Sunset was still a couple of hours away Monday as the Great Bend Public Library started its first of three Nocturnal Night programs. A crowd of children, mostly in grades K through 2, showed up with their parents to learn more about nocturnal creatures.
Everyone in the community has been invited to read “The World According to Humphrey,” a book about an intelligent classroom hamster. Maybe that’s why most of the children already knew what it means to be “nocturnal.” A nocturnal animal mostly sleeps during the day and is active at night.
Pam Martin, a Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism educator from the Kansas Wetlands Education Center, told children that hamsters are part of an animal family called “rodents.” Their cousins range in size from the pygmy mouse, which weighs less than an ounce, the to capybara, which can weigh more than 150 pounds.
“Rodents are everywhere, except Antarctica and New Zealand,” Martin said.
She passed around a piece of wood that had been gnawed by a beaver as she explained that rodents’ incisors never stop growing. “They have to always be chewing.”
She also showed the children a pair of live prairie dogs, and taught them to do a prairie dog greeting, or “yahoo.”
As children who have been reading “Humphrey” know, the hero of the book is a golden hamster. Martin said members of that species are all descendents of fierce, wild hamsters discovered in Syria and first mentioned in 1797.
More Nocturnal Night events are planned from 5-6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 6, and Wednesday, Oct. 7. Tuesday’s program is designed for children in grades 3 and 4, and Wednesday’s is for grades 5 and 6. Each night, children can hear fun stories, make a hamster craft and learn cool information about hamsters and other nocturnal animals courtesy of the library staff and educators from the Kansas Wetlands Education Center.
Parents who have children who are close in age but different grades may choose to bring them on one night. However, staff note that the activities planned for younger children may be boring for older ones, while the activities planned for older children may be too difficult for young ones.