Learning helps make heat bearable for teen volunteers at Baltimore Zoo


July 09, 2002|By Debra Taylor Young | Debra Taylor Young,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

FOR TWO Sykesville-area teens, the hot summer months will be spent volunteering at the Baltimore Zoo as part of a program to help educate visitors - and themselves - about animals and exhibits.

Patrick DeArmey and Stephanie Silverstein, both 14 and former classmates at Sykesville Middle School, are two of 42 first-year volunteers in the zoo's summer program, Project WILD, which is in its fourth year.

Volunteers start their day at 8:30 a.m. in a class at the zoo's mansion house. They learn about animal habitat, population, endangered species and behavior. After about an hour of instruction, they are paired with a volunteer and sent to zoo sites with small vendor carts. The carts are equipped with information and artifacts for the site.

At Polar Bear Square, Patrick and fellow volunteer Rick James, 16, of Baltimore displayed an arm cast worn by polar bear Magnet. The bear's huge cast was a curious sight to children, who fit their small arms inside to gauge the bear's size. Magnet wore the cast for several months after he dived into shallow water in his enclosure and broke his arm.

Stephanie and her volunteer partner, Darnell Baker, 15, of Randallstown set up in Tiger Plaza with a game wheel. Young visitors can spin the wheel for a question about the animal selected by the spin.

"If they answer the question correctly, we give them a sticker," Stephanie said. "If they don't answer correctly, we still give them a sticker."

Part of the volunteers' day is spent in the children's zoo helping employees with the many visitors each day. Even with temperatures hovering near 100 degrees last week and the heat index higher, several large groups of children visited. Volunteers did their best to stay cool in the shade, and keeping a water bottle nearby.

Volunteers rotate locations during the day to learn about each zoo area and its animals. In addition to educating visitors about the zoo, volunteers help paid workers with tasks, greet visitors and help them find their way around. Most of the volunteers, including Stephanie and Patrick, volunteer two days a week.

Lindsey King, a Project WILD intern visiting from New York for the summer, said the program is a great opportunity for the kids.

"I would have liked to have done something like this when I was in high school," she said. "They all seem to have a great time, and love what they are doing."

"It's a new experience," said Rick. "We meet new people and learn new things every day."

Patrick agreed. He said his interest in the zoo's program stemmed from his desire to be a herpetologist. He has always been interested in reptiles and has frogs and salamanders at home.

Fun Day success

Sykesville's Family Fun Day at Millard Cooper Park on Saturday was a success, said Lynne Ronayne, director of Sykesville Parks and Recreation. Ronayne said more than 800 people attended.

During the day, long lines formed at pony rides on animals from Hummingbird Hill Farms. The Carroll County Cloggers performed, and many other events were scattered around the park.

Barbara Kreinar attended with her three children. She recalled that they enjoyed their first pony rides at the Sykesville event through the years.

Sykesville Gate House Museum of History was open across the street from the park and attracted many first-time visitors.

Sunset pontoon ride

Piney Run Park Nature Center is offering a Mother Nature Sunset Pontoon Ride from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. tomorrow for children ages 2 to 5 and their families.

The evening will include a pontoon ride to discuss the wildlife at Piney Run Park. Refreshments will be available.

Fees are $2 per member and $3 per nonmember. Information: 410-795-6043.

Debra Taylor Young's neighborhood column appears each Tuesday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

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