Did you know that wood frogs have natural antifreeze in their cells? Pigeons are descendants of escapee rock doves. You can estimate the temperature outside by counting cricket chirps. Ants will actually farm aphids so they can steal the sweet syrup that they produce. Nature is full of fascinating tales.
As a science teacher, I’m constantly looking for new, engaging resources to share with my students, and The Kid’s Guide to Exploring Nature fits the bill. It also provides a great opportunity for parents to expose their children to the wonders of the natural world around them. The book is organized according to seasons, which makes it easy to find just the right activity any time of year.
Each section is further divided into ecosystems, including woodlands, city, and beach. The book contains beautiful illustrations of these ecosystems that identify common plants and animals of the Northeast. It also includes sidebars that describe nature-oriented jobs such as nature educator, field biologist, and horticulturalist.
The Kid’s Guide is full of nature activities, including journaling ideas, scavenger hunts, and much more. One activity that I would especially recommend is titled “See Salamanders Dance the Night Away.” It describes how to go out on the right spring night with flashlights and observe the spotted salamander making its rare appearance. They come out of the ground only once a year to mate, but if you’re lucky enough to witness hundreds of these yellow-spotted salamanders competing for attention in a vernal pool, you won’t regret the effort. I remember doing this as a first-year student at Paul Smith’s College with my biology classmates and Professor Curt Stager. Twenty years later, it’s still one of the great memories that I have that really reinforced my love and fascination with nature.
This book can be used by children, and even adults, of all ages. I, myself, find it a useful and an easily accessible resource for brushing up on some of the common organisms of the Northeast. It doesn’t include really complicated language, but it does include a lot of great science vocabulary (including the scientific names of plants and animals). Specialized words such as rhizomes, invasive, and species are printed in boldface type and defined in a glossary at the back of the book.
Young or old, city or forest dweller, if you want to connect with nature—or get your child interested in nature—The Kid’s Guide is a great resource. We can all benefit from being mindful of the living things that surround us, whether it be a weed on the sidewalk or a bird in a secluded woodland.
Jaime Armstrong, a longtime resident of the Saranac Lake area, is science teacher in the Gilboa-Conesville Central School District.