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New Hyde Park students learn how animals eat food

Ava Frising, 7, a second-grader at Manor Oaks

Ava Frising, 7, a second-grader at Manor Oaks Elementary School, was among the 17 children in grades 2-5 to explore the unusual ways sea creatures and other animals find food during Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Museum's Sea Cookie Workshop at the Hillside Public Library in New Hyde Park. On the right, Gina Van Bell, 32, of Hicksville, represented the museum. (Jan. 29, 2013) Credit: Brittany Wait

Rylan Moraes, 7, frosted a shortbread cookie with blue icing, added marshmallow for eyes, coco berries for lips and a chocolate chip for a nose, covering it in blue sprinkles.

The second-grader at New Hyde Park Road School was among the 17 children who learned the unusual ways animals eat food at Hillside Library in New Hyde Park.

“The coolest thing I learned was that Starfish eat food with their stomachs outside their body,” said Moraes, of New Hyde Park.

Gina Van Bell, educator at the Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Museum, impressed the students in grades 2-5 the most with the fact that Starfish can turn their stomachs inside out to partially digest food that is too large to fit in its mouth.

Van Bell then held out a shark jaw, running her fingers over its sharp teeth, explaining how they tear through their prey before swallowing.

“Some animals eat in amazing ways,” Van Bell, 32, of Hicksville, said to the students. “Our saliva helps break down and digest our food to get to our belly. Some animals don’t have teeth and some have teeth, but don’t use them and other animals swallow rocks.”

Van Bell started by asking the group, “How do we get food to our stomach?”

Julia Esposito, 7, a second grader at New Hyde Park Road School, raised her hand, adding, “We take our hand, put the food in our mouth and chew it and then it goes into our belly.”

Other students were more excited to talk about their pets. One child mentioned her pet bird, who uses his feet to eat.

Roby Shaji, 7, a second grader at Hillside Grade School, added, ”I think it’s really cool that snakes use their poison to make animals stop moving and swallow their entire food in one gulp.“

Van Bell and the kids played a memory game, which involved matching pictures of tools with animals to demonstrate how animals find, catch and eat their food.

For example, they matched-up coral with tape to explain how coral catches its tiny floating prey and also a shark with a knife because sharks tear their prey first.

“I just think it’s so important to teach these kids more about the creatures that live in the ocean,” Van Bell said. “This game and the artifacts I brought pique their interest in places of mystery. This is a great way for them to learn what they can, as early as they can.”

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