Discover what Blanding’s turtles eat for breakfast and how to prepare a meal for a bearded dragon at the St. Charles Park District’s Feed the Critters Program this winter.
The program, new this year, invites visitors in small, private groups inside the Hickory Knolls Discovery Center to prepare and feed meals for the center’s animal ambassadors.
“This program is completely hands-on,” said Laura McCoy nature education program supervisor for the St. Charles Park District.
Participants will chop and scoop the animal’s food and deliver it to each animal, with opportunities to visit the animals and learn more about their diet, daily habits and other care. The center is home to a mammal, reptiles, amphibians and even an arachnid.
Kevin Tate is a staff member at Hickory Knolls, having started with the On the Job Training program through St. Charles School District 303 and today he helps care for the center’s resident animals. Tate explained that some of the center’s insect eaters enjoy super worms as a special treat, a reptile’s version of a French fry while resident veggie eaters enjoy an occasional apple sauce as their dessert.
“Most of our animals are fed a variety of live and dried insects like mealworms, crickets, river shrimp, earthworms and their favorite cockroaches,” Tate said. “Our turtle’s pre made pellets look exactly like dog kibble just smaller and not as smelly. Many of our animals eat the same fruits and vegetables as we do like our Box Turtles and Bearded Dragon Grandma who goes crazy for apple sauce.”
Visitors won’t need to hunt for any insects. The center purchases its live insects through special stores and local pet food stores. Tate said it’s never a good idea to give pet reptile a wild-caught insect as it may carry parasites and disease and cause illness.
At a time when many schools have eliminated field trips, Feed the Critters offers a unique opportunity for a family to bring their children to the center and learn in a hands-on approach about the animals as staff use scientific terms to describe which animals are omnivores and which are herbivores.
With small, pre-registered groups each program experience is tailored to is participants, McCoy said. The program is able to meet varying age-groups, making it ideal for children from preschool through middle school, and the adults are sure to learn a few things too.
And, if a child has a special interest in specific animal, staff are able to take the extra time to answer questions and gear the program to the interest of its participants, McCoy said.
“It’s a really cool program because we can focus in on what the children are interested in most,” McCoy said. “If a child is considering a certain animal as a pet, this program will give them a taste of what care the animal would require as well as learn more about what the animals needs.”
Advance reservations are required for Feed the Critter which has sessions on Friday and Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons. Reservations can be made online. Feed the Critters is open to one group per session, with a maximum of eight people per group making it ideal for a family unit to participate together.
This is an indoor event and masks are required. Be sure to save extra time in the visit to the center to check out other animals and explore the outdoor grounds.
To register for this program: click here