Animals have definitely been on the fore-front this week, from those that roam the outdoors today, to those that live on farms, all the way to those that lived millions of years ago! It was a wild week!
On Wednesday, I took the kids to a program at the mitigation wetland for a localish dump. We have been to multiple programs at this wetland preserve, and they’ve all been great – this one didn’t let us down either! The program was titled ‘Amazing Animal Adaptations’ and featured live animals. The only animal I got a picture of was the porcupine because I was so enthralled!
Did you know that porcupine spines are actually adapted, hollow and stiff hairs? Yep. A porcupine does not shoot their quills, but when feeling threatened, they will tense their skin and stand them up, then back up into their attacker. If not removed from the offending animal, an infection can harbor in the wound site and cause some serious problems. They also don’t feel very good, which is a no-brainer.
Other animals that were there were a miniature 3-banded armadillo – it was so cute! (Click on the links to see some images.) This armadillo’s adaptation was that it can curl up into a perfect ball. It also has some serious nails for digging. Her name was Coconut. So cute! There was also a flying fox, which is a large, fruit-eating bat from South and Central America. There were walking sticks, which are pretty cool in their own right. One of the most interesting animals was the Giant African Bullfrog. Did you know these frogs have teeth? Yes! A frog with teeth!
There was a glass snake, which is actually a legless lizard of the skink family. The crazy thing about the glass snake is that, while an actual snake’s tail is only a couple of inches long, about 2/3 of the glass snake’s body is tail, and when a predator tries to catch it, like any other lizard, it can let it go – but that thing can be an inch in diameter! But, not only can it let it’s tail go, it can intentionally detach it’s tail, and has some special adaptation that allows the tail to then break into multiple pieces, with the pieces remaining mobile, allowing the rest of the lizard to become motionless and sort of disappear in the confusion with the tail pieces still wandering around! Yikes!
The last animal was a paca, a large rodent from South and Central America. It was really cute, though they warned us to be quiet as she was a bit skittish. With good reason, because this animal’s adaptation is that it can loose it’s skin. Yes, it can let it’s skin go if some animal, like a jaguar, is trying to catch it to eat. Apparently, it has some kind of antimicrobial muscus that it then emits all over it’s body so that it doesn’t get an infection afterwards. It then grows a new skin and fur and is all set. No wonder they didn’t want us to scare the animal – don’t want to traumatize the kids with a skin-less paca suddenly running around! It has another creepy adaptation that goes along with the skin thing: it has resonating chambers in their cheeks, which allow it to scream. Imagine being a big cat trying to catch some dinner, and suddenly you hear this freaky shriek and are left with just the animal’s skin in your mouth. Another yikes! I’m left wondering what humans can learn about this ability in skin reparation, for people who have had to have skin removed due to burns or cancers. I couldn’t find any info on the paca’s skin shedding online though, but I didn’t search very hard either.
Later, Elizabeth was telling my mom what animals we saw at the program, and described the armadillo as a dinosaur at first before she remembered it’s name, and incidentally we had a trip planned for Thursday to a museum about dinos. I love dinosaurs, well, I love learning, and there is so much about dinosaurs and fossils and things that is so interesting. We have been to this museum before, but it was probably like the first time for Paul, since we went last year when he was about 18 months old, and was in that stage where toddlers have a concentration limit of about one millisecond. They had also made some changes to the kid’s areas, and there was more to interact with – but real toys, not computer screens. We took our babysitter and some of the kids that attend her day care as well, so it was doubly fun.
Lastly, our unit for this week was about the farm again. We haven’t done too much with farm animals yet, but yesterday, Elizabeth and I made a farm store, which she thought was so much fun that she did it again today. I made some little price tags and she priced everything out, though we didn’t do any addition with it necessarily. Yesterday she took a really long time to set it all up, and though I was tempted to tell her that I wanted to go do other things after a bit, I decided to stay with her and see how long she would do it for. By the end, Paul had gotten up and made some purchases as well. Overall, I think she spent roughly two hours on the store! I was really impressed. Then, she put everything away while I was putting a load of laundry in to wash. I couldn’t believe it.
Her store went in a different direction than I had planned though that was ok. We have a store nearby that is called the Farm Store, which does sell toys – strategically placed right by the entrance – so Elizabeth’s Farm Store had lots of toys in it too, and since her experience is that the Farm Store has toys, how could I argue? I did try to get creative and convince her that we could pretend the little front loader is a big one in the store, so it should cost more. I liked that our play brought up the terms “expensive” and “cheaper” in a context that made sense. They are definitely terms I use regularly, but she wasn’t sure what they meant necessarily. Hopefully now they will!
This week, I have a trip to the actual farm planned, so come back next week and see how that goes (probably very muddy!)
Share your thoughts: What are some interesting activities you have done centered around animals?