Can you really eat ants? What other things are edible in the great outdoors? Do you know what Poison Ivy looks like? Or what about Stinging Nettle? You could learn the answers to these and many other nature questions by becoming one of the Junior Naturalists of Allegany State Park.
Allegany State Park has a great program for every kid, young and old, to take part in— a graduated program where children ages 5-16, working with adults/parents, complete a designated number of tasks relating to the programs and activities within the park. Some tasks include a plant scavenger hunt, bird/wildlife watching, a stream study, and recycling. After completing the requirements, the 5-11 year old participants achieve the rank of Jr. Naturalist, a certificate and a colorful bandana. The 12-16 year olds, besides completing the requirements, must also deliver a five-minute interpretive talk about something they have learned during their stay at the park. They will then receive the title of Naturalist-in-Training (NIT). They will also receive a bandana and a certificate and be allowed to assist park naturalists on guided hikes.
NIT programs are great for teens that may be thinking of pursuing a career in outdoor education or environmental studies. This program will focus on skills needed to become a qualified naturalist. Salamanders, birds, butterflies and dragonflies will be some of the species studied throughout the summer. Data collected from these studies will be used by colleges and other organizations across the country such as Monarch Watch and the NYSDEC.
The tasks are outlined in a book called The Junior Naturalist Notebook, which costs $5. The books can be purchased at Nature Book Store located in the Administration Building, Quaker Rental Office and the Quaker Museum.
Once you have completed the Jr. Naturalist book, try one of the supplements. This year the subject is black bears. Each participate will receive a rub-on bear tattoo with their purchase of the Bear Book. The books are $3, with all proceeds used to develop the Jr. Naturalist Programs.
The goal of the program, besides encouraging fun while learning about nature and the park, is to help kids develop a lifelong understanding and appreciation of their natural surroundings and the environment so they will become responsible stewards of the land as they mature.
For more info, check out www.facebook.com/Alleganystatepark or contact Adele Wellman at (716) 354-9101 ext 236.