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Kids at Elachee winter camp go wild over snakes, fuzzy things, bugs
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Elachee Nature Science Center opened its doors Wednesday for its winter holiday camp.

Eight children ranging from kindergarten to fifth grade gathered at the nature center surrounded by the Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve to explore its 13 miles of nature trails and the plants and animals that live there.

Elachee camp director Angela Belanger said that at the three-day camp, the kids make crafts, play educational games and learn about how nature responds to the cooler winter climate. In addition to learning about the constellations of the winter sky from an inflatable planetarium, campers learn about the tilt of the earth and the resulting seasonal changes.

"They’re actually learning, and they don’t even know it," Belanger said. "They love to learn about different animals, like how snakes survive in the winter."

Matt Walters, a naturalist at the nature center, spends camp days leading children on nature hikes. He also tells the children about the reptiles living in the live animal room, teaching them facts about each animal. Children were even allowed to pet an albino corn snake, an Eastern kingsnake, and the state reptile, the gopher tortoise.

"They’re inquisitive mostly about the animals rather than the plants," Walters said. "The boys love the snakes and the girls love the fuzzy things. And a lot of them are actually interested in bugs."

Walters said he believed the children are more interested in the animals because they and humans have similar lifestyles.

"You can see (animals) gathering food or building nests and making a home, and you can see mama goose taking care of her babies," Walters said.

The next kids camp at Elachee Nature Science Center will take place April 7-11.