On Saturdays this spring, the kids and teachers are learning about animals!
We recently adopted a guinea pig, and here’s what we’ve learned so far:
- He eats carrots and hay (“and so do horses” adds Frankie).
- He is really friendly and nice, and he snuffles when he’s happy.
- His house has two levels and he can climb the little stairs.
There are a lot of videos and information, but some is conflicting.
- Do Guinea pigs need to take baths? Some sites say yes, and some say bathing them can reduce the oils in their fur.
- Do Guinea pigs get lonely? In Switzerland, it’s illegal to own just one!
To answer our questions, we’re taking this class on the road; visiting a groomer, a vet, and several different pet stores.
And since we’re fieldtripping every week, and so far it’s been beautiful, it’s also a celebration of spring!
Join Anna, Ayumi, and me, Saturdays all through the spring as we explore the world of creatures, and especially all about Guinea Pigs!
At the end of our Winter Season Nature Club class – In Cold Blood – we expanded our daycare pet population to include two fire belly toads. Asia, from Aquariums West, helped us pick them out and taught us how to care for them. They were named Hoppy and Slavenko, and they lived in the tank next door to Gecko.
Over the May Long Weekend, Hoppy disappeared. 🙁
He’s a really good hopper, and we assume he made it out the mail slot and hopped to freedom. Of course the kids and teachers are sad that he’s gone, but we’re excited for his new adventures, and wish him well.
But what about Slavenko?
Since the disappearance of Hoppy, Slavenko had been pretty morose. We wondered if he would be happier with a friend, and after a little internet research, we discovered that Fire Belly Toads are social creatures who prefer (for the most part) to live in groups.
Confessing to Asia that we had lost… that Hoppy had escaped, was embarrassing but important, and now that Slavenko was probably feeling lonely, we knew what we had to do.
Mission #8: Find a friend for Slavenko.
A recap in photos:
As usual, we missioned up, and headed out.
Asia wasn’t there, but another staff member told us that neither fish, rats, bunnies, chameleons, or even fire belly newts make great friends for toads. Another toad was the way to go. (Good thing we asked 😉 )
The first Friday of June is National Donut Day (since 1938!), so Luna’s mission, to bring back a treat was right on the money, and while Jackson’s picture bonus – 2 dogs – seemed like it would be a breeze, it wasn’t until the very end of our animal laden trip that we ran into a lady walking 3 little poodle mixes. We counted 22 buses, and found a bonus waterfall where we had our snack.
Everyone knows Maksim is the sweetest, but even Isa underestimated how much charm he could turn on, until he snuggled up, and asked her if sitting by the waterfall wasn’t “so romantic”? She melted a little bit, and he got 10 bonus points, helping us achieve our first 100+ point mission: 111!
Upon our return, there was one question on everyone’s mind, and I’m sure you’re also wondering. I considered it an ill omen, but the response has been unanimous. The new frog’s name is Hoppy, and he and Slavenko are getting along just fine. 🙂
My first ever Big Kids Club – In Cold Blood – has been so fun. A bit chaotic, sometimes, very lively, and (if I may say so), highly educational. 😉
Seriously, when Maksim sees me these days, he asks, “What are we going to learn about today?”
It’s just what I had hoped!
Every Wednesday since January, we’ve gotten together in the office to study the cold-blooded creatures. We watch videos, make notes about the interesting things we learn, and then act out our lessons. First, we covered reptiles, then fish, and here we are, half-way through our time with amphibians.
My idea for March had been to focus on frogs, but the kids’ interest in salamanders (because it’s a swimming class level), is off the charts.
Denet found this amazing music video that really embodies the flavour of our days lately… Go ahead, play it for your kids!
Warning: It is completely ridiculous, and incredibly catchy. Click the image above to check it out.
Engaging children’s interest in animals is easy. Too easy.
To make In Cold Blood mean something, I wanted them to begin to appreciate nature’s delicate balance, and the roles that humans play in our world ecosystem. It may sound ambitious, but my girl Mari knows that changing the food crocodiles eat in response to environmental changes is called adaptation, and that over time, these changes lead to evolution. We talked about it In Cold Blood. 🙂
They also need to know that human impacts on nature have led to changes that are putting many amphibian species in danger of extinction.
Big Kids Club is also about social skill development, and nothing brings kids together like a shared interest: All children love animals. The kids banded together, rooting for their favourite reptiles, forming our team of Superheros of the Sea, and trekking across the city on fieldtrips to:
- UBC’s Pacific Museum of the Earth
- Habitat Island in Olympic Village
- Stanley Park’s Lost Lagoon
These are some of my favourite among the non-identifiable*. These are the fieldtrips. Thanks to Denet, and Isabel for joining us, and my own huge thanks to all the kids for making each trip magical, and in fact, the whole season was so much fun. I was constantly impressed by your questions and curiosity. You guys are the best!
Today, Maksim, Mari, Bradley, Sylvie and I played superheros – Superheros of the Sea!
Maksim was the angler fish who has a light on his head. “I’m the worst fish in town, with a light,” Maksim says.
Sylvie was the flying fish, the most beautiful fish in the sea. She has wings, and she flies gracefully over the water – up to 200 m!
“I’m the most beautiful fish,” says Sylvie, “and my friends, and my mom are flying fish, too.”
Bradley and Mari surprised everyone by joining up and forming a team… of piranhas. Luckily, piranhas never attack each other, and they always work in a gang. (Actually, anything that makes fish… I mean kids… into a team, is always a good choice for spending time together.) Here they are, swimming calmly, side by side…
The final superhero of the sea for today was the Provincial fish of BC. We looked at the amazing migration of the families of Pacific Salmon from the BC river estuaries, all the way up the coast to Alaska, to the winter feeding grounds, out to the Great Wide Ocean, before returning to their spawning grounds – jumping up waterfalls.
