By LINDA M. LINONIS
What’s up with Punxsutawney Phil? On Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, the legendary prognosticator predicted an early spring.
But there’s no sign of winter loosening its grip as the week’s forecast predicts a chance of snow into Sunday.
Whether it looks like spring or not, the season arrives at 7:02 a.m. today in the Northern Hemisphere. The word equinox is derived from Latin words meaning “equal night.” Days and nights are approximately equal everywhere, and the sun rises and sets due east and west.
Thirteen preschoolers from 3 to 5 years old weren’t thinking about winter when they and their parents and/or grandparents attended a recent Spring Wind program at Ford Nature Center.
Carol Vigorito, naturalist, led the nature program that included coloring, story time, nature walk, craft, bubble blowing and feather race.
“These programs are geared to parent-child participation,” Vigorito said. “I try to convey a concept in nature, then take that concept and help the children understand it.”
As children arrived, they received name tags shaped like kites. Children and adult companions gathered in a room where Vigorito had balloons hanging from the ceiling. She asked children to get them moving without using their hands. The youngsters quickly caught on and blew on the balloons.
Jeff Mills of Canfield brought his sons, Travis, 6, and Andy, 3, to the program. “We like to come to the park as often as we can,” Mills said, noting his wife and daughter had just visited the park because of a Brownie troop activity.
Mills said they’ve participated in previous programs. “We also like to go to the baby shower at the farm,” he said.
Vigorito encouraged the children to come close to listen to the story by Marie Hall Ets, “Gilberto and the Wind,” about a boy who has adventures with the wind, which blows off his hat.
Reciting a rhyme about the wind, Vigorito told the children,
“I see the wind when the leaves fly by,
I see the wind when the clothes wave high.
I see the wind when the trees bend over,
I see the wind when the flags fly high.”
In the Habitat Room, Vigorito had set up a “pond” of bubble solution, and children were urged to try different shaped bubble wands. This activity again reinforced the idea of wind that they could produce by blowing.
Diane Parillo of Austintown watched as her grandchildren, Graham, 41/2, and Ava, 21/2, Carbon smiled as they blew bubbles.
“I think these are wonderful learning experiences,” she said, adding she and her grandkids attend many programs.
Parillo said she believes the programs teach children more than nature concepts. “They’re learning to share, they’re socializing with other kids and learning to listen.”
The group headed outdoors to a grassy area, where they participated in feather race — their feathery entries moved by the breeze and kid power.
Along the All People’s Trail, Vigorito explained that wind, sometimes gentle and sometimes harsh, is among the signs of spring. With the group, she counted, “one, two, three ... hush ... then listen and look for signs of spring.” Other hallmarks of spring were chirping birds and sprouts of new growth.
Vigorito told the group that the yellow flowers they saw were witch hazel, which blooms late in winter and just before the first flowers of spring. She also noted leaves of a rhododendron, which curl in low temperature, were relaxing. A pond revealed that winter is lingering — its surface was ice covered.
The nature program concluded with children decorating a small kite to take home.