Ecology Made Fun

The cool thing about writing this blog is it makes me get out and do things I might not necessarily do with a 20-month-old toddler—like visiting the Beczak Environmental Education Center  in Yonkers. I just never really had a hankering to poke around the Hudson River. I always thought it was majestic, but I kind of worried that I’d glow green if I got too close to it. Truth is, things have changed a lot over the years and Beczak is a perfect spot for kids from five to 12. Even a kid Maisie’s age can have a blast there. Who’d a thunk?

The Beczak Center started out as a place on the Hudson River where Boy Scouts could go canoeing. This week, the center celebrates its 20th anniversary and boy, has it grown. Nowadays, it’s a place where you can take your families to learn about the ecology of rivers, specifically the mighty Hudson. Sound boring? It’s not. True, the facility isn’t all that fancy, but the Center has a gazillion programs for your kids with all kinds of cool adventures, like a trip on an ancient oyster schooner, kayaking the Hudson or learning about the various animals in and around the river.

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One of the most popular is a program called “Seining the River.” Kids and even their parents can don waders and then drag nets in the Hudson during low tide. You can’t imagine what they wrangle: blue crabs, catfish, and even an occasional piece of trash—just to mention a few. The program is catch and release and rumor has it everybody has a blast, all while the kids are learning to take care of the planet.

Obviously, Maisie couldn’t participate in any of that. Even the story times for kids ages three to five are too advanced for her, but she had fun just the same. Maisie loved looking at the aquariums, one filled with turtles, another with catfish, and the third one, a new blue crab they’d caught that very morning. She also loved running around outside in the grass and picking up rocks all along the river bed. What is it with kids and rocks, anyway?

A huge number of kids go with their school classes, but you can also simply sign up for a weekend adventure. Heck, seining only costs $5 a person. What a great deal!

Maisie? Well, she may not have learned about the river, but she did reinforce her love of the out-of-doors and saw a real fish, which obviously had a bigger impact than I realized. When we got home, we were reading one of her favorite books when she pointed to a drawing of a little swimmer and actually said, “fish” for the very first time! Hee hee. 


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