by Kate Wallace
Calling all nature explorers! If your kids like to collect leaves, twigs, pine cones, rocks and such, then a visit to the Nature Exchange at the Chattahoochee Nature Center should be on your agenda. Through the Nature Exchange program, kids bring in items they have found, learn about them with the help of a Nature Exchange staff member, then trade in their objects for points. Kids can redeem their points for other items from the CNC’s own collection. Items such as bones, insects and shells are available and kids aspire to earn enough points to take them home.
Since the program started in 2009, it has seen almost 4,000 exchanges.
Five-year-old Matias Garcia of East Cobb is saving up his points to acquire a certain animal bone he’s had his eye on. He and his mother Rebeca visit the Nature Exchange one or two times a week. A tiger’s eye rock and the shed of a bearded dragon are among Matias’more impressive finds.
Matias can maximize the points he receives if he’s done research on the items he brings to trade, so mom and son explore the Internet for a pre-trade lesson. “I’m learning right along with him actually,” Rebeca says.
The Chambrin family of East Cobb has also found the Nature Exchange to be an exciting outlet for their discoveries. Brothers Lucas, 10, and Julian, 8, have traded some impressive finds, such as deer antlers, a snapping turtle skeleton and a fox skull.
Their dad Hervé says, “I like seeing them aware of the natural world they’re living in and that they are respectful to animals and the environment.”
The Nature Exchange is in the Discovery Center Museum at the CNC. Kids are encouraged to practice thoughtfulness when collecting; they are asked not to take more than what they need. The program does not accept living animals, endangered plants, or anything found in a National Park. Aside from trading, families can hang out in the Nature Exchange and enjoy crafts, reading and artifact exploration.
Nature Exchange at the Chattahoochee Nature Center
9135 Willeo Rd., Roswell
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun., noon-5 p.m.
Cost: The Nature Exchange is included with admission to the CNC. Adults, $10; ages 3-12, $6; ages 2 and younger, free. Admission is free with CNC membership: $40 individual, $60 dual, $80 for the whole family.