When, after months of patiently waiting for the berries to ripen, Cheryl the Chickadee expectantly returned to her berry bush- only to discover somebody else had already chowed down on every last juicy morsel, depriving her of her long awaited midsummer feast, the Pacific Spirit Park Society and Metro Vancouver were on the case. We opened the crime scene to young detectives, inviting them to track Cheryl’s wing beats around the park and visit information stations, brimming with evidence for them to scrutinise, along the way. Check out our video of the event!
Armed with their clue books, the participants could gather information, eliminate suspects and even complete a DNA test and inspect gruesome stomach contents samples, involving jars filled with plastic beetles, insects, berries, bones and feathers suspended in a watery solution. All in all, the ideal way to spend a day in the eyes of anyone between the ages of 5- 12 years old.
Or… so you might think!
During setting up the circuit, I found myself drifting happily from station to station- the general theme of my thoughts being ‘I would have LOVED this as a kid!’ After consistently and enthusiastically repeating this in my head for over an hour, the strong correlation between having fun at the event and not being a child forced me to adapt my statement. Thus, as the youngsters tackling the whereabouts of Cheryl’s berries began to arrive, I sense our restless energy and sparkling eyes matched one another as I greeted them with “I find this very exciting and I’m an adult!”
During one of my rounds I bonded with a lady, who I’d estimate was in her sixties, over stomach contents jars. She was one of the numerous lone adult stragglers, many of whom had just ‘stumbled upon’ the Critter Capers trail and decided they may as well follow it- you know- since they were there. These older investigators approached the stations somewhat shyly, as though embarrassed that they found the idea of dipping a piece of paper in some water, only to watch it flood with vivid colours and a sense of scientific achievement, too strong a lure to resist.
There were others, who were more confident in their hopeful lingering and exploration of the stations, coming up to poke the props and ask carefully constructed I-was-just-curious-and-I’m-not-even-really-that-interested questions. When asked if they’d like a turn with the DNA test, time and time again an irresistible smile would wrinkle their cheeks and they would reply with a thrilled “Ooohhhh yes please!” dispelling even the most convincing facades of disinterest.
I did not spend much time with many of the children, who paused only long enough to grasp the purpose of each station and conclude which suspect they could put a big cross through, based on the implications of what they’d learned there.
However, the inquisitive sixty-year-old and I, easily spent quarter of an hour closely examining each of the stomach contents samples and swapping observations.
“Racoons eat slugs?” she blinked in disbelief and readjusted her glasses to get a closer look “Wow!”
Critter Capers is an event I admire because it clearly has an effect on people which reverts them back to childhood, but seems to concentrate all the best parts of being new and fresh to the world. Eighteen and sixty-somethings can gaze in wonder and be amazed by the things you might find inside a tree-frogs belly. While the real kids get the opportunity to make positive connections with their local wildlife and regional parks.
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