Youngsters are being encouraged to do some exploring this weekend that will take them off the beaten path in Naperville Park District.
The inaugural EcoFest will give participants the opportunity to learn more about the park district's new environmentally friendly exploration opportunities at a free event from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday at the Riverwalk Grand Pavillion, 912 Sindt Court.
If you goWhat: EcoFest 2012
When: 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, May 12
Where: Riverwalk Grand Pavilion, 912 Sindt Court, Naperville
Info: (630) 848-5000 or napervilleparks.org
EcoFest 2012 will include a birds of prey show, eco-friendly games and crafts for kids, as well as some interactive conservation exhibits and a recycling drive.
"It's just something that everyone is embracing right now," said Sandie Gilmer, park district program manager. "In the school districts, kids are learning at a very early age about how to be eco-friendly, how to recycle and conserve."
The fest will give visitors a chance to learn more about birds of prey such as the great horned owl and a red-tailed hawk during a show presented by the Northern Illinois Raptor Center from 11 a.m. to noon.
Children also can choose from 15 different crafts and games. Exhibits will include worm composting and a watershed model.
The festival reflects the district's emphasis on nature with the construction of the Seager Park Interpretive Center that opened last October. The one-room classroom acts as the hub of many of the new nature-based programs.
"This is getting out into the natural areas, getting out into the woods and stream banks," said Sarah Wilkins, the park district's nature programs coordinator. "Kids are naturally drawn to that, but I wanted to be able to enhance their experience and give them an opportunity to experience more and use their imagination and make discoveries."
New programs include Budding Naturalists; Crinkleroot's Book Club; Grossology Camp, which explores slimy, scaly and squirmy creatures; Knee-high Naturalists; Naperville Streamkeepers Camp, which includes wading through the river to explore insects and stream habitat; Nature Photography and Sketching; Prairie Pioneers Camp; and Tiny Tadpoles for the youngest explorers.
"I'm particularly excited about the wetland camp. It's a really great way to talk to kids about the importance of wetlands in Illinois," Wilkins said. "It includes tadpoles and insects and talks about everything from stream ecology to the importance of wetlands and how we should protect them."
An electronics recycling event takes place prior to EcoFest in the Centennial Beach parking lot. People can drop off used electronics from 8 to 10 a.m. courtesy of ACME Recycling. Visit the park district's website for a list of electronic items accepted.
The first 200 people at EcoFest get an eco-friendly gift and other giveaways.
The event is free.
"Getting kids out into nature is so important," Wilkins said. "There's so many ways that kids can be distracted today. This is a great way to get them outside."
For more information about programs and events, call (630) 848-5000 or visit napervilleparks.org.