Word warriors

MARQUETTE — Firearm deer season began Wednesday, but hunting and tracking of a different sort took place Thursday at the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum.

“Hunting” letters and “tracking” words were part of the evening’s activities during the latest Literacy Night at the museum, sponsored by the Literacy Legacy Fund of Michigan with assistance from the Marquette County Steelworkers Coalition.

Participants could have fun during “Hunting & Tracking Reading Night” while learning about words during activities like the Big Letter Hunt, making trail mix and story karaoke. They also could take home a free book on their way out.

Zachary Gostlin, a park ranger at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, helped youngsters match animal track casts with their photographs.

The purpose of the game was to help kids associate tracks with animals and give them an idea of species found in the Upper Peninsula, Gostlin said.

In this game, touching the casts was allowed — and even urged.

“We encourage them to pick them up actually, you know, feel them, touch them, and then try to match with whatever animal it is,” Gostlin said.

One of the largest tracks was one of a black bear, while one of the smallest was of an ermine. In-between were tracks from animals like the woodchuck, raccoon, bobcat and striped skunk.

“There’s a variety too,” Gostlin said. “Some kids really like the mountain lion as their favorite animal, or the wolf. The big ones.”

The focus, he said, was on local species, although some animals, like the woodchuck, are more common downstate.

Encouragement on a job well done also was a part of the matching game. Gostlin told two youngsters as they successfully finished the activity: “You did it. You’re budding naturalists.”

Pictured Rocks staff also operated a table where kids could make their own tracks with a stamp game, plus there was a “rubbing station” from which they could take home copies of their tracks.

The ever-popular children’s activity — face painting — was part of the evening as well.

In charge of the painting duties was Northern Michigan University student Michelle Gerdom, who is majoring in clinical laboratory science.

She was helping out “just for fun,” she said.

Butterflies and cars were some of the recommended figures, she said.

“I can make them a Dalmatian, their initials, because tonight’s the letters,” Gerdom said.

The museum, located at 123 W. Baraga Ave., will host its Second Thursday Creativity Series from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Dec. 14, with “Charlie Brown” the theme.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.