We’re all off on a Snail Hunt ….. try putting it to the music of ‘We’re all off to the zoo tomorrow, zoo tomorrow, zoo tomorrow ….. ‘
It goes quite well!!!
But, of course a snail hunt is no fun if you are not likely to find snails!
The idea of this blog is that you choose to hunt something that you KNOW you are likely to find plus you rule out animals (and plants) that are likely to cause actual harm. That will rule out lions, tigers, rattlesnakes, poisonous jellyfish, cacti and unfriendly dogs. Involve your children in the initial search as this will make them much more enthusiastic. Look up habitats and methods of collection just in case you do decide to take a creature home but I hope you won’t.
So what are we left with?
This depends on where you are and the time of the year so, yes you will need to do a little research
In Europe in the spring we could be looking at :
Well yes..definitely bees and they are very interesting to observe … NOT collect obviously! Children will ask lots of questions. Try to resist spoonfeeding them the answer. Instead say, ‘What do you think? Why is that?’ Then if necessary give hints … why are they visiting the flowers? What can you see on their legs? Why are they buzzing? Why are they so brightly striped?
In addition to bees there may be Caterpillars, butterflies, frogspawn, spring flowers, sprouting buds, blossom, lizards, birds nests, badgers, young animals like lambs and calves and ducklings. Hedgehogs, Rabbits, Badgers, Deer.
It doesn’t have to be something you can collect but yes, I know children love to collect.! But they can always take home something to remind them of an animal. Something to make a model animal from.
Obviously from the conservation aspect there are definitely some things you must not collect or interfere with like birds nests or eggs. If you do capture a live animal, like a Caterpillar or lizard or spider then it is very important that you only do this for a minimum observation time and return it to its habitat. If you take magnifying giasses and a sketch pad, tablet or camera then there should be no need to remove the animal at all as an observation can be done on the spot.
So,what should you be looking at?
Obviously features that make it an insect, reptile, amphibian, bird or mammal etc.
It’s colour . It’s shape.
How does it move? What does it eat? How does it catch its prey? Get kids to guess what enemies it may have and how it manages to avoid these enemies.
Is it camouflaged? Does it have a shell, or prickles? Why?
Where does it live? Why does it live there? Is it more active during the night of day? How do you know?
It will make a pleasant change for you to be asking the questions!
So now the things you can take home:
Budding twigs are good to collect …just one is necessary from each tree or bush. If you take them home and place them in water it is possible to observe the changes from day to day. How the bud opens to reveal a flower or a leaf.
Sprigs of blossom or a single flower can be taken home and used as inspiration for a model or painting. Flowers can also be pressed as can Leaves. It’s fun to make a collection of leaves mounted on cards.
Leaves are good to take rubbings of. They can also be pressed into clay or plasticine to make a mould. If plaster of Paris is then used to fill the cavity you end up with some lovely leaf casts which can then be painted.
Even spotting different colours of plants can be fun. Or, for older children, different shades of the same colour.. collecting lots of different colours of green for example. Once home you could try mixing paint to create these different shades.
We tend not to notice the barks of trees and yet there are so many different patterns. Take chunky crayons and plain white paper with you and see how many different ones you can collect as bark rubbings.
Fungi spotting is interesting but needs to be done with care as many are very poisonous. The rule is don’t touch, just draw or take a photograph.
If you are near the sea then there are no end of opportunities. Shells, fish, pebbles, seaweed. Footprints of birds and animals in the wet sand.
Pebble collections are fun and larger ones can be painted to make great paper weights.
Again please be sensitive to conservation and to the animal’s needs. Collect empty shells and, although sea urchins are beautiful it is cruel to remove live ones as they will die plus they will stink the place out by the time you get home which serves you right but doesn’t help the poor creature.
So, have fun in the great outdoors!