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Spring Explorers!

What better time to entice your gang into nature than when the whole wide world is coming back to life? Here are four great ways to celebrate the new season and bring out the outdoor adventurer lurking inside every kid.




Call Out the Worms

Find an area of loose, slightly moist soil (the dirt under a log or landscape timber works well) and push a 12- to 18-inch-long stick two to three inches into the ground. Vigorously rub another stick from side to side against it for about 2 minutes and watch as any worms in the area wriggle to the surface. Try several areas in the yard to see which ones are the hottest worm hangouts, and keep an eye out for baby worms, which are in abundance this time of year.

Catch a Breath

This easy experiment can be conducted anywhere there's a patch of grass and sidewalk, and proves that plants are breathing in the spring air too.

Invert a clean, empty glass jar over a patch of grass in the sunlight. Place another jar over concrete or asphalt. Leave the jars for an hour, then return to examine them. The inside of the grass jar will be coated with droplets of water, while the other jar should be mostly dry inside. 


Track Trap

While you can see many animals that make your backyard their home during the day -- birds and rabbits, for example -- many others only come out at night. This footprint-catching "trap" lets kids investigate who's hanging out after dark.

Place a white sheet, folded in half, in an area of the yard where animals are most likely to visit (near a hedge, for instance, or a compost pile). Place cut-up fruit, bread spread with peanut butter, sliced carrots, or hard-boiled eggs in the center, then spread a foot-wide band of dirt around the edges of the sheet. Using a watering can, wet both the sheet and the soil and leave it overnight. The next morning, check your trap to see if any animals have taken the bait, then try to identify them by their tracks. Reset your trap in other spots around the yard -- you might attract different animals in different places.

Pond Explorers

Ponds are teeming with living things, large and small, especially in the springtime. A simple embroidery hoops sifter lets kids get up close and personal with the fascinating critters -- bugs, snails, tiny shrimp, crayfish, and more -- that call the pond's floor home.

Cut two circles from tulle that are slightly larger than a 7-inch embroidery hoop. Place the hoop between the circles. Staple the pieces together around the hoop's perimeter, pulling the tulle tight. (It's easiest to staple one side first, pull it tight and staple the opposite side. Then continue stapling around the hoop.) Now find an area of the pond where plants are growing or draping into the water Lower the hoop into the soil on the pond's floor, sweeping it slowly back and forth, then gently raise it out of the water (it may take a few sweeps to collect something). Transfer your findings to a small plastic container filled with pond water. When you've finished your examination, gently return the critters to their home.  A finely meshed bug net works really well for this too.

Posted on Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 10:49AM by Registered CommenterSusie | Comments1 Comment

Reader Comments (1)

Do you have jars for collecting then releasing bugs, insects?

August 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDidi

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