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Woodbury wildlife

Participants in the Woodbury Parks and Recreation Department's Minnesota Wildlife camp got up close and person with a few of Woodbury's neighbors -- a snapping turtle, a garter snake and a salamander.

A group of local kids met some of their neighbors, Aug. 10-13, during the Woodbury Parks and Recreation Department's Minnesota Wildlife camp.

"A lot of kids know about all of the cool exotic animals, but they don't know about the really cool animals that are right in their backyard," said Sue Dahl, a naturalist from the Dodge Nature Center.

The Minnesota Wildlife camp was cooperative effort between Woodbury Parks and Recreation, as well as the Dodge Nature Center, in St. Paul, as a way to connect children to nature in an introductory way.

"It's a gentle introduction to nature," said Michelle Okada, a recreation specialist from Woodbury Parks and Recreation. "Today it seems like most kids are more comfortable indoors in front of a TV screen and this is an opportunity for them to step outside without the riggers of a full on adventure camp."

During the four-day camp 14 kids, ages 6-12, learned about the different wildlife that can be found right here in Woodbury -- birds, insects, mammals, reptiles and plants -- through various hands on activities and by meeting a few of these local animals face to face.

"The kids are really learning through hands on exploration of our natural surroundings," Okada said. "They can carry this into a greater appreciation of nature, and the critters we share these spaces with."

The activities that the children participated in ranged from nature hikes, bird watching, insect catching and various games.

Okada said it is very important to get kids outdoors and acquainted with nature because it has proven to calm kids and make brighten their spirits.

"There is a lot of research that states a connection with nature calms children, helps them to focus, and engages their senses," she said. "We decided to start by connecting them to things they can visit regularly, their local parks, and the natural settings within them."

Dahl said she felt that the camp was a great success because it engages kids in the natural world and teaches them about what inhabits it.

"The kids had a lot of good questions, and there's a lot of different things to see," she said. "It's so much different when you actually experience it than when you just hear about it."

Kispert can be reached at

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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