Interpreter introduces kids to the living world underground

By: Sara Kandel | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published July 31, 2013

 Michelle Serreyn, an interpreter with Huron-Clinton Metroparks, shows a snake at the Roseville Public Library July 25 for the Underground program.

Michelle Serreyn, an interpreter with Huron-Clinton Metroparks, shows a snake at the Roseville Public Library July 25 for the Underground program.

Photo by Sara Kandel


ROSEVILLE — An interpreter from the Huron-Clinton Metroparks introduced local youngsters to the living world beneath their feet in the program Underground at the Roseville Public Library July 25.

Roseville resident Michelle Serreyn is an interpreter, or naturalist, at Lake St. Clair Metropark, formerly known as Metro Beach. Other than taking care of the nature center there, her job is to develop nature programs for school groups, scout groups and the general public, so when she agreed to come to the Roseville Public Library for a special program on life underground, librarian Annamarie Lindstrom was ecstatic.

“We are just so lucky to have her here,” Lindstrom said. “Like everyone else, the parks have had to undergo budget cuts, and this type of community outreach doesn’t happen as often, especially with someone as good as Michelle. This is what she does — she creates these programs — so they are all very interesting.”

Serreyn kicked off the program by reading aloud the book “Underground,” by Denise Fleming. While she read, images from the book were projected on an overhead screen and the two-dozen or so kids in attendance circled pictures of the animals they saw on a white board they were supplied with upon arrival.

Story time didn’t last long, and once it was over, the fun of hands-on experiences began. One by one, Serreyn reviewed all the animals mentioned in the book.

“How many of you have a dog at home?” Serreyn asked. “You know how when you pet it in one direction, the fur lays down smooth, but if you pet it in another direction, it stands up tall? Mole fur grows in both directions, so it doesn’t do that — they have to be able to swim deep down into the dirt and climb up again.”

Serreyn passed around a mounted mole and then asked for a volunteer whom, using goggles, garden gloves, a fur vest and a makeshift whiskered nose, she dressed up like a mole to stand in the front of the room with her and do the mole dance.

“Ants live in colonies,” Serreyn told the kids, before asking for a volunteer. “There’s a queen ant. And do you know what she does all day? Her only job is to lay eggs. That’s all she does all day.”

After placing a tiara on the first volunteer’s head, Serreyn asked for more volunteers. She gave some aprons and told them they were nurse ants. To others, she gave construction hats, rakes and shovels — they were the worker ants. She gave another group shields and swords — they were soldiers. She handed sippy cups to the last group. They were the baby ants.

“Ants use their antennas to communicate,” Serreyn explained, handing the queen a squirt bottle. “And the queen sends out messages to them by spraying chemicals.”

Serreyn instructed the queen to tell the nurses to feed the babies, the workers to dig and the soldiers to guard using sprays of the bottle. Between bouts of laughter, the kids played out their commands.

From the smiles and looks of wonderment on all their faces, it was hard for the kids to imagine anything that could make the program even better than it already was.

And that’s when Serreyn brought out the live animals: first a field mouse, whom she affectionately called Pippin, and then a toad. Leaning in close, the kids watched with delight as the little toad slurped up a worm Serreyn placed in front of it.

Next, Serreyn brought out an Eastern fox snake, and as she walked around the room to let each child pet it, she spoke of its natural defenses — biting, constricting, vibrating its tail and spraying a foul-smelling musk.

“It was really cool,” said 10-year-old Brennan Chojnacki. “I really liked it.”

The program was a big success; as the kids were walking out to the parking lot, the program was all they could talk about. In just a short time, Serreyn had fostered a curiosity and wonderment of nature in each of them that carried on even after the program ended.

For information on programs at Huron-Clinton Metroparks, visit or call (586) 463-4332. For information on programs at the Roseville Public Library, visit www.roseville or call (586) 445-5407.