No school? Concord club teaches kids about animals
Monday, Feb. 03, 2014

No school? Concord club teaches kids about animals

    Taylor Morris, recreational program specialist with Concord Parks and Recreation, points to the larva found under some tree bark on an old log.
    Ten-year-old Meredith Gross places glues tubes, as well as the natural elements she collected, onto her “Insect Hotel,” which she will take home after the Habitat Heroes class.
    Ten-year-old Meredith Gross, front, lifts a rock as 6-year-olds Jakari Gillespie and Cameron Buresch look for insects during the Habitat Heroes Club.
  • Want to go?

    Each Habitat Heroes Club program, from 9 a.m. to noon, includes instruction, an outside visit to the habitats, a snack and a craft that the children can take home.

    The club is open to ages 6 to 12. The fee is $10 per class. Concord residents receive a $5 discount. Children are encouraged to bring a change of clothes, as the habitat visits can be messy.

    Programs are scheduled as follows: Feb. 17 and March 28, Academy Recreation Center; April 23, McGee Park; and May 6, Dorton Park.

    For information on this and other programs provided by the Concord Parks and Recreation Department visit and look in the Concord Leisure Times magazine in the center of the page.

Taylor Morris, recreational program specialist with the Parks and Recreation Department of Concord, started his program on insects, arachnids and crustaceans by having his three students draw examples on the dry-erase board.

Meredith Gross, 10, quickly drew a tree and began illustrating various types of insects and crustaceans. She drew ants, snails and even a small crab as Jakari Gillespie and Cameron Buresch, both 6, joined in.

One identifying characteristic of insects, such as ants, is that they have six legs, while arachnids, the group that includes spiders, have eight. Gillespie quickly added two more legs to the spider he had drawn.

Morris went on to explain that the body of an ant is made of different sections, and that insects play a valuable role in our ecosystem.

After the short class about the importance of insects, the class moved outdoors to check out their habitats and to collect materials to be used in the craft for the day.

Mandy Smith-Thompson, an environmental educator with the city of Concord, picked up a rotting limb and called the children over. Looking at the underside of the limb, they found some pill bugs. Smith told them the insects like the dark and decomposing environment.

Morris peeled back some bark from on old log to expose some larvae, further illustrating the life cycle of insects and their habitats. The children were curious, not squeamish, toward the creatures they had found.

Gross asked whether they should look under a rock, and she then carefully lifted it to see. Both Buresch and Gillespie quickly moved in to look. A few larvae and worms were moving about, but no one picked them up, as Morris said it was important not to disturb their habitat.

When the children were done looking, Gross carefully returned the rock to its original position.

“It’s great to get children at this age, when you can teach them,” said Smith-Thompson. “When they learn how a bug works, its role and its importance to the ecosystem, (children) are less likely to kill them.”

The children continued to collect materials for the craft they would build and take home with them – a bug hotel – so they could have an insect habitat in their backyards.

After collecting their materials, they returned to the classroom, where Morris created spider-web snacks out of raisins, almonds and a melted candy coating that connected them in a web.

“The almonds are butterflies, the raisins are ants, and I am a spider eating my dinner,” exclaimed Gross as she ate the snack, scraping the coating off the plate with her teeth. “Leave no frosting behind.”

Buresch quietly started placing materials inside his “bug hotel” as Morris helped each child use a hot-glue gun to hold objects in place. The children completed their “hotels” by arranging the leaves, sticks and other materials both inside and outside the structure. The finished products looked like birdhouses with no front wall and a piece of split cedar log as the floor.

“This is so much better than staying at home. What an awesome school! I wish school was like this every day,” Gross said as she finished her bug hotel.

Morris said this is the first year the department has offered the Habitat Heroes Club, and he hopes interest will grow. Each day the program, scheduled on days when children are out of school, focuses on a different animal’s habitat, and the importance of its preservation, in a fun, creative way.

Marty Price is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marty? Email him at

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