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April 5, 2010
Guadalupe River State Park to Open New Center for Kids April 24
Children’s Discovery Center Opening Highlights Earth Day Celebration
SPRING BRANCH — A strolling spider expert in safari gear, guided nature walks, crayfish displays, bird-banding and a live reptile show-and-tell are just some of the activities planned for Guadalupe River State Park’s Earth Day celebration from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Saturday, April 24. The special day also marks the grand opening of the Children’s Discovery Center.
The Children’s Discovery Center, designed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Interpretive Services Department, occupies a hexagonal building not far from the Guadalupe River. The center encourages youngsters to look at the popular Texas Hill Country park’s remarkable natural resources through the eyes of a scientist. Children enter the building by crawling through the trunk of a "cypress tree" to discover what awaits them outdoors in the almost 2,000-acre state park when they really pay attention to nature.
A number of hands-on exhibits on such topics as water ecology, interesting critters and strange night sounds invite children and adults alike to "take another look at the park through the eyes of a scientist to see what you’ve been missing." The colorful murals and interactive exhibits with such titles as "What’s Under the Water?" support and enhance outdoor educational activities and align with national initiatives to reconnect urban children with the outdoor world.
Nine concrete markers containing a different animal track have been placed in various spots in the park’s Day Use Area near the river to help visitors identify animals that left them. The answers can be found by looking inside a book located just outside the discovery center.
"As interpretive planners," says TPWD’s Wendy Womack, "we determined there was a need at Guadalupe River State Park to make children more comfortable with the outdoors by providing a building that would give them the tools to better see and understand the natural world."
She says the discovery center is composed of three parts: interactive exhibits, a circular desk with activity boxes containing natural items such as animal shells and fossils, and backpacks containing simple tools such as magnifying glasses that can be checked out for park exploration.
During the Earth Day celebration, youngsters will be able to visit 20 different learning stations staffed by TPWD biologists and archeologists, park volunteers and experts from such organizations as the Austin Gem and Mineral Society and Texas Natural Science Center. Kids who visit the discovery center get a free bug box with a magnifier lid. Members of the Native Plant Society of Texas will be talking about plants and seed planting, and will hand out wildflower seeds. The state park’s friends group will be serving free hot dogs.
Two-hour guided walks of the adjacent Honey Creek State Natural Area will be given at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. In addition, throughout the day, Spider Joe will be strolling through the park, shaking spiders out of trees and answering questions about his arachnid buddies.
Texas Parks and Wildlife believes that places like Guadalupe River State Park’s Children’s Discovery Center help connect Texas’ increasingly urban population with the natural world and serve to put outdoor experience into context to help youngsters understand how nature works. The new center is one way the state park is enhancing its interpretive programming that reaches tens of thousands of visitors annually, but has a difficult time serving the influx of visitors during warm-weather months. The new center will augment the park’s interpretive programs by leading families to engage in unstructured outdoor nature investigation.
The park entry fee for persons 13 years of age or older is $7; children 12 and younger are free. After entrance to the park, all Earth Day activities and a hot dog lunch are free. For more information about the Earth Day events at Guadalupe River State Park, call (512) 389-8598 or visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Web site.
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