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by Chris Chagaris


The woods of Westport, Connecticut boast a natural paradise and wildlife refuge known as Earthplace. This month, their new exhibit hall, Natureplace, opens.

Established in 1958, Earthplace’s mission is to promote the preservation and enjoyment of the environment and all that nature has to offer. It includes 62 acres of trails, and outdoor delights such as an animal sanctuary and exhibits, school and after-school programs, a preschool and a summer camp.

Its entrance adorned with elaborate tiles depicting nature, animal and water scenes, the new Natureplace hall will display a variety of dioramas showing plants and animals native to the Northeast and Fairfield County. It will include an area for tots (infant to 2 years) and their caregivers, filled with cushions where they can play. This area also features a replica of an oak tree (cast from an actual one), complete with leaves and a garden patch where kids can mix and match animal and garden shapes. A tree house will stand in the middle of the space, and a “whispamaphone”, which functions much like a telephone, will be a highlight. There also will be reading material for kids of all ages, as well as a “backyard” area for adults. Visitors can get information on hiking and how to create backyard habitats, plus access books and computer terminals with presentations, and watch educational videos in a mini-theatre with a flat-screen TV.


Earthplace will also offer children an “all-purpose” room where they can enjoy arts and crafts, and observe different insects such as the hissing cockroach and bees in a beehive. Earthplace’s Animal Hall will also be home to the domestic animals (guinea pigs, rabbits and ferrets) which are featured in weekend and after-school programs. It will also serve as a sanctuary for domestic and wild animals that have been abandoned or injured and are thus not releasable. Two bald eagles and an owl are among its residents.

Earthplace has some exciting events for children in May. “Critters and Crafts” program features a live animal, story and project with a different theme each week for children ages 3 and above, accompanied by an adult. During the “Friday Night Family Campfire, Evening Bird Song”, kids (ages 3 and up) and their families can enjoy an evening campfire and hear the sounds of area birds like the mockingbird. This activity is complete with marshmallow roasting and a short nature walk. All visitors need to bring is a blanket or folding chair; snacks are provided. Pre-registration is required and children must be accompanied by an adult.


Where: 10 Woodside Lane, Westport, Connecticut.

When: Open Monday-Saturday 9am-5pm; Sunday 1-4pm. Closed major holidays. Trails open 7am-dusk, year-round. “Critters and Crafts”: Saturday, May 13 and 20, 2:30-3:15pm. “Friday Night Family Campfire”: Friday, May 19, 7:30-9pm.

How much: Admission is free for members and children under age 1. Non-members: $7, $5 seniors and children ages 1-12. “Critters and Crafts” $5 child. “Friday Night Family Campfire” $10. Trails and birds of prey exhibit free.

For more info: (203) 227-7253; www.earthplace.org.


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