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WNIJ's summary of news items around our state.

Wee Nats Helps Kids Develop Appreciation For Nature

Connie Kuntz

If you want to make sure your kids develop an appreciation of nature, the University of Illinois Extension is offering the Wee Naturalists Virtual Program and it is led by Peggy Doty. She's the environmental stewardship educator for the U of I Extension. 

Wee Nats is in its third year. It's virtual this year because of the pandemic. Still, Doty wants to make sure kids get outside, as long as they bundle up.

"Just breathe. Smell the winter. Touch the trees," she said. "You can do tree rubbings if it's dry. You could dig below the snow and see if you see any signs of anything living."

When you get back inside, register for the January online program. Doty said the curriculum is for kids aged 4-7, but Doty does not dumb it down.

"I tend to throw out some pretty big vocabulary words," she said. "We want kids to hear thing multiple times so that when they hear it later, they're not uncomfortable."

Doty added, "There's nothing more exciting than to use a word like 'subnivean' with five-year-olds, and have them remember a month later what it means."

And if you're wondering, Doty said "sub" means "under" and "niv" is Latin for snow so, "Subnivean is actually animals that live on top of the ground, under the snow during winter." 

Every month through May, Doty will help kids explore a different nature theme. The next online program is Animals and People in Winter and it costs $5 per household. It begins on January 9. Doty encourages participation not just from the 4 to 7-year-olds, but from their siblings, parents, guardians and grandparents.