SCOUTING AROUND: Library helping kids explore area nature

  • North Carolina Arboretum ecoExplore coordinator Libbie Dobbs-Alexander explains to 3-year-old Cora Dance of Murphy that the bug she found on the library grounds is a ladybug larva.
    North Carolina Arboretum ecoExplore coordinator Libbie Dobbs-Alexander explains to 3-year-old Cora Dance of Murphy that the bug she found on the library grounds is a ladybug larva.
  • Taylor Hardin lets a walking stick bug crawl up her arm at the ecoExplore event at the Murphy Public Library.
    Taylor Hardin lets a walking stick bug crawl up her arm at the ecoExplore event at the Murphy Public Library.
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    Murphy – Local children can help scientists all over the world, thanks to a program from the North Carolina Arboretum. All they have to do is take photos of nature and upload the image to a website.
    The kickoff to the program, ecoExplore, was held at the Murphy Public Library last week. Each season, the Arboretum will come back to the library to introduce children to that season’s field of study.
    Libbie Dobbs-Alexander, the ecoExplore coordinator, explained it is a free science program in which kids get to become citizen scientists. Each child creates an account on ecoexplore.net and submits photos of their wildlife observations. The images are then shared on a worldwide network, where scientists crowdsource the information provided.
    “So the kids are helping scientists with their research,” Dobbs-Alexander said.
    In return, the children earn points for prizes, receiving more points for sharing an observation in the season’s focus, making an observation at an ecoExplore HotSpot, identifying the correct plant or animal species, or taking a clear photograph that helps scientists confirm the child’s correct identification.
    This season, which ends Dec. 1, is focussed on entomology, or the study of insects. Dobbs-Alexander introduced children to insects, explaining how to identify the creatures, then showing them examples – both toy and real.
    She first showed the children a non-native insect, a Madagascar hissing cockroach, which jumped each time a child touched it. Then she brought out a walking stick bug, which walked up the arm of 9-year-old Taylor Hardin of Marble.
    Once the insects were safely put away, each child was given a collection jar. The went outside and searched for insects on the library grounds.
    Hardin liked the idea of getting to help scientists and hoped the photos she ends up taking are not blurry.
    “It would be pretty cool if this one photo could go around the world,” she said.
    She is a Junior Girl Scout and planned to bring back information on the program to her troop.
    The library will have backpacks filled with tools that children can check out to help them explore nature. Bridget Wilson, the regional youth services librarian, was excited to host the quarterly programs in Murphy as well as at Moss Memorial Library in Hayesville and the Graham County Library in Robbinsville.
    “I’m excited because we already have a lot of families who spend time outdoors,” she said.
    The next ecoExplore seasonal program will be held at the library this winter and focus on ornithology, the study of birds.
    The ecoExplore program has been introduced in 14 western North Carolina counties. The Arboretum recently received a grant that will allow them to expand the program to every county in the state in the next five years.

Art Walk set Friday night
    Murphy – A day after families show off their creative Halloween costumes downtown, artists will be showing their creativity during the November Art Walk from 5-8 p.m. Friday.
    Streets and businesses will be filled with the music of local artists, including the Pressley Girls performing in the square. Troy Underwood, Dana Rogers and Jay Golden will be performing at The Daily Grind & Wine, ShoeBooties Cafe and in The Murphy Art Center,
respectively.
    The MAC will also feature the photography of Jim Alsopp, where he will be selling 2020 calendars filled with his work. As always, there will be interactive art activities for children at the center, in addition to information about signing up for art classes for all ages.
    Across the street, acrylic painter Paula Raphael will be at The Daily Grind, and fine art oil finger painter Holly Michelle Hargus will be at Black & White Market. The Curiosity Shop will have local writer Angie Bates available to meet readers and sign books.
    The Valley River Arts Guild presents Art Walks on the first Friday of each month from May through December. For details, email event coordinator Tim Ford at tlford2035@gmail.com.
    Samantha Sinclair is the Scouting Around columnist for the Cherokee Scout. You can reach her by email, scoutingaround@cherokeescout.com; fax, 837-5832; or by leaving a message in the office at 837-5122.