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The live rabbit, the yellow-bellied slider turtle, the bearded dragon lizard and the Madagascar hissing cockroaches were docile in their cages. The action started when dozens of plastic ducks took to the water, with encouraging quacks from the sidelines. The Duck Race and Pluck, the Evanston Ecology Center’s annual fundraiser, held this year on Aug. 27 at the lagoon at Dawes Park, combines an educational display for children with the whimsy of the faux-duck faux race: Blue, pink, green and yellow ducks splashed around the lagoon on a current created by volunteers with canoe paddles.

Lauren Carothers and her sister Megan volunteer with the Ecology Center’s Critter Crew. Lauren is also working on her Girl Scout Bronze award, as is Alexa Dolinko, who helped out that day with the critters.

“When I work there, it’s really fun, because we feed the animals. When people come in, they learn about the animals,” Lauren told the audience of about 50 people who had gathered at the lagoon to cheer on their web-footed friends.

“We know that the animals have a good home,” her sister Megan added.

Attention then turned to the bright-colored ducks. Sponsors who had paid either $10 for a duck or $25 for a quack-pack of three came to the microphone to cheer on their favorites.

On this serene Saturday afternoon in the Midwest, miles away from the crashing waves of Hurricane Irene, the Ecology Center’s ducks bobbed merrily in the sheltered, man-made current in Dawes Park’s lagoon.