The Ottumwa Courier

Wapello County

June 11, 2013

Mud-rific fun

It's OK to get dirty at Pioneer Ridge's Toddler Camp

BLOOMFIELD — "It's mud camp! You're bound to get some on your pants.”

And with that warning, the muddy, dirty fun began at the Pioneer Ridge Nature Center's toddler mud camp Tuesday morning.

Naturalist Annette Wittrock shared her knowledge on the importance of soil with several youngsters and their families while they hiked around the nature center.

“Soil is the basis of our life,” she explained. “Without it, nothing else would exist. And most people probably don't explore it on a regular basis.”

And explore they did. The exploration started with magnifying glasses and a tool that pulls a core out of the ground. Wittrock was able to show the kids the layers of soil and the animals living in it, right in the dirt next to the shelter. They immediately examined it closely with their magnifying glass, just sure they'd see something special. This dirt stuff is serious business.

Just a few steps away from the building was a perfect example of how dirt can also be helpful. Horse tracks in the dirt from this weekend's riding were clearly visible in the still-wet ground. Yes, they were horse hoof prints and not the bear tracks many of the children were hoping for.

“Dirt can help us find animals,” Wittrock told them. “We can follow that track and we'll see where they stayed.”

Other tracks were quickly found as well – deer were plentiful, as were squirrels.

At the edge of the woods, since every set of eyes was now scanning the ground, the kids came across a surprise. Stretched across the trail was a mole tunnel. The mole was long gone, as they soon discovered by poking into the tunnel. This was a great way for Wittrock to explain how important it is to always be looking – you never know what you might see.

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