Monday, September 19, 2005

Celebrating conservation

"Do you want to build a bird house?"

That was an easy question for 5-year-old Anders Warrick, who shouted an excited "Yes!" as did a crowd of other children clamoring to get their hands on a hammer Saturday morning.

Hundreds of children and their parents poured into the Benton County Fairgrounds for the third annual Kids Day for Conservation.

Mixing science, social activism and a lot of fun, Kids Day for Conservation is a way for local natural resource organizations to extend their message to children, and through children, their parents. Everyone from 4-H to the Boy Scouts of America to Starker Forests was on hand to present ideas of preserving and enjoying natural resources through fun and games.

For birdhouse builder Anders' parents, Wendy Williams and Doug Warrick, who are both biologists, the event was a natural extension of the lessons young Anders already learns at home.

"We hammer that in at home anyway," Williams said. Since Anders is so young, they let him enjoy the activities at events like Kids Day, and then go over the science with him when they get home. Anders had made the rounds already, trying out a little bit of everything.

"He enjoyed the animal tracks and the trout," Williams said. "Anything where something happens, that's hands-on."

Charles Brunner, assistant professor in wood science and engineering at Oregon State University, was monitoring the activities at the Wood Magic booth, where children learned about the different levels of permeability in wood. Red oak, for instance, is so permeable that you can use sticks of it to blow bubbles, as many children were discovering.

"One little girl under a year old was blowing all kinds of bubbles," Brunner said.

For the department of wood science, Kids Day is another way to inform kids and adults about the magic of wood.

"We've been here every year," Brunner said. "We help educate the public about wood and natural resources they use."

Under the cover of one of the fairground outdoor arenas, 8-year-old Sequoia White was diligently hammering nails into the sides of her hand-made songbird house, which was carefully designed with a small entrance so that nuthatches and wrens could fit in, but invasive species like starlings could not. Unfortunately, Sequoia's favorite bird will likely not inhabit the house, since she admitted to a fondness for parrots.

Sequoia was assisted by John Snelling, president of the Marys Peak Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America, an organization focused on wildlife and outdoor activities.

"Now we're going to put in hinge nails," Snelling said, walking her through the process. "That will allow you to clean out the house if you need to."

Sequoia was concentrating hard on building her bird house, and said she had lots of previous carpentry experience.

"This is my fifth time building a bird house," she said, smacking a nail into the side of the red cedar. She had big plans for the house, which may not house parrots, but will provide a much-needed habitat for the area's precious songbird population.

"I'm gonna hang it up on one of our big oak trees."

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