held the camera down in the burrow while the children viewed the tortoise from the monitor that was carried by YAC Child Care Associate Maria Lainez.
"The children had a great time and talked about the field trip for the rest of the afternoon. They all had their arts and crafts fish to bring home to their parents and were excited they got to pet a turtle," said Shaqunta Jones, teen coordinator at the YAC.
The spring break field trip was part of the 4-H healthy living education program.
"We brought the children there, not only so they could learn about nature, but also teach them to appreciate and respect nature, as well," said Jones.