OCEANSIDE — About a dozen kids practiced making a figure eight with their bug nets before heading down the lagoon trail with their families and Buena Vista Audubon Society volunteer Annette Schneider on a bug hunt on Saturday.
Inside the nature center another dozen kids sat side by side on the carpet as an Eco-Vivarium animal handler stretched a ten-foot Burmese python across their laps.
The insect hike and snake encounter were two of a dozen activities to connect kids and families to nature during Endangered Species Day at the nature center.
The Buena Vista Audubon Society has celebrated the annual awareness day for three years. There are about 60 local endangered species in San Diego County.
Diane Nygaard, founder of Preserve Calavera nature restoration and advocacy group, said it is importance to raise awareness about endangered species because animals and plants are in danger of extinction due to loss of habitat caused by man.
The national awareness day reminds people to think about what they can do to lessen man’s effect on nature.
The annual event raises awareness with hands-on fun.
Kids were able to hold a desert tortoise, compare their footprint to a black bear’s, and weave a basket.
Natalie Shapiro, Buena Vista Audubon Society volunteer, said you never know which activity will spark kids’ interest in nature. She said some recent visitors were fascinated by scooping up a bucket of water from the lagoon and observing what was in it.
“They spent hours looking at little bugs, that feed birds,” Shapiro said. “They start to connect nature (and understand cycles in nature).”
The walls of the nature center were decorated with posters made by elementary school students. They showed images of the endangered snowy plover that nest on local beaches.
Shapiro said the center does a lot of outreach to local schools. Over 3,500 students visit the nature center annually for hands-on science field trips.
The center also holds bird walks, preschool story times, plant club meetings, and is open to the public Tuesdays through Saturdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sundays 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.