NEW VINEYARD — The snow was piled deep outside New Vineyard Library Tuesday, Feb. 19. So deep, in fact, that it was hard to imagine an afternoon of seashore exploration waited inside the door at the end of the narrow shoveled path. But it was the promise of small coastal sea creatures which attracted dozens of children and their families to the tiny library nestled in the mountains. The event, hosted by the library, was a Chewonki Foundation Traveling Natural History Program presentation of Tide Pools.

Meagan Fletcher, 6, of New Vineyard gives an uncertain look at a variety of ocean creatures at the New Vineyard Library Tuesday, Feb. 19. The library hosted a tide pool Traveling Natural History Program presented by the Chewonki Foundation of Wiscasset. Franklin Journal photo by Dee Menear

As attendees gathered for the interactive program, Chewonki Foundation science educator Jessica Woodend asked, “Do you know there are wild animals in the library right now?”

The response from the group was a resounding, “Yes.”

Before children were able to see – and touch – those wild animals, Woodend explained what life was like for the coastal critters. Some of the challenges, she said, were dealing with changing water levels as tides ebb and flow, cold-water living, and trying not to get tossed about in crashing waves.

Dressed in a barnacle costume, Woodend told the group the animal she was portraying would glue its head to a rock to stay put. “Eating is really difficult to do when your head is glued to a rock,” she said. “Barnacles use their barnacle feet to catch food and bring it to their barnacle mouths to eat.”

West Marble, 3, of Farmington found this concept hilarious and giggled uncontrollably, much to the delight of the adults lined against the back wall of the room.

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Despite the temptation of exploring the traveling saltwater tanks, Woodend kept a captive audience as she talked about snails, crabs, mussels, starfish and more.

Peyton Burnham, 5, of Farmington touches a horseshoe crab Tuesday, Feb. 19 at New Vineyard Library. The library hosted a tide pool Traveling Natural History Program presented by the Chewonki Foundation of Wiscasset. Franklin Journal photo by Dee Menear

“The animals get really nervous about meeting new people,” she said. “If you get nervous when you meet new people, then you know what that’s like. We need to be nice and quiet so the animals don’t get nervous.”

Children were encouraged to touch the animals but were cautioned not to take them out of the water. “You have to hold your breath when you go underwater,” she said. “These animals have to hold their breath when they come out of water.”

Woodend opened the tanks. Horseshoe crabs, sea urchins, starfish, mussels, crabs awaited touches by tiny fingers. At first, only a few brave youngsters dared to dip their fingers in the water.

“It’s spikey,” said Meagan Fletcher, 6, of New Vineyard as she touched the shell of a horseshoe crab.

Before long, even the most timid of the 68 attendees had broken the surface of the cold water and at least attempted to feel one of the lifeforms before them.

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“What we do is teach people about the natural environment,” said Woodend. “Some people come to us for programs. What I do is bring the programs to you.

Celena Faris, left, and her son Malachai Faris, 2, of New Vineyard react to a travel tank of coast sea creatures at the New Vineyard Library on Tuesday, Feb. 19. Franklin Journal photo by Dee Menear

According to the Chewonki Foundation website, all of the birds, reptiles, mammals, and amphibians in the Chewonki program arrived with injuries or conditions that prevent their return to the wild. After recuperating, non-releasable animals visit schools, libraries and other venues to educate and inspire a life-long love of the natural world.  Chewonki teachers are extensively trained and take deep pleasure in making connections with students, and in passing on a lifelong appreciation for the value of wildlife and nature.

“This is a really great turnout,” said library trustee Suzee Woods. “It is much better than we anticipated. We are trying to offer more programs for people to enjoy.”

On Thursday, March 14 at 6:30 p.m. the library, in conjunction with the New Vineyard Historical Society, will host a unique look at the Rangeley region of the 19th century. Rangeley Lakes Historical Society Director Bill Pierce, of New Vineyard, will share authentic vintage stereoview images, which will come to life with the 3D glasses. A 1930’s film will also be shown.  There is no charge to attend the presentation and all are welcome, said Woods.

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