RYE, N.Y. -- On a short hike along a dirt path littered with twigs and dead leaves, seven-year old Henry Beyrich found something unusual."I think it's a volcanic rock," he said, examining the porous black lump in his palm.
The young boy, who is entering third grade at Murray Avenue School in Larchmont, has a head filled with knowledge about the natural world so it's no wonder he has been spending his summer at the Rye Nature Center .The center's summer camp program runs until August 5 and is offered in weekly increments, which focus on different themes from water conservation to reptiles and amphibians.
This week's theme focuses on national parks, but includes a variety of hands-on activities. Henry spent Tuesday learning about the geysers and animal inhabitants of Yellowstone, totem poles in the Pacific Northwest, invasive species in the common garden and how natural plant habitats can be protected from wildlife.Henry, of course, already knew quite a bit about geysers, having conducted a science experiment with his father using Mentos and a bottle of soda.His favorite part of the day was seeing a few animals that were similar to species found in Yellowstone, including a ferret, a chinchilla and a corn snake. Henry liked the snake most.
He also enjoyed making part of a totem pole and learning some of the history behind them."We made a beaver and a man with a weird face," he said. "Some totem poles are used to scare away evil spirits."As the last activity of the day, Henry went on a nature hike behind the center to learn about the "deer exclosure," which protects tree saplings from hungry deer.Some of the larger trees were scarred with the initials of young couples, which provided a teachable moment about human influence on plant species. One of the camp counselors asked why it would be bad to carve into a tree, and Henry was quick with a straightforward scientific answer."You might take off the bark," he said. "That's the tree's skin."
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