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Navajo State Park celebrates July and August with special events for kids

It’s all about kids at Navajo State Park in July and August, with fun and simple carefree activities such as detecting animals tracks in the wild, exploring Gyotaku — the ancient art of fish painting — or special nature hikes to learn about safety or native plants beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday mornings at the park in Arboles.

Local Montessori educator and elementary school teacher Pat Hauschild will lead many of the morning events along with the state park interpreter. Hauschild’s vibrant energy radiates as kids have fun discovering the many facets of nature on land and in the water. Each hour-long event will help children, ages four and older, learn about the anatomical parts of animals, plants and fish, their habitats, and where they are found. Do you like making things? Kids will have hands-on experience creating their own art work, including printing on traditional Japanese rice paper and cotton pack backs that they can take home.

Want to become a nature detective? At 9 a.m. on July 21 and Aug. 4 at the Visitors Center Conference Room, “Animal Tracks” will show kids how to read animal tracks to figure out what kind of animals passed by — and maybe even what they were up to! Hauschild will provide clues to help you.

An animal track is a mark left by a moving animal. You can find the path, route, or course of the animal by examining its track. The bear, mountain lion or chipmunk may be elusive, but they leave evidence of their presence. Tracking is a technique that scientists and hunters use to find and follow animals. Practice your wildlife skills or learn some new ones on identifying and tracking wildlife around Navajo State Park.

Budding artists can gather at 9 a.m. July 14 at the Visitors Center Conference Room, and learn about another culture and the unique art form called Gyotaku (guh-yo-tah-koo), which is the Japanese art of fish painting. It was developed more than a century ago as a fisherman’s method of recording the size and species of his catch. People developed this technique since they often could not read.

Freshly-caught fish were painted with a non-toxic ink and covered with a piece of rice paper. The paper was then carefully smoothed down, and removed to make an exact size copy of the fish. Once the print was completed, the fish could be washed and prepared for a meal. By using this technique, Japanese fishermen were able to both record and eat their catch.

Since its functional beginning, Gyotaku has become an art form. Prints are no longer just plain black ink outlines, but colorful reproductions of the original species. Gyotaku art has been displayed at museums around the world. This could give you some new perspective on the concept of art and how it can be a part of everyday life.

At 9 a.m. on July 28 at the Visitors Center Pavilion, Hauschild will lead a Native Plants hike along the quarter mile Nature Trail along Navajo Lake. Kids will take in the views of the shoreline area and gain a better understanding of the differences between plants. Kids will enjoy the early morning outdoor hike while studying sage and rice grass versus non-native plants like cheat grass and tamarisk. Find out why non-native living plants adapt to so many different environments.

Join Hauschild and the park naturalist at the Visitor Center Pavilion at 9 a.m. on Aug. 11 for an outdoors nature hike along one of the Navajo Lake Shore trails. Kids will learn about hiker and outdoor safety.

All kids are welcome to attend. Events in the park are free with a Colorado State Parks pass — either a $7 day pass or a seasonal pass. Call 883-2208 for more information or log on to the park’s website at www.parks.state.co.us/Parks/Navajo.

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