Vernal Pools Supplement Interests & Education
Studies of vernal pools support learning in many areas of interest, and a close look at amphibian reproduction can help to spark children’s curiosity about other aspects of amphibian life.
Along with the greenery of spring comes a reawakening of wildlife, and some of western Massachusetts’s smallest and most fascinating creatures make their debut as soon as the snow melts! One sure sign of the change of seasons is the sound of peepers – noisy wood frogs who have made their way from their winter residences to the vernal pools that have filled with fish-free water thanks to the melting snow.
Vernal pools aren’t just home to wood frogs, though. Their amphibious neighbors include spotted salamanders, fairy shrimp, and tiny mussels, making vernal pools a vital (and usually temporary) incubator for many species.
Vernal pools come alive at a very specific time during the spring. On the first rainy night when the temperature stays above 40 degrees, frogs and salamanders migrate from their winter homes to their annual breeding grounds, filling the pools with the sounds of mating and an abundance of eggs.
While it can be tempting for rainboot-clad kiddos to stomp right on into a big, shallow puddle in the woods, it’s essential to know whether or not they’re romping about in a vernal pool. Such pools house the eggs of many species of frogs and salamanders, and humans’ springtime frolicking can easily disturb these eggs and negatively impact populations. However, spending an afternoon exploring along the edges of vernal pools is nature’s classroom at its best! Families can learn to identify commonly found species and watch a vernal pool over the spring, summer, and fall (and maybe even winter) to see how it changes.
VERNAL POOLS SUPPORT INTERESTS & EDUCATION
Studies of vernal pools support learning in many areas of interest, and a close look at amphibian reproduction can help spark children’s curiosity about other aspects of amphibian life. Young children can explore using field guides and identification keys while looking at egg masses or examining water under a magnifier. (Tip: If you don’t have waterproof field guides or kids whose attention spans won’t tolerate stopping to ID everything you see, have them snap photos of what you’ve found and identify them later on.) At the same time, older students can practice data collection and mapping skills while watching the vernal pool change with the seasons.
Creative kids can exercise their observation skills by using vernal pools as a subject to sketch, observe, and record delicate and intricate details in their nature notebooks.