Tractors, chickens, and cows, oh my! Children of all ages will have fun on the farm at the Waukegan Public Library's new Early Learning Center exhibit, "Oink, Baa, Moo: Farm Fun," funded exclusively by North Shore Gas.
The exhibit, featuring 2,200 square feet of displays and interactive learning centers that include a barn slide, apple orchard, chicken coop, and life-size milking cow, will be unveiled at a grand opening reception from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9, at the library, 128 N. County St.
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With the help of the 4-H club, the University of Illinois Extension, and the Lake County Farm Bureau, library staff researched the animals and agriculture of Midwestern farms to accurately portray the significance of farming on local communities.
Representatives from 4-H and the Farm Bureau will be at the opening with samples of local produce and family crafts.
"In addition to making sure that each year our exhibits are exciting and educational, this year we are also focusing on the importance of understanding healthy eating from farm to table," said Elizabeth Stearns, assistant director of community services.
Maggie, a life-size Fiberglass milking cow sponsored by Golden Oaks Farm in Wauconda, will be the focus of the new exhibit. Maggie is more than five feet tall and features a working udder that recirculates the water that children "milk."
After the ribbon-cutting, students in grades 3 to 5 from Glen Flora and John Clark elementary schools will perform farm themed songs for guests. There will be baby farm animals from Buggy Whip Farm for the opening. Puppetry by Wild Cow Puppet Craft will feature "The Three Little Pigs," "The Little Red Hen," and "The Gingerbread Man" every 20 minutes, and families can create their own farm-themed puppets.
Each year, the early learning center features a living element so children can observe and learn about the daily habits of the creatures or animals featured in the exhibit.
The library's current creepy and crawly scorpion, tarantula, hermit crabs, and Madagascar hissing cockroaches will be replaced this year by fuzzy baby chicks hatched from fertilized eggs every five weeks.
Families can monitor the eggs in an incubator on the children's department desk and visit and hold the newborn chicks once the eggs hatch. The library's first batch of chicks will be on display at the opening.
The library also will reveal its new SMART Board, an interactive whiteboard with touch screen technology that will be used with children's programs, school field trips, and gaming at the library.
The launch of "Oink, Baa, Moo" marks the fourth year of rotating exhibits in the children's department at the Waukegan Public Library, following "Dig the Dinosaurs," "Under the Sea," and the most recent, "Creepy Crawlies."
Each exhibit, including all programs, displays and installation, is funded exclusively by donations from North Shore Gas and the Morrison Family.
The Waukegan Public Library houses one of the largest collections of materials in Lake County. For information, call (847) 623-2041 or visit www.waukeganpl.org.