Forest School, Free Range Kids, Homeschooling, Nature Connection

Exploring Vernal Pools at “Forest Play”

May 12, 2017

Our Tuesday Forest Play sessions have been in full swing since the winter holidays with only a couple of cancellations due to extreme weather. Spring is here and we’ve been exploring some very special habitats at our favourite forest. The kids were so excited to spot water snakes, water striders, and dragonfly nymphs. This was the second time the kids were here (sadly the girls and I missed out last week) and I know there were lots of exciting discoveries made the week before. A big thank you to Andrea for taking the lead and introducing our group to vernal pools, and next week to Bird and Frog Songs!

“Vernal ponds are temporary wetlands that fill after the snowfall each spring. They become the seasonal breeding and feeding grounds for many intriguing amphibians and insects, as well as the reptiles, birds, and mammals that depend on them for food. you may have been led to this pond by the unmistakable sounds of spring peepers and wood frogs calling for a mate.

If you crouch by the water’s edge, you’ll find an entire community of creatures. you might witness the bustling activity of salamanders, frogs, toads, and newts that have come to breed, as well as all kinds of aquatic insects and their eggs that will develop over the spring months. Jellylike masses and strings of eggs will be visible in the water and on the pond vegetation, where salamanders and frogs have left them behind.

Vernal ponds are extraordinary wetlands fascinating to observe and essential to the lives of many woodland species. With the rapid population declines of so many amphibian species, it’s crucial that these often unnoticed habitats be recognized and protected.” – Vernal Ponds: Seasonal Habitats for Wildlife


Have you noticed any vernal pools in your area? Grab a white tray or container, fill it with water from the vernal pool then catch and release the creatures in your container to observe them. Return them to their habitat once you’re done! You’ll never know what you might see 🙂

When handling amphibians please remember:

Amphibians, including frogs, toads and salamanders, breathe through their skin. Their skin is very sensitive to many things (salt, chemical toxins, soap, bug repellant, chlorine in our drinking water, sunscreen, etc.) When handling our wild friends, please remember to create a micro-habitat between you and them. Create this layer by putting your hands in their water source (vernal pool, pond, bog, stream, etc.) if they are aquatic or by using soil and leaves if they are terrestrial. When holding an amphibian make sure you keep them low to the ground and be mindful that the temperature of your hands can raise theirs, and this can create stress for them. Always return them where you found them. Or, if you are helping them cross a road, always remember to place them on the proper side of the road according to their direction of travel.

For The Kids:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1rWh6wg9GY

Homeschooling Resources:

https://www.education.com/worksheet/article/color-life-cycle-5/
https://www.educents.com/the-frog-life-cycle-for-prek-and-k.html#groceryshopfree?utm_source=affiliates&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=frogfreebie_2.24.16

Awesome Small World Play:
http://playcreateexplore.blogspot.ca/2012/04/pondlifecycle-of-frog-sensory-binsmall.html

Further Reading:

http://www.inthehills.ca/2017/03/current/vernal-pools/
http://www.massaudubon.org/learn/nature-wildlife/reptiles-amphibians/vernal-pools/about

Great Books:

https://www.amazon.ca/Over-Under-Pond-Kate-Messner/dp/1452145423
https://www.amazon.ca/Be-Pond-Detective-Solving-Mysteries/dp/1771083948/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1494620656&sr=1-1&keywords=be+a+pond+detective

I’ll be adding some more to the resources section so check back again!

-Cristina

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