Rainbows, four-leaf clovers, roly-polies, snails and tadpoles

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Beth Pinyerd

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1.

St. Patrick’s Day is here, you see,

We’ll pick some shamrocks, one, two, three.

As an early childhood teacher, I absolutely love St. Patrick’s Day, which is today. In addition to reminding myself to wear green to avoid those little fingers giving their teacher a kidding pinch, I remember that Saint Patrick’s Day is full of very interesting history.

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated each year on March 17. In Ireland, the Irish honor St. Patrick with both a holy day and a national holiday. The Irish cherish their beautiful green countryside and remind themselves of the beauty of their country by wearing green. Although it began in Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in countries around the world with parades and other festive traditions.

Key symbols that stimulate a lot of early childhood fun and curiosity are rainbows, four-leaf clovers, shamrocks and leprechauns.

Young children are so fascinated by the rainbow, a symbol of hope. They even try to catch a rainbow in a variety of ways. Rainbows are caused by the sun’s shining rays through drops of water during or after a rain. An experiment I have done over and over in the classroom (and that parents can do at home) is to put a clear glass full of water on a windowsill. Place a white sheet of paper on the floor in front of the window. Presto! A rainbow will be captured and reflected on the paper depending on how bright the sun is that day.

Another simple experiment that young children enjoy is using a water hose. The sun must be shining. Have your little one hold the hose where you can make a fine mist and find the rainbow. So many other neat lessons are found on the web with preschool lesson plan activities.

I know each of you recalls the desire to frantically find the rare gem of a four-leaf clover. Many a young child sits in the middle of a clover leaf bed to find that special four-leaf clover to make a wish on. I allow my young students to take out magnifying glasses and nature bags so that if they cannot find that one special four-leaf clover, they can gather other nature items to share back in the classroom or at home. Families, if weather permits, this week is a good time to take a spring nature walk.

Another delightful way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day is to make Shamrock Ice Cream sandwiches. Just make some green sugar cookie dough (or buy refrigerator rolls and mix in green food coloring), roll out the dough and cut out shamrock shapes with a cookie cutter. Bake as you would cookies. Take some green ice cream (vanilla with green food coloring, mint chip, green sherbet, or whatever your child’s favorite is), let it soften, then spread on the flat sides of the cookies, join the cookies together, wrap each sandwich in foil and freeze for two hours. These are yummy treats for your child to enjoy. I know my young students really enjoy this treat as we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Also, pick up green gum for your little ones to enjoy for a brief treat as well as green lollipops, green jellybeans, etc.

On your nature walk during spring, our little snail friends usually greet us on the sidewalk or the edge of the sidewalk. 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 that 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-polies! 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 that are, surprisingly, related to crayfish and shrimp. Again, we need to respect the lives of these little creatures when handling.

A spring science field trip can be grabbing a clean bucket and going 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 old 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 is 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, which is why it is important to have clean water. When keeping tadpoles in my classroom and at home, I have usually fed them clean little lettuce pieces. Feed them small quantities frequently.

One wonderful spring family excursion, especially after a spring rain, is to go walking and listen to the little frogs called “peepers.” Even if you are in the car, so many times you can see little white forms jumping up after a shower. Usually, it is a little peeper.

I hope these few suggestions help you and your child truly enjoy spring! Remember the young child you’re entertaining is like the rainbow: a hope and a promise. Let’s go find that four-leaf clover!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Beth Pinyerd, Classroom Observer

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