Not only were the kids having fun; some were also undergoing attitude adjustments. Thursday was Bug Day at the Springs Coast Environmental Education Center's first summer adventure camp, and Sabrina Lane, 10, of Spring Hill confessed early on that she didn't like bugs. "We have people who absolutely love bugs, and some don't like them that much," teacher Colleen Doulk said.
After a brief science lesson about insects, Sabrina joined with 16 classmates in making small bug catchers.
Inserted into the top and side of a used film container were plastic beverage straws, the top one for the user's sucking and the side straw for drawing in the insect.
The side straw was about 2 inches long, requiring the catcher to "get up close and personal," Doulk said.
Outdoors, Doulk and center director Cheryl Paradis led the troop to rotting logs, which Paradis promised were full of bugs. Some enthusiasts had straws in mouth and at the ready. Sabrina hung back.
But she had to capture at least one insect to keep up with her fourth- and fifth-grade peers. She managed to suck up a beetle.
Asked if she wanted to try for another one, Sabrina uttered a determined, "No." But caught up in the effort and the explanation of the lifestyles and habits of other insects, she later went off by herself to dig for a lion ant.
Abigail Rich, 10, of Spring Hill wasn't keen on the project initially either. But after sucking up her first insect from the log — and Paradis pointing out another prey — Abigail nudged through others to suck up the catch.
Ten-year-old Aliyah Dipalma of Spring Hill wasn't thrilled about having to get her short straw — and her mouth — so close to an insect, which she finally captured.
Her reaction: "I'm not hungry anymore."
Yet when Aliyah released her temporary hostages, as required by the center for all wildlife, the youth said, "Goodbye my friends."
They'd already put them under a magnifying device to identify them.
After the land scour, it was on to the Weeki Wachee River, where some kids were given pans to scoop up water and others were armed with dipping nets to ladle deeper.
From the catch of Trey Ballew of Spring Hill emerged a couple of baby shrimp, a big tadpole and "tons of beetles," the 9-year-old pointed out.
Adam Baroni, 10, of Brooksville said he knew generally that wildlife existed in the water, but wasn't aware how much and had never noticed all of it before. He admitted surprise at having scooped up two tadpoles and two infant shrimp.
Just as the insects returned to their habitats, the water trappings were returned to the river.
The five-day program, which ends today, included a trek to discover and identify animal tracks — raccoon, opossum, deer and birds were found — and also had lessons about wildlife photography, solar cooking and kayaking.
A second camp next week will be aimed at students entering sixth and seventh grades. Enrollment is closed.
Participants pay $140 for the experience, which covers the entire cost of the camp, Paradis said, with no outlay required by the Hernando school district.
Beth Gray can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.