By Beth Pinyerd
As I substitute teach and outreach in different community children’s’ ministries, we are focusing on God’s creation during April. God has given us a beautiful and lively world even right down to ants, doodlebugs, roly-poly, ladybugs, and young spring peepers.
Genesis 1:25 – “God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw it was good.”
Spring brings out a lot of nature’s creatures for the smallest of little nature lovers to enjoy! Safely and carefully look in the soil, under logs, and fallen leaves, inside special bumps on plants, near eaves and attics of homes to discover and find some of the following spring creatures. I have pulled out my spring classroom plans to share with my readers observations and facts. My resources of classroom lesson plans are based on observations, other teachers, experiences, and gleaning from many resources over the years.
Have you ever played with doodlebugs? When I take my class of little folks out to the playground, we look for clearly defined circles where we know doodlebugs reside. They are called doodlebugs because this little animal makes a track that zigzags in every direction as it crawls across the dry sand looking for a place to dig its pit. The children and I carefully slip down a long piece of pine straw into the hole, keep it down in the hole for a few minutes and gently pull the pine straw up. It’s like going fishing. At the end of the piece of pine straw you will be pleasantly surprised to see a little doodlebug curled up at the end. After taking a few minutes to observe, gently lower the doodlebug back down into its hole on the piece of pine straw. This is so fascinating to little ones and even grown-ups. In fact, this is a wonderful family science activity time!
Continuing on with bugs, I am personally a big fan of ladybugs. I have used pictures of ladybugs to decorate my spring bulletin boards. Here are a few fascinating facts of ladybugs that actually are appealing with its red wings and the black dots on its wings:
• There are 5,000 different kinds of ladybugs worldwide, 400 are in North America.
• Female ladybugs will lay more than 1,000 eggs during their lives.
• Ladybugs beat their wings 85 times a second when it flies!
• Ladybugs chew from side to side and not up and down like we people do.
• Ladybugs protect themselves by making a chemical that smells and tastes terrible so that birds and other animals that might prey on them stay away.
As I am lining up my little students for spring recess, our little snail friends usually greet us on the sidewalk or the edge of the sidewalk. We always take time to bend down and observe this unique little fellow. Here are a few snail facts that are very interesting:
• Snails’ bodies produce a thick slime which protects them from getting hurt.
• Because of the suction created by the slime, snails can actually crawl upside down.
• Snails usually are more active at night.
• Some snails can live to be 15 years old!
• As we already can observe, snails don’t see well. They strongly depend on the senses of touch and smell.
Don’t we all just love those roly-polys! All little folks are so fascinated how a roly poly can roll its body into a ball resembling a small pill. Our roly-poly friends are crustaceans which are surprisingly related to crayfish and shrimp. Again, we need to respect the lives of these little creatures when handling.
A spring science unit just cannot be complete unless you grab a clean bucket, go to nearby ponds or streams to gather tadpoles. Caring for tadpoles at school and at home and watching them turn into frogs (metamorphosis) is a fascinating and rewarding experience for young and we adults alike. In setting up the temporary home for the tadpoles, I have found it better to put them in a container that is shorter and wider as opposed to a container that is tall and narrow. It’s just easier to take care of them and observe them. Be sure the water is really clean. When you know that you are going to get tadpoles, be sure to get your water ready before you bring them home. It is like setting up an aquarium for fish. Tadpoles breathe with gills so that is why it is important to have clean water. In keeping tadpoles in my classroom and at home, I have usually fed them plant food in the form of clean little lettuce pieces. With tadpoles you feed them small quantities frequently.
One very neat family excursion after an April rain is to go walking and listen to the little frog called “peepers.” Even if you are in the car, so many times you can see little white forms jumping up after a shower. It may be rain but usually it is a little “peeper.”
I haven’t covered half of the “creature” observations and experiences that I know personally fascinate young children and make for family fun and learning, but maybe this will give you a very good start! Happy doodlebug hunting!
Pinyerd has taught young children in the early childhood classroom for 34 years as well as outreaching to the elderly in intergenerational settings. She has taught and outreached in the schools in Opelika and Baldwin County. She holds a master’s degree in early childhood education as well as a bachelor’s degree in family and child development both from Auburn University. Her husband is the late Carl Pinyerd and she has one son, Gus Pinyerd who has taught her so much about learning. Classroom Observer is here to serve the community in sharing the wonderful teaching programs in our local public schools, private schools, and homeschools. The column is provided to enrich the education of our children, youth, and families. Classroom Observer welcomes educational news, school news, pictures, and events by e-mailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.