Maybe you shouldn't tell the kids, not yet.

But just in the past week, a splendid, rock-shored miniature of the Russian River and its wetlands has sprung up at the under-construction Children's Museum of Sonoma County.

When the outdoor phase of the museum opens in March on West Steele Lane, next to the Schulz Museum, youngsters will learn about aquatic ecosystems as they toss in tiny, simulated salmon up near the headwaters and "fish" for them downstream in a river pool.

Chicago-based Aquascape Inc. created the naturally filtered water feature in just a week with about 100 tons of boulders provided at a good price by Canyon Rock and SBI Materials.

When I went by for a look Monday, silent pumps sent about 20,000 gallons of water per hour down the channel, over the cascades and up the bubbling stones.

It's gorgeous, and it injects a new degree of reality into the $8 million hands-on museum envisioned by founder Collette Michaud. With a bit more than $1 million still to raise, she and a legion of helpers are intent on opening the indoors portion of the museum to kids by next summer.

Be prepared, parents and grandparents. The place of discovery coming together a stone's throw from Coddingtown is a place the little ones won't want to leave.

<strong>THANKS TO EMMA:</strong> It's always an enchanted evening, the October in Paradise gala at Fountain Grove's Paradise Ridge Winery to benefit the Task Force for the Homeless.

An event sponsor, Louisa Leavitt, devised a way to make the musical awards banquet this Thursday even better than usual.

She suggested inviting Emma Frey. She's the 15-year-old who celebrated her recent birthday by packing dozens of lunch and gift bags with a friend and presenting them to people living on the streets.

Emma and her folks RSVP'd that they will love to be there, but they may head down the hill before October in Paradise wraps up about 10 p.m. It is a school night.

<strong>NO WAITING ROOM</strong> of an ophthalmology office has hosted a scene quite like the one the other evening at Santa Rosa's Eye Care Institute.

Nearly 40 people, many of them Latino vineyard or landscape workers, awaited a free exam. Some learned of the opportunity from outreach workers who visited the Graton Day Labor Center.

Of the 40, Eye Care Institute docs found 24 suitable for surgery to correct potentially blinding conditions, including Pterygium, related to prolonged exposure to sunlight.

Operation Access of the Bay Area is a partner in the day of complementary surgery that will happen soon.

<em>Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and</em>