Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy holds open house for Children's Discovery Room

A mother and daughters enjoy using blocks to build with in the discovery room at the Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy in Schwenksville Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. Families explored the educational stations throughout the room loaded with games for children to learn about nature. Photo by Gene Walsh/21st Century Media
A mother and daughters enjoy using blocks to build with in the discovery room at the Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy in Schwenksville Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. Families explored the educational stations throughout the room loaded with games for children to learn about nature. Photo by Gene Walsh/21st Century Media

PERKIOMEN TWP. — A 3-foot-tall caterpillar was found counting yellow, mellow fishbugs at the Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy’s Children’s Discovery Room Open House Monday.

Dressed in costumes of mice, caterpillars and other furry creatures, children ages 3 to 6 experienced the full gamut of educational experiences offered by the conservancy’s environmental education department.

“We held the open house for two reasons: to let the public know that we’re here and to let parents sample our educators,” said Trudy Phillips, Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy director of environmental education.

The open house was successful on both levels, according to Skippack resident Monika Urdaneta and mother of the dancing caterpillar.

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“This is so awesome. My daughter loves animals, so this is perfect for us,” Urdanata said, as the green furry bug ran over to story time with Ruth Yeiser, conservancy educator, A University of Pennsylvania graduate and retired Philadelphia school teacher.

Urdanata was surprised to learn about the conservancy from mothers in her mom’s club, who suggested going to the open house together.

“We’re just five minutes away in Skippack. I don’t know how we never knew about it,” Urdanata said, calling the discovery room a smaller, more engaging version of a please-touch museum.

“We have loads of programming for students,” Phillips said about the various educational programs they offer for children and families. “Always with the little ones we start with things in their backyard to make connections to what they already know.”

Ranging from animal adventure hours where preschool and first-grade students learn about dinosaurs, turtles, frogs, or insects to weeklong summer adventure where 5- to 12-year-olds explore the lands surrounding the Perkiomen Creek, the educators at the conservancy try to connect children with the outdoors and educate them on human interaction with the natural world. For the first time this year, the conservancy hosted a day-long Botany by Boat adventure that took adventurers along seven miles of river to see wildflowers, trees, ferns and aquatic plants.

“We look for any opportunity to get kids outside with their families,” Phillips said about their efforts to add an outdoor component to all of their educational programs.

In addition to offering their programs to educators interested in bringing their entire class to experience the outdoor adventures, the conservancy also offers classes for adults. All classes taken by teachers assist in fulfilling the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Academic Standards for Environment and Ecology.

Anyone who becomes a member of the conservancy is offered program discounts and can access the discovery room whenever the conservancy is open.

During the open house children were given the chance to hop from place to place on flat soft river stones, piece together wildlife puzzles, stack up tree-shaped blocks, sort through beanbags representing all the foods a frog would eat, create a live show in the woodland puppet theatre, and read books in the non-lending library.

The conservancy has several upcoming events in the fall.

On Oct. 15 from 4:15 to 6 p.m. the conservancy will host its annual “Plump Pumpkins and Pizza Party,” where the public can bring pumpkins and carving tools to make a jack-o-lantern that will line the path around the conservancy. The pumpkin lined path will then be featured during the 24th annual Halloween Night Hike.

On Oct. 17 and 18 at 6:15 p.m. the public is invited to wear costumes and walk the path where nocturnal animals will wait to teach children about their night lives. After the hike, families can sit by a campfire and hear seasonal stories. Registration for both Halloween events, and all other events, is available on the conservancy’s website, www.perkiomenwatershed.org.

View a photo gallery of the Discovery Room at the Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy here: http://bit.ly/Discovery-Perkiomen-Watershed.