| |You're never too young to learn about Nature!
The Nature Tots Program is designed to create a space for children to experience nature in an exciting and interactive way!
1) Tiger beetles - hunters on the sand!
Tiger beetles are small insects (half an inch long) that live all over sandy trails and dirt roads in our area. They can be brown and hard to see (“camouflaged”) or bright green and look like jewels! Tiger beetles hunt other small creatures like ants, flies, and small spiders. There’s always plenty to eat!
At least one kind of tiger beetle in Texas eats a really bad pest, the fire ant. Tiger beetles are an important part of their environment. Tiger beetles like to live where the ground is clean and not polluted, so when you see them running around it’s a good sign!
There are over 3000 species of tiger beetles in the world, and Dr. Dan Duran has described nine new species that were never known to science before! One of those new species is shown right here. It’s called Cicindela cyanipleura (pronounced: Sis-in-DEL-ah sigh-an-eh-PLOR-ah). The scientific name mean that it has blue sides. It’s only found near one volcano in Mexico!
Below is a link to a cool video about tiger beetles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNsf9kpbcDc
(Note: despite the somewhat religious sounding-title, this is not a religious film whatsoever. It’s just about tiger beetles and how amazing they are)
Craft: Beetle Paper Hand Puppet
What you need:
o Printable template
o Construction Paper (Assorted Colors) or Regular Paper (Best to use a heavier paper like cardstock)
o Colored Markers or Crayons
o Optional: Wiggle Eye Stickers or Googly Eyes and Even Glitter.
Instructions, includes a YouTube video:
1. Print template or use as a model to design your own beetle.
2. Color all of the pieces (if using white paper) with markers or crayons. No need to stay within the lines.
3. Cut out all of the pieces. With construction paper – select colors, trace each part of your beetle, then cut out pieces.
4. Glue the “wings” onto the body of the beetle.
5. Draw or glue eyes on the face of your beetle or use the eyes from the template.
6. Fold the legs like an accordion to make them wigglier. Then, glue one end of each leg to the bottom of the beetle body.
7. Glue on hand strap to the bottom of the beetle. Now, you have your very own beetle to enjoy!!!
2) Spring birds – coming back from winter homes!
Right now, millions of birds are flying back to our part of the world from the places where they lived during the winter. Isn’t it amazing that these tiny creatures can fly thousands of miles each year to return to New Jersey and nearby places?! To learn more about how and why birds do it, check out this great video:
Below is a link to a great video about migrating birds: www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwIT9pv4khw
Now, more than ever, migrating birds need good habitat (places to visit or live in) and it’s really important to have plants in your yard that attract good food for migrating birds. Migrating birds don’t eat birdseed, and most of these birds need insects, especially caterpillars. Dr. Dan has provided a list of some of the best plants for migrating birds and other wildlife! (see separate flyer)
Craft: Birds of a Feather
What you will need:
o Paper (plain or patterned)
o Cardboard tube
o Double-sided tape
o Colored cardstock or construction paper
o Yarn or string
o Clear tape
o White glue
o Optional: Googly Eyes
Orange Paper Bird with Fringe Hairstyle
Step 1: Cut a piece of paper long enough to wrap around your cardboard tube. Snip a piece off at each side of the top edge, leaving a small section in the middle.
Cut this small section into a fringe. Then, cut a fringe along the full bottom edge.
Step 2: Wrap the paper around your tube and attach the end down with double-sided tape or glue.
Cut two rectangles out of cardstock, construction paper or a decorative paper to make wings.
Cut a fringe along one edge of each wing and round off the top corners.
Glue the “wings” to each side of the tube.
Step 3: Cut a beak and two eyes from cardstock or construction paper or draw your own.
Glue paper beak and eyes into place on the front of the tube. Googly eyes work, too!
Tape the ends of a piece of yarn or string to the inside of the top of the tube to make a hanger.
Make a few fancy paper birds and hang them all together to create a fun flock!
Click here for a printable version.
3) Busy bees! - We have more than just honeybees!
