ST.PETERSBURG, FLORIDA – As eight young children run around the nature preserve looking for anything that crawls, their mothers talk and laugh as they watch their kids enjoy learning while playing outdoors.
Jungle Boogie is a special program held at Boyd Hill Nature Park for children ages 3 and 4.
The program is held on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11:15 a.m. till noon and costs $2.50 per child.
The program is run by Boyd Hill’s very own, Jennifer Beltran.
“Every week I choose a different theme for the program,” Beltran said. “I plan the activities around the theme. So, if the theme is raccoons, then I will take the kids on a raccoon ‘hunt’ around the park. They have a lot of fun.”
The activities include a story and a craft every time, as well as a nature walk or a tram ride through the park, all while searching for different species of bugs and animals.
Kathleen Finocchi, takes her children, ages 2 and 4, to Jungle Boogie every week. She is thrilled about the program and how much her children are learning.
“Both of my kids have really taken a lot in with this program,” Finocchi said. “Normally kids will fight you about waking up early.When mine hear we’re going to Jungle Boogie, they wake up with no problems.
“Every day my 4 year old asks me ‘I wonder what we’ll learn today’ or he will sit at home and tell my husband all about what he has learned. It is shocking when you realize how much of the information they have actually retained.”
Finocchi said her children have not only learned about animals, but also about how people can sometimes hurt animals by littering.
In Boyd Hill Nature Parks main office, there is an alligator skeleton. Next to the skeleton there is a picture of an alligator who was stuck in a tire that someone left.
The children have learned that the alligator got stuck in the tire which lead to its death, realizing that littering is bad for the animals and can hurt them.
“My son was extremely distraught about this alligator for about two weeks when we first heard the story,” Finocchi said.
“Now, every time he sees a piece of litter, all he can say is ‘The person who did that is inconsiderate and rude.’ It is good to know my kids are learning things to help the animals along with the fun things.”
Boyd Hill Nature Park also has many other programs for children, during the winter breaks, as well as through the summer.
“The kids really learn a lot from these programs,” Beltran said. “All the things they learn are facts we hope they will remember for years to come.”