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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Featured Creatures Delight Children at Library Program

Featured Creatures Delight Children at Library Program:
Fairfield Woods Branch Library hosts Audubon’s Carol Kratzman and her critters
(Posted to 12/22)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2010. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – How does it locate food? Can it hear well? What does it eat? These were some of the important questions answered about certain woodland creatures that visited Fairfield Woods Library Tuesday afternoon.

The library, at 1147 Fairfield Woods Rd., hosted Carol Kratzman, Education Coordinator at the CT Audubon Society, and a program she and the facility had established together titled “Feature Creature”. The program is targeted to children from kindergarten to 5th grade and held once a month. This was Kratzman’s fourth monthly visit. The program will continue through the spring.

“We wanted to have some afterschool programming for elementary school aged children, kids love animals and Carol is great with animals and kids,” said Cheryl DelVecchio, Branch Children’s Librarian. “We opened two new rooms called ‘Explore at the Woods’ that align with the program. Because we’re Fairfield Woods, we’re pursuing a nature theme with animals and gardening. Carol’s program fits right in with our objectives.”

Previous program installments included owls and reptiles. “We never know what she’s going to bring. It’s a surprise,” said DelVecchio. “It started out as owls as the owl is our mascot here at Fairfield Woods.”

About two dozen people attended the latest session, a mix of children, their caretakers and parents. All sat on the floor in the Children’s Library area, around the perimeter of a blanket that Kratzman had laid out.

“All my crazy critters live up at the center on Burr Street,” said Kratzman, beginning her presentation. “I was thinking that because it’s winter and really cold out that I thought I would bring…” She purposely didn’t finish her sentence as she wanted the children to guess what animal she had with her.

Kratzman’s first guest turned out to be a mouse – actually four mice separated into pairs in see-through plastic carrying containers. She informed the group that these were ordinary pet mice, they like to eat nuts and berries and are good climbers. The children were amused as the critters tried to scale the sides of the containers.

“These are all little girl mice and about the size of a wild mouse,” she continued. “If you have a shed with seed in it and don’t keep the seed covered, they’ll get in there. They can get through the smallest holes as their bodies are mostly fur.”

Kratzman conducted an experiment that revolved around the functionality of the large ears of the mice. She had children cup their hands behind their ears then walked away from the group and shook covered containers containing different items – a jingle bell, straws and rice. If the children could identify the item from the sound, their hearing was on par with that of the mice.

Two more species of animals followed and each provided a new lesson and experience. Simon the African Pygmy Hedgehog was a particular hit. She informed the group that the creature is an insectivore that eats slugs and is a very good climber.

“Its hair is very spiky like a stiff hairbrush and when it gets scared it curls up in a ball,” said Kratzman, as she let the animal roam across the blanket. Its quickness elicited titters from the group. “He really likes to be awake at night and runs on a little wheel in his cage. He’s nocturnal,” she added.

Kratzman used Simon to illustrate sense of smell, the animal’s most acute ability. She had the children smell different items in film canisters and guess the contents. “If you can match two out of two, you’ll pass the hedgehog test.”

Taste was a final woodlands creature sense Kratzman wanted to demonstrate. For this feature, she employed Petunia the Russian tortoise and Spot the Spotted Turtle and placed different edible leaves out on the blanket. “I think the turtle’s going to eat the other leaf!” squealed the very vocal Ella Morris, 3, who was attending with her dad Ryan, neighbor Allison Dickens and Dickens’ son William, 3.

Participating parents were very impressed with the program. “We have been here several times before,” said Fairfielder Todd Agee, on hand with his two daughters and two nephews. “The kids are always fascinated and talk about it for days afterward. It’s one of the great things that the library offers.”

“Carol is amazing,” agreed Nikki Lehman, a Weston resident who had brought her children Makenzie, 6, Evan, 4, and Tristan, 7 months. “It’s worth the trip down. The kids love all the programs from the Audubon Society. Whenever we can sign up, we do.”

Four more Feature Creature programs are planned: Jan. 8, Feb. 15, Mar. 15 and April 26. Each is on a Tuesday at 4 p.m. For more information: 203-255-7327 or

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