hometown impressions

An educational hike in Arvada

After Nappers Club teaches children about shapes, numbers and nature

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On Wednesdays, the “After Nappers Club” gathers parents and children, 2 to 5 years old, at Majestic View Park to learn about shapes, numbers and aspects of the environment around them.

“Today we’re going to be doing nature math,” said Charlotte Sandkuhler, an environmental education specialist with Majestic View Nature Center. “We’re going to look for shapes in nature.”

This mid-February afternoon, 10 little naturalists sat inside the education center at 7030 Garrison St. building tree stacks out of `tree cookies’ or blocks and talking about the different shapes they see in those blocks and in the center.

“Everybody show me your tree branch arms,” Sandkuhler said. “See? We can look like nature, too!”

Before heading out into the wilderness, Sandkuhler read a book about shapes in nature, showing the children that shapes exist in everything around us — oranges, starfish, even beehives.

“Why is it in the shape of a hexagon?” Thineas Townsend, 4, asked as she read the story.

“That’s a great question,” Sandkuhler replied. “A hexagon is a strong shape and bees need a strong home.”

Upon finishing the story, the group set out on a mini-hike around the nature center, charged with one task — find things that look like a circle.

“I see a circle!” Nolan Runge, 2 1/2, said, pointing to the lamp post they just passed.

Over the next 40 minutes, the little hikers pointed out a variety of shapes. From beaks on birds to clouds in the sky, the children spotted triangles, squares, rectangles and ovals all around them. Parents took the hike as an opportunity to also teach their young ones about the uses for things like the path, benches and signs.

“We love this class,” said Nolan’s mother, Mary, as he created a nature pattern out of plastic bugs and rocks. “We’ve done it before and it’s so beneficial for the kids.”

Cloud observation and the study of voles, a creature that lives in the park, excited the children who ran along the path, noticing shapes in the sky above and vole trails in the grass below. After measuring three tunnels with brightly colored yarn, the hikers said their goodbyes.

“Bye, Bols,” they shouted, and went back inside.

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