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Arts & Entertainment

Aviary program takes participants into birds' world

| Thursday, Nov. 8, 2007

The National Aviary on Monday is kicking off a new semiweekly program that caters to the tiny tots that flock there while the older kids are in school.

"Little Peepers: Stories and Crafts" -- which will be held at 11:30 a.m. Mondays and Thursdays -- features stories read aloud by staff members, songs, hands-on craft activities and live bird presentations for ages 2 to 5.

The program will help entertain young children, who often come this time of year on weekdays with their parents, says Erin Estell, manager of interactive experiences for the aviary in North Side.

"We're really excited about it," she says. "We wanted to do something to target that group of kids and make them feel welcome.

"We're hoping that ... this is something that will just focus their attentions and give them the same experience older kids get everywhere they go," Estell says.

Each week, for both sessions, aviary staff members will read a different bird-related storybook -- such as "Albuquerque Turkey" by B.G. Ford and Lucinda McQueen -- to the children, Estell says. Kids will sit in a carpeted circle in the Atrium, and staff members will sit down with them on their level as they read and talk to kids about the birds. The kids will then do a bird-themed art project, while staff members bring out one of the aviary's birds -- such as an owl or a toucan -- so that kids can see the feathered friends up close. This will increase a child's appreciation of animals and nature, she says.

"I think the kids are going to really like the fact that they can get close to a bird and interact ... and that (the program) is geared toward them," Estell says. "We really believe that if we can get people closer to the birds, it's going to create an emotional connection that's going to inspire people to want to protect the birds when they leave the aviary."

"Little Peepers: Stories and Crafts" sessions will last about 45 minutes to an hour, and parents will stay with their kids.

The second Monday of each month, starting this Monday, will be "Munchkin Mondays," sponsored by Munchkin's Bookshelf in Pine. Store representatives will read the storybooks, and offer bird- and nature-themed books, classics and new ones, for sale at the aviary's gift shop.

"I think (the program) will be a wonderful addition to the great programming that they already have at the aviary," says Maryanne Eichorn, owner of Munchkin's Bookshelf. "We're all about connecting kids with books, and we like to do that wherever we can. ... We try to provide ways for kids to be involved in the community." Additional Information:

'Little Peepers: Stories and Crafts'

When: Beginning Monday, the program will be offered at 11:30 a.m. Mondays and Thursdays

Admission: Included with general admission of $9; $8 for senior citizens; $7.50 for ages 2-12

Where: National Aviary, Allegheny Commons West, North Side

Details: 412-323-7235

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