12684843079?profile=RESIZE_710xBy Faran Fagen

Plants, animals, ecosystems — just about any aspect of the environment they can get their little hands on — are discoverable treasures for youngsters who participate in the Nature Detectives program at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center.

The 5- and 6-year-olds, accompanied by their parents, meet one Saturday each month at the Boca Raton preserve and walk away with a variety of valuable lessons.

“There are multiple highlights for me each time I lead the program, including fostering parent-child bonding, encouraging children’s enthusiasm and curiosity, and instilling a love and appreciation for nature,” said Sasha Calbo, environmental educator for Gumbo Limbo.

Children and parents gain a deeper understanding of the natural world through the monthly themes. They learn about flora and fauna and environmental concepts in an engaging way.

Last year, more than 200,000 visitors took a break from the city bustle to enjoy a walk on the Gumbo Limbo boardwalk, count the thousands of tropical fish in the aquariums, or to relax in the butterfly garden.

The program allows children to learn about the wonders of nature together through story times, explorations and crafts.  

“We’re trying to get parents involved with their kids to learn about the environment,” said Susan Elliott, environmental program coordinator. “This allows parents to learn along with their kids. We try to do that with as many families as possible.”

More than a thousand families have participated in the program since it began in 2005, with the goals of providing accessible nature education, encouraging family bonding and inspiring environmental stewardship.

The sessions are held from 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. once a month. The next is July 13, but which Saturday can vary depending on the schedules of the center’s other public programs. The number of families can vary between five and 10.

“The program instills a sense of environmental stewardship,” said Calbo, who has worked at Gumbo Limbo for a little over a year and lives in Boca Raton.

“Families learn the importance of protecting and respecting nature, which can inspire more eco-friendly practices at home.”

Children also learn how to express their creative side through craft activities, which can help them enhance their motor skills.

Founded in 1984, Gumbo Limbo is a cooperative project of the city of Boca Raton, the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District, Florida Atlantic University and the nonprofit Coastal Stewards.

Gumbo Limbo sponsors extensive school programs. Every year more than 5,000 students studying coastal and marine ecology visit Gumbo Limbo with their schools.

Programs are designed to meet the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards and National Core Standard requirements in science education.

For the Nature Detectives programs, parents must attend with children and classes are subject to cancellation due to not enough registration. Reservations are required through the city’s webtrac site at flbocaratonweb.myvscloud.com/webtrac/web.
Cost is $8 or $10, depending on membership.

Gumbo Limbo Nature Center is at 1801 N. Ocean Blvd., Boca Raton. Call 561-544-8611 or visit www.myboca.us/2096/Gumbo-Limbo-Nature-Center.

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