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Kids are inquisitive. Their minds absorb like a sponge. They love to learn, but so often when we feel their attention waning, an hour or possibly a month later we are amazed at what they’ve remembered.

Hands-on projects seem to be the favorites of young people. Music and animations, cooking, science in action, gardening and even kicking a ball around are a few great teachers. Awareness, observing, processing and identifying are often lessons learned for a lifetime and create excellent communication skills.

Knowing that the interests of preschool-age boys and girls are constantly growing and full of reward, Mt. Lebanon resident Verna McGinley enjoys taking her Creative Environmental Education adventures all around the South Hills. Former education and outreach director of Pittsburgh’s National Aviary, Verna provides a variety of programing focusing on nature’s treasures for young people and even those of retirement age.

Verna takes her informative programming on the road as she visits libraries, schools and senior centers. It’s not difficult for her to gain an audience’s full attention during her presentations, as there are always a few surprises in her carrying cases. Parrots and owls, small birds, reptiles, amphibians, butterflies, rocks and fossils often accompany her.

Verna visits Noah’s Ark Preschool in McMurray monthly and has delighted its students for more than six years. Her love of children and diversity on speaking topics, after many years of being involved with environmental issues, includes puppetry, care of the human body through exercise and familiarizing young people with lifestyles of Native Americans, raising the anticipation level and interest of all ages.

Just last week, Verna, or Mother Nature as she is sometimes referred, headed to Noah’s Ark with a program on ponds and water creatures. She came prepared with glass-covered showcases filled with preserved critters and bugs, many familiar to local streams and seashells indigenous to ocean beaches. Eyes opened wide as she uncovered vessels of hermit crabs, crayfish, a lively mudpuppy and bull frog.

“I met my husband years ago at the Carnegie Museum, so he was familiar with my environmental interests,” said Verna. “For our wedding anniversary recently, my husband was excited about a gift he had waiting for me. Knowing that our house was home to not only many of God’s living creatures, but carcasses of those that didn’t survive, he was delighted to present me with a dead hawk to add to my menagerie. I had to remove the body cavity and dry it completely. The hawk will always remain a memorable gift.”

Dinosaurs, Birds of the Bible, Plants of the Bible and Children Around the World, with a focus on music and cultures, are successful learning experiences Verna takes to local neighborhoods.

Verna is happy to share her programs with others and only asks for a minimal donation of $25 to provide her living creatures with their unusual dietary needs. To reach Verna, call 412-343-8653.

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