frog

Sally Wazny shows kids the checkerboard pattern of a red rat snake belly.

Sitting in a circle, 2-year-old Evan Bickford patiently waited to pet Lt. Dan, a red rat snake.

Evan and his brother, Zane Bickford, 4, were two of about 10 people who attended “Frogs and Friends Friday” at Morningside Nature Center, located at 3540 E. University Ave, to learn about reptiles and amphibians.

The free educational program is held the first Friday of each month and has been teaching toddlers and preschoolers for more than a decade, said Sally Wazny, the nature education supervisor for the city department of parks, recreation and cultural affairs.

The program will continue through May and then start back up in September, Wazny said.

Shermi Liang, Evan and Zane’s mom, said they try to visit the nature center every month.

“This is the most interactive they’ve been,” Liang said, noting how the children mimicked animal sounds and movements.

Wazny, who also directed the class, had the kids work on small, interactive activities such as coloring frog diagrams to take home. In addition to petting the snake, the kids were able to see a box turtle, snapping turtle and toad.

Wazny said she came up with the initial conception of program more than a decade ago, and its success has allowed it to continue.

“We’re hoping to inspire an appreciation of the natural environment,” she said.