News

‘Play Day’ opens up outdoors to kids, parents

By PAUL BALCERAK

Staff writer

School was out and snow was falling hard in Central Kitsap on Thursday, but that didn’t stop a handful of preschoolers from making it outside to learn a little and get some exercise.

The most recent Discovery Play Day at Clear Creek Trail’s Saq’ad Interpretive Center offered up a chance for the kids to explore the trail and participate in a few hands-on activities.

“It’s good for the kids because it gives them something to do,” volunteer Roger Zabinski said. His wife, Mary, is the administrator of the Clear Creek Task Force and also was on hand for the event.

A reading hour preceded an activity hour at the Interpretive Center, where kids made pine cone bird-feeders and handled clippings of some of the flora located on the trail. Task Force Co-chair Tex Lewis then led a short walking tour of the trail and helped kids identify some of the plants in the greenbelt.

Whether or not the kids retained the knowledge wasn’t really important, however. Raising education and public awareness about the trail and nature in general are goals of the task force, but a lot of the lessons to be learned rely on repetition. Mary, for example, has no formal training in botany or any other environmental science, despite heading up the Task Force. She describes herself as more of an “enthusiast” than anything else, who learned about the outdoors through being outside with her father.

The Play Days offer similar nature education to a generation of kids who have grown accustomed to spending more time in front of a TV set instead of outdoors, she said.

The lessons taught at the center have a much more personal meaning to her, too, however. Before the center existed as it does today — it’s the big red barn, just west of where Bucklin Hill Road brushes Dyes Inlet — it was a barn owned by her family. It served as a sort of common area for her father and his friends and Mary has tried to continue that tradition as a member of the task force.

“I like the idea that families and kids can still come to the barn like that,” she said. “My kids feel a real sense of ownership about it (and about the trail). I wish all kids could feel that way about the trail.”

Some are at least starting to show up routinely at the Play Days. The groups that show up are relatively small — there are usually about four to 12 kids and a few parents — but the Task Force is looking into ways to expand programming at the Interpretive Center and get more community members interested.

“We’d like to do more activities for kids,” Mary said. “We’re sort of trying to figure out what parents want (for their kids).”

But the center isn’t exclusively for kids.

“I think (Play Days are) a good opportunity for parents to practice their teaching and mentoring abilities,” Roger said. There’s also a “rich talent pool” of parents in the community who can contribute special skills.

A few regulars have environmental studies backgrounds and for them, the Play Days offer an opportunity to use some of their stored knowledge and perhaps even share that knowledge with other parents and kids.

Volunteers are always appreciated too, Mary said, and people can train to become docents.

For more information on the Clear Creek Trail and Task Force and the Saq’ad Interpretive Center, visit the group’s Web site at www.clearcreektrail.org or call the center at (360) 613-5500.

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