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Warm weather draws crowds to Runge Center holiday program


Kids feel a stuffed coyote held up by Becky Matney, a staff member at Runge Nature Center, that was hidden in the tall grass to point out the animal’s ability to camouflage itself on the Camo Trail Walk on Saturday morning. The walk was a part of the Holiday Happenings: Designed by Nature event.

Kids feel a stuffed coyote held up by Becky Matney, a staff member at Runge Nature Center, that was hidden in the tall grass to point out the animal’s ability to camouflage itself on the Camo Trail Walk on Saturday morning. The walk was a part of the Holiday Happenings: Designed by Nature event. Katie Alaimo/News Tribune

“Nature by Design” was this year’s theme for Holiday Happenings at the Runge Nature Center held Friday and Saturday.

More than 1,000 visitors were expected to attend the annual event, which has become a part of many families’ post-Christmas traditions.

Activities were organized not only to help visitors notice some the patterns found in nature, but also to prompt the realization that almost everything in the natural world is designed for a purpose, said Robin Grumm, assistance nature center manager.

One of those lessons was on “biomimicry,” a word that describes the way human researchers turn to nature to solve problems.

For example, Swiss enginneer George de Mestral studied under a microscope the burrs that clung to his dog’s coat after a hunting trip. He noticed how thousands of tiny hooks caused the seed pods to stick tight to animal’s fur. By 1955, he had patented Velcro.

The silken webs spun by spiders — covered in a substance that reflects ultraviolet rays — is another example of science mimicking nature. Birds can sense that reflective substance and avoid entangling themselves. German engineers learned to copy the spider’s technology in order to create protective glass that birds will also avoid.

“Nature gives humans ideas for inventions,” Grumm said. “Hopefully we’re helping people see nature in a new light.”

Visitors were invited to take guided walks outdoors, take in puppet shows, try their hands at a few arts and crafts booths and nosh on snacks.

Grumm said encouraging families to explore the center’s outdoor trails is one of her goals, so she was gratified the warmer weather cooperated. While walking outdoors, visitors were encouraged to see all the ways in which flora and fauna use camouflage to protect themselves.

“For example, the bars and stripes on owls help those birds blend in with the bark of trees,” Grumm suggested.

Many who came out to enjoy Runge’s offerings were parents of young children.

Jeannie Snider of Fulton said her children enjoyed the puppet show that explained how animals adapt to winter weather via hibernation, migration or adaptation.

“We had a house full of six little ones and we decided to give them room to play,” Snider said.

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