By Mary Scott Hackman
Early Childhood Program Developer, Providence Children’s Museum
It’s a tradition at Providence Children’s Museum to present live animal programs throughout the year. We welcome “Fleecy Friends” like llamas, goats and alpacas to greet visitors in our Children’s Garden. We offer a program called “Wingmasters,” where rehabilitated raptors are brought from their enclosures to give children an up-close look at these wonderful wild beings. And this August, families have close encounters with ponies, snakes, a chinchilla and other incredible creatures.
So what is it about animal experiences that we find so important to share with our visitors? Could it be the children’s (and adults’) gasps of wonder and delight as something exotic is suddenly made available to pet or observe? Is it the joy of the touch that is evident when children stand with hand outstretched, rubbing the neck of a majestic llama? Or is it the privilege we feel when given the opportunity to be close to something wild? We have so much to learn from the habits, survival strategies and protective instincts of our animal friends – not to mention hearing stories from the experts who have made it their life’s work to study these creatures.
I recently had the honor of watching as a hermit crab (with whom I share an office) molted and found its new home. The whole experience made me pause in awe. When we’re in the company of critters, we learn that there is so much that is wondrous in nature and that getting caught up in the constant chatter of cell phones and e-mail doesn’t add much meaning to our lives. But something as simple as watching a crab shed its exoskeleton and emerge to find its new and bigger home – that somehow does.
Last spring, as young children held newborn bunnies during a Preschool Friday session, I shared with them that mama rabbits give the hair from their own chests to keep their babies warm, and that sometimes they give up so much hair that they die. You might expect that information to sadden the children, but they just nodded their heads as they stroked the lovely, soft creatures in their laps. Nurture makes sense in their world. In that moment, holding those bunnies, they felt empowered to love and protect them, just as mama rabbits do.
SPECIAL EVENT: Join us for animal programs on Tuesdays during the month of August. You and your child can take a breather, hold a tree frog, notice the lovely texture of its skin, and rejoice in the natural world and your place in it. Pet a pony and touch a turtle at Providence Children’s Museum! Kids have close encounters with furry friends, slippery snakes and other awesome animals and learn fascinating facts from the experts on Tuesdays in August from 1:00 – 3:00 PM. Check the Museum’s calendar for program details.
News and Notes from Providence Children’s Museum: Occasional posts about things to do with our kids – from places to go, things to make, ideas to think about, and ways to explore. Providence Children’s Museum – 100 South Street, Providence, RI. 401-273-5437 (KIDS).