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Islip Eco-Carnival gets kids in touch with nature for Earth Day

Anna Bolze, 3, of Setauket, walks the Alewife

Anna Bolze, 3, of Setauket, walks the Alewife Challenge at Islip's Eco-Carnival, hosted by the Seatuck Environmental Association and Suffolk County Department of Parks, Recreation & Conservation, April 25, 2015.

When Tom Vitti scanned the marshes, woods and lawns of the Seatuck Environmental Association's property Saturday he was thrilled by what he didn't see.

"It's nice to see no cellphones, no iPads, no screen time. This is a no-screen-time zone," said Vitti, a Seatuck volunteer.

Instead, at his "insect adventure" station at Seatuck's sixth annual Eco-Carnival in Islip, kids plowed their hands through the dirt and dug into a rotted log. Their finds included ticks, pill bugs, worms and slugs.

The Eco-Carnival, part of continuing Earth Day festivities, aims to teach youngsters how to appreciate and observe nature.

But there was also face-painting, grilled hamburgers, live music and a special appearance by Jungle Bob, who wowed the crowd with a live alligator, bearded dragon and a prehistoric-looking snapping turtle.

Self-proclaimed nature lover Mercades Zeliniski, 11, of Bay Shore, walked the winding dirt paths through salt marshes before hitting the insect station, where she proudly announced her discovery of "a larva of something."

Mercades said she and her mom, Barbara Sparling, 42, spend a lot of time outdoors together, walking in parks, looking for wildlife.

"A lot of people like to stay home and do nothing," Mercades said, adding that her 13-year-old sister is one of them.

Of the Eco-Carnival, she said: "This can help people to appreciate what we have and get outside."

Carolyn Flynn, an environmental educator, manned a station where children learned about trees and made leaf and bark rubbings on paper. She was happy to see hundreds of kids getting up close and personal with nature.

"If they become aware of their environment and get enjoyment from it . . . then they're going to make good decisions the rest of their life, whether in a career or in a store or in a voting booth," Flynn said.

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