Since the kids ended up on a team, there was no one but me left to be the Pacific Salmon. There was no way I, a cold ocean fish, could keep up with the tropical sea and river fish on my superhero team. The kids were somewhat interested in the migration maps… but not really. They were more interested in feeding frenzy… on fishy pancakes. 🙂
In Cold Blood spent January in the realm of the reptiles, and this month, we’re going into the water… with fish!
One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish/
This one has a little star/
Say! What a lot of fish there are!
Scrolling through the pictures on Google Images with “strange fish” as the search term showed all kinds of fish. Literally every shape and size.
Next week, we’re heading out!
It’s our fieldtrip week, and we’re heading down to our local watering hole, to see if we can’t spot some true-blue Vancouver fishes – It’s a trip to Habitat Island and Hinge Park in Olympic Village.
Playing by the sea is more fun with dry feet. Rain or shine… bring boots!
Before the dinosaurs, the great reptiles walked the earth. Having hopped, crawled, and slithered away from their sea-swimming ancestors, they even developed the ability to live a completely terrestrial lifestyle.
They live in every corner of the world, having adapted to their environments hundreds of thousands, of thousands of years ago. While the crocodiles of today look similar to the prehistoric crocodiles, they have actually evolved wider jaws, sharper snouts, bigger scaly armour, and softer skin, all in response to the changing world they lived through over the last 250 million years.
I admit it, I LOVE crocodiles.
Click the image above to find the article, and I bet you will too. And by the end of this month, the kids definitely will 🙂
Of course, Gecko the daycare gecko is a relative, but for the modern child (and teacher) close-up inspections of our reptilian subjects happen through the magic of Youtube.
In our first class:
we toured Tom Aspasie’s Reptile Room to visit with his collection of geckos, lizards, snakes, and (non-reptile) frogs, and giant Argentinian Tegu
Do geckos fall in love? The kids decided that this pair had very strong feelings for each other. 🙂
So if your kids are talking about a gecko that fought a snake, now you know what it means.
Our second class was our fieldtrip to UBC Pacific Museum of Earth to visit reptile relative George the Lambeosaurus skeleton:
There was a tornado machine, a weather forecast prompter, and rocks of every shape, size, and colour.
Walking across the UBC campus was more than half the fun!
Every season in Big Kids Club, we run at least one class that teaches kids about nature. For my first class ever, I was excited to take the Nature Club into the wide-open world of animals. But it’s a little too wide-open… We only have 12 weeks!
My goals for the season are to engender the children’s interest, of course, but also, to inspire their senses of responsibility, for the creatures in our world. Where to start…? The answer was right in front of me.
Last fall, for the first time in the 3 years since he arrived at Buddings, Gecko the Gecko got sick.
Between internet research (geckoforums.net, among others), calls to Creeg the gecko guy at Aquariums West, and insights from some Buddings herpetologist families, we began to realize that our favourite reptile was a more complicated creature than we had ever known.
Of course we already knew that he “moults” every 3 weeks or so, because unlike people, reptiles’ skin doesn’t grow.
When his body gets bigger (from eating all those crickets) his skin splits along his sides and comes off in a few big pieces, revealing his new, bright yellow skin beneath. The skin is full of nutrients, so unless we take it out of the tank for study, Gecko eats it.
Lizards’ ability to detach the end of their tails, which continue to twitch after detachment, is a fascinating self-preservation technique, and even more exciting for many researchers, is the regeneration that occurs when the preserved animal escapes.
The writing on Gecko’s tank informed us that his tail was fat because he had released it prior to arriving in our care. We imagined him living in fear and needing to escape danger, but as we dug into our new research, we discovered quite the opposite to be true.
Geckos store their energy reserves in their tails. Our gecko had led such a safe and secured life that his tail had gained weight! What a relief.
It turned out that his fat and healthy tail helped him to survive the weeks of illness while a blockage in his digestive tract prevented him from eating… and pooping. We considered an epic bus journey to the reptile doctor in Maple Ridge, but in the end, I was able to move the “impacted feces” through his system by massaging his tummy while he stood in a warm bath (stranger, even, than it sounds…), and finally to remove it with tweezers. Phew.
We discovered that the sand substrate in his tank was the problem. He had swallowed some, when he lunged at a cricket.
And then we learned that his tank should have at least two different substrates, anyway. A dry, heated side allows him to bask, and a cooler, humid side where he can rest.
Reptiles don’t maintain a regular internal temperature, so he depends on his environment to warm and cool his body.
So, we redesigned the tank, and set up a thick coconut fibre layer with a hide, and a desert carpet, with a sandy surface that was glued down, so he can’t swallow it.
All this research has made us more informed care-givers for our creatures, and it gave me a great idea for narrowing my Big Kids Club topic.
Starting this Wednesday, and throughout the Winter Season, we’re taking a cold-blooded look at the habitats and histories of the not-so-cute creatures we call pets.
Did you know that today’s reptiles are descended from creatures that lived before the dinosaurs?
That the amazing migrations of our provincial fish have inspired myth and legend among West Coast native cultures?
Or that frogs can change gender in response to population needs, as well as after exposure to certain herbicides?
If the world is going to remain our oyster, for future generations to enjoy, we need to learn to make better, more informed decisions about its care. That’s what Nature Club is all about.