CANTON A long line of children with brightly colored jackets, hats and gloves trudged through the snow behind the Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County Learning Farm Wednesday afternoon.
Led by Nicki Hamilton-Honey, a 4-H extended school days educator, the group of about 15 children were on an adventure tracking animals in the snow at the 2043B Route 68 farm.
This is the perfect time of year because theres snow on the ground and the tracks are more visible, Ms. Hamilton-Honey said. Plus it gets the kids outside and experiencing nature and things that theyd otherwise be missing out on.
Ms. Hamilton-Honey said that although this was the first class theyve ever done on animal tracking, they try to have different programs for children during holiday breaks. From 1 to 2 p.m. Ms. Hamilton-Honey taught in a classroom about local wildlife, with different props for the children to examine, like antlers, skulls and fur.
Then they geared up for the outdoors and each child was able to carry a pair of binoculars during the hike.
They explored the sugar bush, a wooded area behind the farm where black and blue tubing runs from tree to tree to collect maple sap that eventually will be made into syrup.
Were getting to that time of year where we get the sweet nectar from our maple trees, Ms. Hamilton-Honey said.
From deer and squirrel tracks to coyote and porcupine scat, the children pointed out anything that stood out in the snow.
Emily J. Ames, 10, Canton, and her friend, Jorja A. Sands, 10, Antwerp, said their favorite part of the days adventure was finding different tracks and signs of animals.
We found trees with holes in them, footprints and chewed-on branches, Miss Ames said.
I liked learning how the porcupine could eat that much bark off the trees that we saw, Miss Sands said. The whole bottom part of the tree was all black and I thought that was kind of cool.
Miss Sandss younger brother, Owen J., spotted several different things along the trail, including animal scat and tracks in the snow.
I think thats a dead sheep over there, he said as he pointed toward a distant field. It looks like a dead sheep.
Its a rock. Its definitely a rock, Ms. Hamilton-Honey said.
She said the event was really to get children to realize that nature is all around them and easy to interact with in a non-costly way.
Kids just think its all about playing in the snow, having snowball fights and making snow forts, but its all about paying attention to nature when you go outside, Ms. Hamilton-Honey said.
Video from the 4H event can be found at http://wdt.me/winter-4H.