Anita B Gorman Discovery Center Presents: Tracks and Signs

Prior to today, I had never actually been to the Anita B Gorman Conservation/Discovery Center. And I have to tell you, this is an underemphasized Gem just minutes from the Plaza, Kaufman Memorial, and the Nelson Atkins Museum.

Like many of the child-centered events featured at Burr Oak Woods, the events here are walk-ins, registration not requited. That makes it truly convenient (and something of a relief) for busy parents who still struggle to make it anywhere on time.

We were there today for their “Tracks and Signs” presentation. They had four activity stations set up. The first one was a table of furs and skulls, with a quiz sheet asking the learner to identify which skull matched which fur. The easiest was the most obvious-a very large Bison hide clearly fit over the largest skull on the table.

Unfortunately that was about the only one I was able to identify on my own. Luckily a staff member showed up and proceeded to give my four year old a personal tour of the animal pelts, lifting each on off the table one at a time and letting him “pet them”. He also gave us tips on how to identify what type of animal they were based on a close inspection of the tails, ears, and feet.

Next on the list? Animal Scat! That’s right! The Fecal matter from ten different mammals native to missouri (most of it was made from silicone casts, but there were actually a few real specimens)!

I’m no scat aficionado, so I willingly admit my ignorance that hair and bone will be found in the scat of a predator. I also didn’t realize that bears, though omnivorous, actually do prefer the nuts, fruits, and seeds to the meatier options at their disposal.

The third station involved making casts from animal footprints. This was dragon boys favorite station, hands down!

His only complaint was that the footprints took “too long to dry,” so he wasn’t able to play with them until the next day (we were provided with a brown paper “to go” bag to place them in). We left with four different casts-the black bear, opossum, beaver, and squirrel.

They let me take a picture of the recipe, which involves sawdust, among other things (like I’m gonna purchase sawdust! Way too cheap for that)!

Last on our list was the “Mammal tracks” station, which involved paper, stamps, and ink. This one was Tiger boys favorite station. He tried out nearly all the footprint stamps, creating “tracks” all over his paper. Next time they do this presentation, I think I will bring handcrafted thank you cards, and embellish them with deer tracks . . . Why purchase stamps when you can wait for a children’s event and use them for free? Ah, yes, another battle of “the cheapskate within . . .”

Having found out about seedsavers last year, I’m surprised I never bothered to look up the Discovery center before. That’s another great service provided by our great state of Missouri, and the topic of another post in the near future. January 21st, 2017-annual non-genetically modified free seed exchange! I’m gonna be there-will you?

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