Service corps provides week of nature lessons at Tri-City libraries (w/video)

Noah Koeller didn't know there'd be bugs at the Richland Public Library when he went with his mom and brother to pick up a book.

So he was pleasantly surprised to find critters from the McNary National Wildlife Refuge set up at some tables in the back.

The 5-year-old from Richland likes bugs "because they wiggle," he said.

He sifted through mud and water and used a microscope to examine the freshwater invertebrates he found.

The activity was part of a spring break program at public libraries in the Tri-Cities put on by the Regional Service Corps in Pasco.

Activities continue today.

Volunteers from the service corps, which is part of AmeriCorps, commit to spending 10 months helping the community.

Most of this year's crew serves as literacy tutors in the Pasco School District, said Jenifer Munson, program assistant.

They also put on events for students during breaks from school. This week's activities are centered on nature, conservation and recycling because it's Earth Month.

Iguanas, snails and guinea pigs have been among the special guests.

"Kids love the animals when they come in, the bugs," Munson said.

That was true Wednesday. Noah and a couple other kids checked out water fleas and water boatmen.

They got help from service corps members and McNary refuge volunteers.

"I think it's fantastic," said Beth Koeller, Noah's mom, as she watched her boy use a spoon to catch bugs in the water.

Noah's brother, Derek, 7, also was at the library. He wasn't as interested in checking out the critters.

But Sai Kukkadapu, 6, of Richland, seemed to have fun.

"I spooned (the bugs) out and looked at them," the little boy said. "It was cool."

The microscopes and magnifiers were set up next to plastic containers of water and dark mud. There also was a poster that talked about the "web of life" and different bugs found at the refuge.

Service corps members and McNary volunteers said they hope the activities will help inspire a lifelong love of nature in the children.

"If we can connect all these kiddos with nature, it's a few less hours in front of the TV," said Debbie Jennings from the McNary refuge. "If they get that interest and want to help save the planet ... We'll have some open spaces for these (bugs) to grow."

The students also got to do a craft and hear a story about a rainbow fish and a whale.

Sessions are from noon to 2 p.m. and from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. today at the Richland Public Library and the Keewaydin Park, Kennewick, West Richland and Pasco branches of the Mid-Columbia Library System.