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Kids and nature mix at wetlands

DEL MAR — The San Dieguito Wetlands Restoration Project hosted the first Children and Nature Collaborative on April 2, giving San Diego families a place to discover nature close to home. Hundreds of children learned about the new nature preserve at the playful event, planned outdoors on the newly restored wetlands trail at the base of San Andres Drive east of Interstate 5.
The event was sponsored by San Diego Gas & Electric, who along with Southern California Edison, is one of the restoration team members at the newly restored lagoon ecosystem. The event worked to engage children directly with nature — seeing, listening and feeling — using interactive events to engage their young senses. Exploration and discovery activities encouraged children to observe and discover the wonders of nature offered by the abundance of fish, birds and other animals found at the site. Observation and knowledge activities helped children learn to use maps, field guides, magnifying glasses and binoculars to get to know the local wildlife and plants.
Several interactive play stations were located along the trail to give families a chance to learn, in a hands-on fashion, about nature.
At Fun with Fish, youngsters observed white sea bass fish eggs and colored their own paper fish, releasing it back into a virtual lagoon ecosystem.
In A Bug’s Life, they identified the characteristics of insects and got to know San Diego County’s local bugs.
With Bird Beaks, youngsters used chopsticks, tongs and other instruments to experience how a bird uses its beak to search for and catch food.
Naturalist Guidebook created and personalized a nature guidebook, then youngsters hit the trail to search for the plants and animals from their guidebook at the lagoon.
Making of a Native Seed Ball got everyone dirty rolling mud and seeds together to plant for native plants.
Sea-Dahlia Planting helped visitors learn how this native bluff plant with yellow flowers thrives on our coast, then planted one to take home.
“By venturing into ‘nearby nature,’ children and families have opportunities to explore and learn while having fun and bonding,” said Anne Fege, co-founder and chair of the San Diego Children and Nature Collaborative. “When children connect with nature, they also tend to connect with each other, their families and the community as they learn they are part of something bigger than themselves.”