Clifty Falls naturalist takes animals to children

The Madison CourierJuly 17, 2014 

— Clifty Falls State Park Naturalist Kristie Ridgway decided to think outside the box with her newest educational summer program.

Instead of participants coming to her, Ridgway brings her Creature Feature program to children who are already at the state park.

Each Tuesday and Wednesday this summer, Ridgway takes an animal from the park's nature center to show to children swimming at the park's pool. Ridgway sets up on the lawn at the side of the pool during the 2 p.m. swim break.

On Tuesday, Ridgway showed off a box turtle.

"The pool is busy today, so hopefully we'll have a good number of kids come over," she told The Madison Courier (http://bit.ly/1oZYie2 ). "There's something to be said about going to your audience."

Taeson Stutsman was at the pool on Tuesday, visiting the park with his family from Scottsburg. He and his friends attended the Creature Feature in between pool time.

"I like learning about animals," the 6-year-old said.

Taeson got to see the box turtle up close and pet it during Ridgway's presentation.

"He felt pretty awesome," Taeson said. "The shell kind of felt like a rock, and the arms and shoulder and back kind of felt like it was made out of rubber."

The box turtle, Ridgway told the audience of about 15 children and onlooking parents, is one of her favorite animals at the park's nature center. It's also the only turtle in Indiana that can completely close itself off inside its shell because of a special muscle on its chest.

Heather Allan, her husband and four children were also in attendance. The Floyds Knobs residents were camping at the park and saw a notice for the class on an activity board.

The family has traveled to all of Indiana's state parks, and has been to Clifty Falls and downtown Madison on several occasions. The Allans are vacationing this summer by traveling to different campsites around Indiana.

"We like to trick our kids into thinking this is a vacation and actually having them learn something," she said.

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Information from: The Madison Courier, http://www.madisoncourier.com

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