The Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center is one of the places for kids to be Saturday mornings this fall.
The U.S. Forest Service is offering free Kids' Day programs, from 11 a.m. to noon, designed for children age four to seven. Usually, 20 to 30 children attend, but on Saturday the topic was "Awww! Baby Animals," and 41 kids and 24 adults filled the observatory at the center.
"When you do animals, it really attracts a lot of kids," said interpreter Maegan Cieciel, who prepared this fall's presentations.
"We just thought it would be a nice way to spend a Saturday with the grandkids," said Tom Park. He and his wife, Ann, brought grandchildren Thomas Park, 4, and Elijah Farr, 6.
Cieciel gave early arrivals drawings of animals to color in so they wouldn't get bored waiting for the program to begin. Children sat or lay down next to table tops that were flat on the carpeted floor.
"You write really good, Elijah," Tom Park told the boy as Elijah wrote his name on the coloring sheet. Thomas busied himself coloring a humpback whale orange.
"It's kind of good for them to know a little bit about the place they live in and the animals," Tom Park said.
For each child, Cieciel keeps a name card, which she stamps to show they attended. Children get a prize for attending three events and then seven events.
"We're going to talk about baby animals and how baby animals are the same and different from baby humans, and how baby animals are the same and different from adult animals," Cieciel told the kids.
She asked the children what human babies are like, prompting them to think about size, strength and ignorance. "Do babies know everything?" Cieciel asked.
A girl named Christine offered that "babies are weak."
Rosie said they eat.
"Do they like to sleep together and snuggle?" a boy asked about animal babies.
Cieciel passed around photos of young animals.
"What baby animal would you see in the water?" she asked.
"Baby beavers," a child said.
"What are baby beavers called? Do you know? Kits," Cieciel said.
"What do you call a baby bear?" she asked, and heard a chorus of "cub!"
"Right. Everyone knows that one," Cieciel said.
The children watched a brief film about baby animals, in which they saw that some babies look like adults and some just look weird; some are single offspring and some are part of big families. Cieciel compared herd animals to human "extended families" of teachers and neighbors.
After the movie, the children matched up drawings of baby animals with adult animals and colored them in.
"We always try to include something they can take home, like an art project," Cieciel said afterward.
"I liked that," Nicholas Roberson, 4, said of his colored drawing. Mike Roberson brought Nicholas and Robert, 5. It was their second week at the Kids' Day.
"They want to come every week," Dad said. "Last week they made wood chimes out of shells and sticks and rocks."
On Oct. 23 the topic is "Rocks that Roll," about how glaciers move rock. On Oct. 30, there is no 11 a.m. session, but there are Halloween- and nature-related activities from 5 to 8 p.m. for elementary school-age children.
The 11 a.m. events pick up on Nov. 6 with a program on weasels, followed by a Nov. 13 session on wolves. There's a Family Fun Weekend of activities from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 20 and 21 about animals in the winter. The Kids' Day program resumes in January.
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