Never Say Ugh to a Bug

Weehawken Library hosts live critters for kids

Weehawken Library hosted “Never Say Ugh to a Bug,” an event for kids to learn about bugs and insects, on July 28. The crowd of about thirty children and their parents was greeted by Kristen Pakonis, a naturalist at Flat Rock Brook Nature Center in Englewood, who presented the program along with her young assistants, Olivia and Brittany.
The nature center is situated on 150 acres of land and the non-profit aims to preserve the Palisades Forest. The center hosts a number of educational programs throughout the year and aims to connect with schools through outreach programs.
Pakonis shared diagrams, naming all of the different body parts and features of different bugs. Kids not only held plastic toys, counted legs and looked through kaleidoscopes to literally see the multiple pictures a bug might see when they are looking at objects, but they held real-life entomologic material.

“The program allows kids to learn to appreciate them,” said Kristen Pakonis.
Jean Paul Rodriguez, age 5, was one of the attendees there with his sister Lisbeth, as Pekonis and her assistants passed around exoskeletons of cicadas – their crunchy shells making noises right out of their hands. Some were simply curious and engaged in the program, shouting out all that they new about bugs, while others had a sense of fear and squeamishness in examining crickets in containers, and crawling stick bugs in hand.
“The program allows kids to learn to appreciate them,” said Pakonis.
Children also learned about the life stages and metamorphoses, what they eat and the animals that might eat them – discussing how box turtles might eat the noisy crickets that make sounds from their their legs. Kids didn’t have to travel far to see an exotic creature; Pakonis carefully brought around a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach as the audience quietly listed for the creature to serenade from holes in its abdomen. She noted that males have longer horns than females, but either will feed off of other dead things and are harmless to humans.
Participants sang educational songs and also received a copy of insect safari so they can check off all of the bugs that they might find right in their own backyards.
Doris Torres was in attendance with her child, Alicia, age 2-and-a-half.
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