Bees are super important to us and the world, because they make a lot of the food we eat, including a number of fruits and some vegetables. Without bees, we would lose many of our important food plants! One thing that most people don’t know is that we have MANY kinds of bees in our country (4000 kinds! Check out the green bee above), and honeybees are just ONE of them. We have bumble bees which are very important pollinators (they help turn flowers into fruits that we eat)
Below is a link to a video about how pollination works!:
Below is a link to a video about how important bumble bees are:
One of our most important types of native bees is the mason bee. You can help them by making houses for them! Mason bees don’t live in hives like honeybees, but instead they live in holes and tubes in bamboo or wood. It’s easy to make homes for them. See the craft below!
Craft: Build a Mason Bee House
What you need
o Medium size waterproof container – clean coffee can, soda bottle
o 2 cardboard rolls (empty) - toilet paper or paper towels
o Sheets of construction, magazine, or scrap paper – to make 30 tubes
o Gorilla glue (or other kid-friendly glue)
o Masking Tape
o Box Cutter (for adult to cut plastic bottle)
o Optional: Paint & Permanent Markers to decorate can or bottle
/!\ Make sure the edges of the can or plastic bottle aren’t sharp.
1. Paint the can (optional)
If you decide to paint the can, we recommend to do it first. You can do different designs or just plain color.
2. Create paper tubes
Measure the length of your can (1) and cut your paper so the length of the paper is a little shorter than the can. The paper should be ~5 inches long (half the length of a sheet of paper). Cut the paper as evenly as you can.
Roll the paper around a pencil at least 5 times to get the right shape so the tube walls can be thick enough to keep baby bees warm over the winter. Then, tape edge of the rolled paper tube and remove the pencil. Create tubes of 1/4 inch or up to 1/2 inch. You will need 30 tubes, depending on the size of your container and paper rolls.
3. Place the paper rolls & tubes inside the can
You can apply a thin layer of glue at the bottom of your container. Place your 2 toilet paper rolls where you wish inside the can to keep the little tubes from rattling around too much. Fill in the empty space in and around your paper rolls with the tubes. Make sure that they all attach to the glue. Once done, turn your container upside down and shake it to make sure that everything stays in place. Add more glue at the bottom or more paper rolls or tubes to keep things sturdy if needed.
4. Find a location
Help your child find an open, sunny spot for the new bee house which isn’t shaded by plants & about 3 ft above the ground. Position & Secure the container with sturdy string to keep it from moving about in the wind and prevent rain from entering it. If bees start laying eggs inside, you will notice the paper tubes plugged up with mud. It means that there are baby bees growing inside. Important: Do not touch or move the bee house. It would be dangerous for you and frighten the baby bees.
Your family garden will be buzzing with lots of helpful native bees once they make an appearance!
Bee Paper Craft!
See video for instructions.
All you need is:
o Two colors construction paper (e.g. black and brown/yellow)
Follow the instructions in the YouTube video above!
4) Fish – our friends in the water
This is the ironcolor shiner, a VERY rare fish that is only known from
two places in New Jersey, one of which is Scotland Run Park!
Scotland Run Park has a large lake – Wilson Lake – with many living creatures in it! Some of those creatures are different kinds of fishes, animals that we’re all somewhat familiar with. But did you know that there are at least two dozen kinds of fishes in Wilson Lake and in the stream below the dam? One of these fish (the ironcolor shiner) is very rare and we are lucky to have it in our park!
Fish can live in freshwater (lakes, ponds, streams, some rivers) or saltwater
(ocean, bay, parts of some rivers) and there are totally different kinds of fishes in each! Freshwater does not have much salt in it, and saltwater has a lot of salt in it (you can taste the salt). A fish that is capable of living in one can’t live in the other (there are a few exceptions).
Check out this video about fish!
This video answers the question “Do fish drink water?” and tells you about the differences between freshwater and saltwater fish.
Let’s try drawing fish!
Below is a YouTube instructional video showing a way to draw cute fish at home. Check it out:
And last but not least, you can make your own crafted fish at home too!
Video version of the instructions are here:
What you need:
o cardstock paper (color of your choice)
o large googly eyes
o tacky glue
o glue dots (optional)
1. Cut your colored cardstock paper in half length-wise. Cut a triangle shape out of the end of one of the pieces and set the paper scrap aside.
