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OXNARD : Kids Leave Rain Forest Program a Bit Smarter

All week, the two dozen children attending the rain forest day camp at Oxnard’s Gull Wings Children’s Museum studied the tropical rain forest, fashioned papier-mache animals and ate exotic foods.

By Friday, as Clara Alvear of Ventura grasped a length of dried cactus and turned it over, the children could hear the sound of rain--actually a melodic cascade of tiny pebbles inside the “rain stick.”

“This is what the Indians used when they wanted to call forth the rain,” said Alvear, who demonstrated a variety of musical instruments used by the rain forest’s native residents.

As Alvear tapped out an infectious beat on a four-note percussion box from Argentina, a tow-headed boy leaped to his feet and performed an impromptu dance.

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Watching from the sidelines, museum director Gig Wishon declared the 4-year-old museum’s first summer camp a success. Interest in the camp by museum members was so keen, she noted, that the museum was forced to place some children on a waiting list.

During the five mornings of the camp, the museum scheduled a whirlwind of hands-on activities to teach the children lessons about the rain forest.

“The rain forests are so interesting to kids,” Wishon said. “Not only are the plants and plant medicines interesting, but the children find the colorful foods and tropical animals fascinating.”

“They learn from doing, tasting, seeing and digging their hands through papier-mache,” Wishon said.

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