Family Fun Night

Keegan Kratochvil, 13, relaxes in a hammock during the Family Nature Night at the Nebraska Game and Parks outdoor classroom in Norfolk on Thursday night.

A partnership between Nebraska Game & Parks Commission and Conservation Nebraska provided a “bee-autiful” opportunity for children to learn about pollinators.

Children and their families were invited to the game and parks’ outdoor classroom in Norfolk on Thursday to take part in a program that focused on bees.

Hannah Deblauwe, conservation director with Conservation Nebraska, said the the event was designed to help youths in the area learn more about bees.

“It’s just something for them to have fun and learn about bees and how they’re important for our environment,” she said.

The event was one in the series of Family Nature Nights hosted throughout the summer by the game and parks. The past two events — one focusing on birds, the other focusing on bees — were conducted in partnership with Conservation Nebraska, an educational non-profit that is part of the statewide AmeriCorps program.

Upcoming Family Nature Night events hosted by the game and parks include a focus on fireflies on Thursday, July 11; a program on nature journaling on Thursday, July 25; and a special event on monarch butterflies on Thursday, Aug. 8.

Jamie Bachmann, a wildlife educator for the Northern Prairies Land Trust and game and parks, said the outdoor classroom events are a good way to get children and families interested in outdoor play.

“You never know who’s going to show up for these kinds of things or what the ages (of visitors) is going to be,” she said.

Bachmann said the outdoor classroom at games and parks in Norfolk includes a variety of features to spark children’s interest in play and to develop a feel for risk assessment.

“The outdoor classroom is kind of like a throwback to how childhood used to be,” Bachmann said.

The area features a sandpit equipped with shiny tumbled rocks and bones children can find as they dig. It also has a music and movement area with a sound wall made of various materials. There also is a fort-building area, a climbing tree and a mud pit.

“It’s amazing how many kiddos and parents alike walk out of here needing a trash bag for their car because they came out here and slid down the mud hill and into the mud pit,” she said.

The outdoor classroom is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., but the various facets of the classroom are available on scheduled visits and only during special events like the Family Nature Night.

Bachmann said it’s exciting to see the reaction of children and parents alike when they come out to utilize the outdoor classroom, and it’s fun to see children be entertained and educated at the same time by something as simple as a roly-poly in a mulch pile.

“It’s about when childhood was much simpler. We can still do that,” Bachmann said. “I’m trying to be a model for that and help encourage kids and parents, too, to hang out outside and play outside.”

In other news

If imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery, then Dave Coulier gave Johnny Carson highest accolades in his headlining act Friday night, performing some impersonations of the late-night television luminary.

A grand jury will be convened next week in Madison County to investigate the circumstances surrounding the June 9 death of Cory Dittman of Norfolk.