2. Bend the other paper strip so the ends touch each other but don’t make a folded crease in the paper. Cut a triangle shape out of the bent side of the paper. You’ll end up with a diamond shape. Cut the diamond in half to get two separate triangles.
3. Use your markers to draw lines on the triangles to look like fish fins. Turn the larger triangle over and draw lines on the back too.
4. Bend the large rectangle piece in half again. Slide the large triangle inside the back of the rectangle and place three staples to close the paper together in the middle and two ends.
5. Use glue dots or tacky glue to glue a large googly eye on each side of the fish face.
6. Glue the two smaller triangle fins on the sides of the fish. Bend the outside of the fins out slightly so they sit off of the fish a little adding to the two dimensional look.
7. Add tacky glue to the bottom half of the paper fish craft. Sprinkle the tacky glue with sequins. Turn the paper fish craft over and add more tacky glue and sequins to the other side. Allow the glue to dry.
Your cute paper fish craft is complete!
5) Butterflies – watch them flutter by!
This is the painted lady, a very common butterfly which is flying around in May.
Look for them when you’re outside!
Everyone loves butterflies…but did you know that we have over 100 different kinds in New Jersey? Butterflies are pollinators (they help flowers make fruits and more new flowers) and an important part of our world. Many have bright colors, like monarch butterflies, but many do not have pretty colors and instead they look like dirt or tree bark or dead leaves so they can hide! We call it camouflage when a species tries to look like the place it lives.
This dead leaf butterfly looks just like a dead leaf (good name, right?!)
Check out this video - It shows how they turn from caterpillars to butterflies
If you want to see beautiful butterflies, here are 10 of the most beautiful ones in the world!
Let’s try a butterfly craft where you can make your own paper butterflies at home.
See this link or follow directions below:
Folded Paper Butterfly Craft for Kids
What you need:
o Scrapbooking paper (with designs similar to this set), construction paper or paper your child has painted with watercolors
o Black cardstock or construction paper
o Single hole punch (This one is amazing! It can cut through many sheets at once with very little effort.)
o Liquid glue
o Optional: Paints and paintbrush (These are our absolute favorite tempera paints.)
o Black marker
o Mini craft sticks
o Optional: Free Printable Templates
1. Optional: Paint mini popsicle or craft sticks with tempera or acrylic paint and allow them to dry completely. Or you can leave them unpainted. (You can also buy colored mini craft sticks.)
2. Cut thin strips of black cardstock or construction paper about 2 inches long for your antennae.
3. Use a single hole punch to cut out some circles from your black paper.
4. Glue the thin black strips onto the back of the popsicle sticks. Then glue a punched circle on top of each paper strip to form your antennae.
5. Cut out eyes from the eye template (or use googly eyes) and glue them onto each popsicle stick.
6. Use a black marker to add a smile onto your popsicle stick butterflies.
7. Now it’s time to create the wings using folded paper. You’ll need one square measuring 5 1/2 inches x 5 1/2 inches and one circle 5 inches across. (You can cut your own or print out the free top and bottom template.)
8. Place the square shape in front of you so it looks like a diamond, with a corner on top. Accordion fold the diamond shape, folding back and forth. This will be your top set of wings.
9. Do the same thing with your circle. This will be your bottom set of wings.
10. Glue the top and bottom together with liquid glue or a hot glue gun. You can even wrap a rubber band around the center to hold them in place.
11. Fan out the wings once the glue is dry.
12. Glue the popsicle sticks into the middle of the wings.
Your colorful, paper butterflies are finished! So pretty!
6) Moths are amazing!
This is the great tiger moth, a beautiful moth that most people would think is a butterfly! Some moths have bright colors.
Most people think they know how to tell moths and butterflies apart – moths are not pretty and butterflies are pretty. This isn’t true! As we learned last week, many butterflies look like dirt or dead leaves, and as we’ll learn this week, many moths have beautiful colors and patterns. So how do you know if you have a moth or a butterfly? The antennae are different. Butterflies have a little club at the end of their antennae, and moths are just thin (like the picture above) or they’re feathery.
There are MANY more kinds of moths than butterflies. We have about 11,000 kinds of moths in the United States (compared to 500 butterflies in the US). Birds, bats, and other creatures eat moths or their caterpillars. Moth caterpillars are the main source of food for most of our birds, especially when they are feeding their babies!
