Kids explore winter indoors, out of the cold

Monthly event at Water Resources Education Center plays with science of snow

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

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photoLongtime volunteer Marilyn Feddeler, 75, helps kids make snowflakes out of tissue paper at the Water Resources Education Center's Second Saturday event. The event focused on having kids "explore winter" around them.

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photoEmma Lynn Scharff, 3, of Vancouver, puts a snowflake over her face after her mother Kelly Scharff, background, helped her cut it out of tissue paper at the Water Resources Education Center during an event to help children "explore winter."

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Winter is a time of wonder.

At the Water Resources Education Center's Second Saturday event, that sense of wonder was explored using a hands-on, science-based approach. The free event gave kids and their parents an opportunity to build "snowmen" out of recycled items, learn about the uniqueness of snowflakes and turn sticker-adorned plastic bottles into water gauges.

And despite the lack of snow outside, there was plenty of white stuff inside, as children made their own flakes out of tissue paper.

"I made a snowflake," Harper Cohen, 5, said excitedly, holding up a flake she'd constructed out of a round piece of tissue paper, carefully folded and cut to make it symmetrical.

"Look at this, daddy."

The girl's mother, Shoshana Cohen, said she's begun bringing Harper and her sister Violet, 7, to the Second Saturday events more often as they've gotten older. Winter was a topic she thought her kids would be interested in, she said.

And that's the point, Bev Walker said. She's the center's water and wetlands educator.

Seasonal changes aren't something many kids think about, but crafts projects make the education an enjoyable experience.

"With some of these activities, like with the paperweights we're making," Walker said, pointing to a table where kids were fashioning Canada Geese and other winter animals out of moldable clay. "We hope they think about what animals are doing during this time of the year."

Activities at each display -- such as sticking one's hand into a box to feel around for seeds, leaves, pine tree branches and other things associated with the winter months -- aren't intended simply to be fun for children; they're also enjoyable for the volunteers who sit on the other side of the tables.

Marilyn Feddeler, 75, has volunteered at the center for 16 years, often with her husband, Bill, a retired educator.

On Saturday, she helped children turning blank tissue paper into unique snowflakes and learning that every flake that falls from the sky is an original creation.

She keeps returning to the center because there's something new for her to do every month.

Her philosophy for working with kids: "We leave it to them."

Kids use their imaginations for most of the activities, she said.

And on a crisp but otherwise sunny Saturday that gave the impression that winter had yet to arrive, there was plenty of imagination on display inside.

Jennifer Thompson's 4-year-old daughter, Tara, built a snowman out of a recycled water bottle, some pipe cleaners, shredded paper and plenty of imagination.

Thompson said she and her little one they hadn't come out to the Water Resources Education Center in a while, but they made the trip Saturday to get into the winter spirit.

"It's raining over at our house," Thompson said, "So we just wanted to pretend there was snow."


Tyler Graf: 360-735-4517; http://twitter.com/col_smallcities; tyler.graf@columbian.com.