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Kids take nature in stride

A nature camp for pre-schoolers gives the youngsters a chance to get close to their natural world.

January 03, 2007|By Ani Amirkhanian

Avery Valentino walked up a hiking trail near the Stough Canyon Nature Center Tuesday and collected rocks and leaves and put them in a container.

The 3-year-old was one of about 30 children aged 3 to 5 who took part in the nature camp with volunteers from the Stough Canyon Nature Center.

The children wore sun visors and name tags as they hiked, stopping to learn about their surroundings with a little help from the nature camp's leader, Dana Bleitz.

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"Listen like lizards," Bleitz told the children. "Lizards don't have vocal chords, so they can't talk."

Bleitz told the children that nature has an alphabet and pointed out plants, dry shrub or rock formations that resembled letters.

Ethan Lee, 5, picked up objects that he thought looked liked letters and put them in his container.

"I saw an 'X' on a rock," Ethan said, adding that he collected twigs and small branches that were shaped liked letters.

Bleitz also gave the children some safety tips for their hike.

"Don't pet dogs on the trail," she said. "Ask the owner first if you can pet them."

As they hiked, Bleitz identified the plant varieties native to the area near the Verdugo Mountains. She pointed out sagebrush and broke off a piece and held it up to show the young hikers.

"If you're hiking and are being bothered by insects, you can rub it on your face and they won't bother you," she said. "But if you eat it, it gives you horrible diarrhea."

Sofia D'Agostano, 4, didn't seem to mind insects as long as they were the kind she liked — butterflies and ladybugs.

"You can put [lady bugs] on your finger and make a wish before they fly off," Sofia said. "I wish for everything when I grow up."

As the hikers got to the top of the trail, they stopped to take a look at a panoramic view of the city skyline.

Then they walked down the trail and made their way back to the nature center for snacks.

"My favorite part was going to the top," 5-year-old Sophia De France said.

"I saw the city."

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