Scotland Run Park Moth Night
Park Naturalist, Dr. Daniel Duran will host the second annual Scotland Run Park Moth Night – viewable online!. And you can contribute! Dr. Dan
will offer tips on how to run your own Moth Night from your yard. We will post pictures and videos on the Scotland Run Facebook page by 3:00pm on June 28 of our discoveries and some instruction, then you and your family can run one yourselves. Happy moth hunting and don’t forget to share your findings with us on Facebook!
Check out this video – It shows 8 of the most beautiful moths (6 are found in NJ!!)
Let’s try a moth craft where you can make your own paper Luna moths at home.
Craft: Luna Moth Life Cycle Headband
What you will need:
o 2 Printable Templates (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5aoVxlVvTyyTnAyQUZYRjdqelE/view?usp=sharing)
o Construction Paper for Headband (Assorted Colors)
o White Paper like cardstock for Life Cycle
o Colored Markers or Crayons
o Optional: Googly Eyes for decorating eyespots on wings
1. Print templates Landscape for the Luna Moth & Silkworm Life Cycle.
2. Color all of the pieces with markers or crayons.
3. Cut out all of the pieces and set them aside.
4. Select color of construction paper for headband.
5. Measure & cut either two 3” or 4” high strips to make headband.
6. Staple the headband together to fit comfortably around child’s head.
7. Glue the 2 antennae, body, and 4 wings of the moth together.
8. Googly eyes can be glued to the eyespots on wings.
9. Attach the moth with glue to the front of the headband.
10. Glue the eggs, larva, & pupa/cocoon to the sides & back of headband.
Enjoy your new Headband Craft while Watching for Moths at Night!
7) Carnivorous plants eat insects and other animals!
This is the round-leaved sundew, covered in sticky
droplets that catch insects, so they can eat them.
We often think of animals eating plants, but did you know that there are some plants that actually eat animals? We call them carnivorous plants, and there are several kinds of them, including sundews, bladderworts, pitcher plants, and the famous Venus fly-trap. Each of these kinds use a different way to catch their prey (food), and mostly they will eat tiny insects, but there are some pitcher plants that will also catch frogs and mice!
Pitcher plants with their “mouths” open, with an attractive smell inside
that attracts insects to get caught inside and digested.
Carnivorous plants usually live in wet places like peat bogs where the soil is low in nutrients like nitrogen, and they can’t get enough of what they need from their roots. So instead they get their nitrogen from the air… in the form of flying insects, which have lots of nitrogen in them.
Check out this video – It shows how different carnivorous plants are able to catch their prey, including the super cool Venus fly-trap.
Let’s try a craft where you can make your own paper Venus fly-traps at home! https://deceptivelyeducational.blogspot.com/2014/04/paper-plate-venus-flytrap.html
What you need:
o Glue gun
o Two paper plates
o Green and red paint
o Green giant pipe cleaner
o Markers and bug stickers are optional but highly recommended.
Fold a paper plate in half. Trim the corners. Cut "u" shapes out of the edge of each side of the paper plate. Offset the fringe on the second side so they fit between each other when closed.
Cut the center out of the second plate. Fold the circle in half. Put it inside the fringed plate and cut the corners that overhang.
Paint the outside of the fringed plate green. We used acrylic craft paint. (Use a hair dryer to speed up drying time if necessary.) Paint the fringe on the other side of the plate (the middle of the plate will be covered with the clipped circle so you don't have to paint it).
Paint one side off the clipped circle red.
When the paint has dried, an adult should place a bead of glue from a glue gun in the center of the painted fringed plate along the fold. Place a giant green pipe cleaner stem there to glue it in place.
Glue the red clipped circle over the top of the chenille stem, on the inside of the fringed plate.
Ta-da! Now you can add trigger hairs to the inside of the flytrap with marker and/or add bug stickers.
Your venus flytrap is done!
8) Orchids are beautiful flowers and
we have some in South Jersey!
This is the grass-pink orchid, a beautiful orchid native to
South Jersey and the southeastern United States.
