They ran in all directions, smiles on their faces and makeshift kites with long colorful ribbon tails fluttering behind them. It was a great day to be alive ... and to be a kid at Earthplace Center.

Saturday was observed as "Kite Making Day," a spring ritual that has faithfully been launched the past 10 years at the Woodside Lane environmental museum and preserve. More than a dozen families attended the event, as children constructed and decorated simple kites and then brought them outside to an open field to let them fly.

The program's coordinator, naturalist Margaret Ardwin, said, "It's a nice way of celebrating spring, getting the kids outside and introducing a little science. The kites are made of plastic trash bags, wooden dowels and kite string, with paper towel tubes to coil the string around. These are bag kites, so anyone can fly one. It doesn't take a lot to get the kite airborne."

Busily using colored markers to design the front face of her kite, Grace Katz, 7, of Westport, said, "It's a great day, especially for flying kites. It's fun to design them, then go fly them."

Michelle Petrino of Fairfield agreed with the youngster's weather assessment, which inspired her family's trek to Earthplace. "It's a beautiful day and this sounded like something fun to do," she said, "and age appropriate for my son, who's 3."

Outside, Steven Devino coached his sons Brian, 3, and Steven, 5, on effective flying techniques. He said he is a big fan of Earthplace, which "always puts together these great family events ... You always have something to do together that also has instructional value. And the kids are always exposed to nature and the outdoors as well."

The Kite Making Day program is just one of the many fun, educational activities the 53-year-old nature center offers. The facility also includes a 62-acre wildlife sanctuary with trails, an interactive natural history museum and animals.

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