Friday, January 13, 2017

Nature: The Original Seek and Find

I miss our fun summer afternoons! Each day, my four-year-old pulled me out the door to go check on the frogs in the nearby pond and the run-off creek from the pond. We're lucky to have the community pond just in front of our house and the little creek on the border of our place. This has opened up so much to our outdoor time--you can basically find us at the creek most afternoons! Here are a few of the many things we found:
  • Frogs! Lots and lots of frogs! We typically find green frogs and bull frogs, though we have seen a Pickerel frog and a few others. So exciting and motivating to keep working to develop skills to actually be able to catch a frog!

  • Time to work together! These kids use their skills to help each other look for frogs. They share their finds before putting them back. We have tallies of frogs found each day, playing I Spy with frogs. We learn to be still and sit quietly as we wait for our eyes to adjust to the camouflaged frogs and eyes sticking out of the top of the water. Each day our skills increase and we find more frogs. 

  • Practice using tools. We find a few basic tools help us explore better. We typically have small aquarium/dipping nets and a few buckets. These are the basics we need, though will sometimes bring a larger net. The small nets are great for younger children as it's easier for them to manage. They start training themselves to anticipate where the frog will go and scoop there. Other good additions might be a field guide, magnifying glasses, and recording sheets on a clip board. Honestly, they were just enthralled by the discovery. See links to tools we often use at the end of the post. 

  • Discoveries! When a child brings something to show you, you pay attention, even if you don't really know what it is just yet. There were so many discoveries as we explored our little piece of heaven. 
  • Turtles! We love finding turtles! The neighbor mentioned a snapping turtle always lays eggs on her property. Another neighbor called to let me know a large turtle was out where we might find it. Love this! We actually don't see adult turtles here too often, but one of the byproducts of watching the stream and pond all the time is to find all these cute turtles when they are tiny young things. It seems like we found these ones mostly in early fall. Check out the underside of the snapping turtle--note there is little shell on the bottom side. On top, it is a little more spiky and almost looks armored. My son was obsessed with these and alligator snapping turtles as we have a toy turtle he plays with all the time. We watched videos, played with puppets, and talked about them all the time inside as well. We also found a small leatherback or soft-shell turtle. So neat! I love the pointy nose we see just sticking out of the water. 


  • Tadpoles! As we walked along the rocks, we've found that we heard little splashes. With more investigation, we found the tadpoles love hiding in the rocky shore. We often can just turn over the rocks in this area and find tadpoles pretty easily. There is a splash right after we move a rock and it often creates a small pond that traps the tadpole there while we catch. We make sure we have wet hands to handle the tadpoles and always put them back when we're done investigating them. Having a truly hands-on activity to investigate tadpoles has built a love for amphibians in these kids. Can't wait until spring and the changes we see then! 

  • Using our feet to get to know the land. This is the run-off area from the pond. We might have traipsed through this a few times! Notice the bare feet. On pleasant days, you'll often see our toes in the mud along the creek. 
  • Lessons learned! We had a really interesting experience with this spring peeper. Most of the frogs we find are aquatic as we find them in the water. However, the boys ran into this spring peeper in the nearby edge of the forest, not too far from the water. They caught it and ran to tell me about it and put it back in the water when they were done looking at it. We don't find spring peepers too often--not the distinct X on the back. They mentioned what they thought they found and that they had put it in the water. This was a great time to discuss where different frogs learn, retrieve it from the water (glad it was still there) and find a more appropriate home for it. Another lesson learned during first hand experiences! 
  • Time outside in nature! Seriously . . . every day! We are building observation skills, focus, nature knowledge, patience, and so much more. Yes, there were things we should have been doing, but I wouldn't trade any of the afternoons I spent half an hour to two hours watching frogs with my boys outside! Priceless! 

Looking forward to our next summer and fall in the water finding frogs! 

Tools used (aff links):