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Haunted Habitats

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Published on: Oct. 2, 2009

Last revision: Dec. 15, 2010

days! Mom, it’s today!’ The volunteers are just fantastic and the kids learn a lot. We really enjoy ourselves.”

Eventually, the trail winds down, but the children do not. The guide releases them back into the wild of the courtyard and they scatter like leaves.

The Party Continues

A zebra in distress requires detangling from the giant rope spider web, but otherwise, the obstacle course is a scene of happy chaos. At various stations, ‘spiderlings’ tend their web, ‘beavers’ sort and pile their logs, the ‘crawdads’ explore their burrow, the ‘armadillos’ practice their jumps, and the ‘nightcrawlers’ wriggle like pros. Powered by plentiful cocoa, cider and treats, many of the children have energy for more than one circuit.

As the temperature has sunk with the sun, the indoor festivities soon draw the greater part of the crowd. Inside the nature center, the party only gets wilder, and so do the stars of the evening—a great horned owl, an unusually patient and friendly bat, and a supporting cast of spiders, snakes and other nature center regulars. Eager fingers, both child and adult, take advantage of all the petting opportunities.

While some visitors join interpretive activities, enjoy exhibits based on the nocturnal lives of animals and play games to win prizes, others stop by the art room to make their own masks. Costumed volunteers answer questions, pique interest in the wild world, maintain order, locate parents and direct traffic to bathrooms, snacks and trails.

The evening’s momentum seems never to wane, but eventually the lantern candles gutter down, and the scent of charred pumpkin mixes with the hint of popcorn and autumn woods on the wind. Happy-tired families follow paths or catch shuttle busses to their cars, and young minds, full of the wonders of nature at night, start counting down the days until they can haunt some habitats again.

Haunt an Event Near You

*All events are free and open to all ages.

Anita B. Gorman Conservation Discovery Center

Kansas City
Nature’s Nightshift • Oct. 23, 4–8 p.m.

Our days are becoming shorter and our nights are lengthening, making this a perfect time to get a glimpse into the nocturnal world. As the sun sets, the animal nightshift gears up for survival. Explore mysteries of the night by learning about the bioluminescence of fireflies, bat echolocation and searching for spider eyes. In addition, Lakeside Nature Center is bringing both a screech owl and barn owl, with presentations from 4–7p.m. on the hour.

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