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Banana boats kick off campfire cooking program

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MASSENA - At Christmas time, it’s chestnuts roasting on an open fire.

In the summer, it’s banana boats and other scrumptious creations, courtesy of the Friends of the Nature Center in Massena.

Banana boats were the menu item Friday night when the Nature Center held its first Friday Campfire Cooking program at the group’s trailhead on Barnhart Island.

“It’s the first official one,” Linda M. Besio, the center’s environmental educator said.

Before making their banana boats, however, the young participants sat at a picnic table and, using stamps of animals and animal tracks, created a “Track Book.” Ms. Besio said she had a helper for that activity in Tianna McMahon.

“I did it before they got here,” Tianna said as she showed Harold Shippee how to ink up the stamp and then transfer the picture to his book.

Once the coals in the fire were ready, it was time to make the evening’s treat using a banana, marshmallows and either butterscotch or chocolate chips.

“What do you think is the first thing you’re going to need?” Ms. Besio asked.

“A banana,” they replied.

Using a plastic knife, the participants hollowed out a portion of the banana.

“Poke in and cut almost to the bottom,” Ms. Besio told them. “We’re going to make a canoe. That’s the boat part.”

Once they had hollowed out the banana, they filled the space with chips and marshmallows.

“You don’t need a ton of them because if you fill them too full they all squash out,” she said.

After they filled their bananas, they put the top back on it and wrapped their banana boats in aluminum foil.

“They don’t have to be tight, tight,” Ms. Besio said.

Then they headed for the campfire, where she placed them on top of the coals.

“Why do we need the fire?” Harold Shippee wondered.

“Because we have to cook them,” Ms. Besio answered. “Save your spoon because you’re going to need them to eat it.”

Friday night was the first of four July Campfire Cooking programs. Visitors will make pineapple upside down cake on July 13, S’Mores on July 20 and Dessert Fruit Burritos on July 27. All the sessions run from 7 to 8 p.m., and a $2 per person donation is suggested.

In addition to the Campfire Cooking, guided hikes are held starting at 1 p.m. Mondays at the trailhead. Participants are invited to bring a picnic lunch to enjoy before the free hike.

Nature Day Camps for children ages 5 to 10 are also scheduled for 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays during July. The free programs and lunch are held outside on the trails.

Each day focuses on a special theme which children will explore by going on a hike, playing games and learning to use naturalist tools, such as binoculars.

Participants must come dressed for the weather and bring a lunch and drink. Class size is limited to 15 participants, so early pre-registration is strongly encouraged.

Upcoming Nature Day Camps are “Bird Basics” on Tuesday, “CSI; Critter Scene Investigation” on Thursday, “Animal Adaptations” on July 24, “Terrific Trees” on July 26 and “Beautiful Butterflies” on July 31.

Pre-registration is required for all programs. Participants may call 705-5022 to register or email ncrebirth@yahoo.com.

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