Kids go batty at ‘Creatures of the Night’ educational event

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Visitors at Vancouver Public Works’ Water Resources Education Center on Saturday got a chance to learn about some of the local members of the animal kingdom that tend to venture out at night. The “Creatures of the Night” event was part of a monthly series of educational exhibits for kids.

Attendees were encouraged to dress up as their favorite nighttime animals, resulting in a parade of cats, bats, alligators, dinosaurs and turtles (of both the regular and teenage mutant ninja varieties) accompanying their parents around the center’s main meeting room.

At one table, education intern Sarah Durmaz gave a presentation about spiders, with a special focus on cross orb weaver spiders. They’re the third-most common type of spider in the world, she said, and their spiral web pattern is easily recognizable.

“Any time you see an (illustrated) spiderweb, it’s most commonly the orb weaver spider,” she said.

The table also included a “spiderweb toss” game where visitors could try their best to land crafted flies on a yarn spiderweb, simulating the way real orb weaver spiders grab their lunch each day.

“The food makes the webs shake. That’s what tells the spider the food is there,” explained Max Hoskins, 5, who was visiting the event with his sister Opal and his mother Rowena.

At another table, education intern Erica Vollmer taught visitors about nocturnal pollinators. When most people hear the word pollinators, they tend to think of bees, but Vollmer said fruit bats, moths and other nighttime flyers are big pollinators in their own right.

“(Fruit bats) are one of the best pollinators of bananas,” she said. Nighttime pollinators also help spread pollen for guavas, mangoes and more than 500 other plants — and their repertoire doesn’t always overlap with their daytime counterparts.

If nighttime pollinators start to get crowded out by light pollution, the bees and other daytime pollinators won’t necessarily be able to pick up the slack, she said.

At a third table, visitors quizzed themselves by arranging animal pictures into one of three categories: nocturnal, diurnal (active in the daytime) and crepuscular (active at dusk).

After matching nearly every animal card on the table, Link Urzua declared that his favorite category was the nocturnal animals.

“That’s my favorite one since I’m nocturnal,” he said.

After they worked their way around all the event tables, visitors got a chance to create their own custom-colored fox, owl and bat masks to show off at a photo booth.

The Water Resources Education Center’s free “Second Saturday” events are held from 1 to 3 p.m. on the second Saturday of each month. Each one includes educational exhibits and hands-on crafts exploring a particular topic like bird feeders, bubbles and recycling.

Next month’s event will focus on ichthyology — the study of fish — giving visitors a chance to learn about salmon sturgeon, lamprey and more.

The center is located at 4600 S.E. Columbia Way in Vancouver and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, and noon to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.

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