You might see orchid flowers in nature shows, or sometimes as indoor plants, originally from the tropical regions of the earth, but did you know that there are species of orchids that are found naturally growing in New Jersey? Worldwide there are about 25,000 species of orchids, and about 50 of them are native to New Jersey, most of those in South Jersey!
The pink lady-slipper orchid is the most common and visible orchids
in the woods of South Jersey. They’re in flower right now!
Different species of orchids can live in moist forest, wet meadows, or the edges of bogs (where carnivorous plants live). They are very difficult to grow in your yard because most of them need very special types of underground fungi (species related to mushrooms) in order for them to grow. In fact, there are some types of orchids that no scientist has ever been able to grow in a greenhouse, even after many years of trying! So please never pick or dig up orchids. If you see them, appreciate their beauty and let them live where they are. Only a small number of species can be easily grown in greenhouses, and they are not species that grow wild in New Jersey.
Orchids have many different types of insects that pollinate them. Some are only able to pollinate one kind of orchid and nothing else, so orchids rely on insects, and some insects rely on orchids. They are great examples of how nature is so interconnected.
Check out this video – It shows you 10 cool facts about orchids.
And here are some YouTube instructions on how to make your own paper orchids!
Craft: Learn to draw an orchid:
1. Begin by drawing two curved lines. The lines should be oppositely diagonal, descending toward one another. This begins the flower's petals.
2. Continue to sketch the petals. For each, extend a curved line outward, then double it back toward the flower's center. Repeat on each side to form a mirror image.
3. Orchids have three additional petals, called sepals. Draw the first using a curved line to enclose the space between and above the existing petals. Then, draw two sepals below, using a curved line for each.
4. Next, you will draw the column, or center of the flower. First, draw a circular shape, leaving an opening at the bottom. Curve the lines downward around this opening. Beneath this, enclose an irregular shape, again leaving the bottom open and extending a set of parallel lines from it. Erase guide lines as necessary.
5. Next, you will draw the labellum, or lip, of the orchid. Enclose an irregular curved shape, roughly triangular, around the bottom of the column. This should fill the gap between the petals, completely enclosing the flower.
6. Next, you will draw the throat of the flower. From each side of the column, enclose a curved, irregular shape. Repeat to form a mirror image on each side.
7. Add details to your flower. Texture the petals and sepals with curved lines. Draw lines down the length of each section of the throat, and draw dots on the lower portion of the column, called the stigmatic surface.
8. Extend two curving lines downward from the flower, forming the stem.
9. From the stem, extend a pair of narrowly spaced curved lines. From these, extend three lines that meet in a sharp point. This forms the leaf with its vein.
10. Color your orchid. Orchids are diverse and come in many colors. The most common varieties are pink, white, or purple, but they may also be yellow, red, blue, green, or combinations of these colors.
9) Milkweeds are marvelous!
This is butterfly milkweed (or butterflyweed), a beautiful flower that can
be found growing wild in South Jersey in dry sunny places. This is a favorite
plant of monarch butterflies.
Milkweeds are native plants that grow all over the United States and are some of the most important plants for pollinating insects. Some species are in flower now, but most will be flowering in the summer (July and August). These amazing plants are also the ONLY kind of food that monarch butterfly caterpillars can eat (the adult butterflies can get nectar for other plants).
Hundreds of kinds of butterflies, beetles, bees and other insects drink nectar from milkweed flowers to get water and energy (it’s like Gatorade for them!). Only a few types of insects can eat the leaves, and that includes the red milkweed beetle, the milkweed tussock moth caterpillar, and monarch butterfly caterpillars.
This is a red milkweed beetle, one of the few
insects that can eat milkweed leaves.
Different species of milkweeds can live in different habitats. Most of them live in open fields or forest edges where they can get sun for almost all of the day. Some like places where the ground is wet (swamp milkweed), others like really dry places (butterfly milkweed) and others are found in a variety of different types of habitats (common milkweed). Only a few species live in the forest (red-ring milkweed), and most of those are now rare.
Monarch butterfly drinking nectar from swamp milkweed
Check out this video – It teaches you about swamp milkweed and how it makes insects move its pollen around.
Here’s an instructional video for how to grow your own milkweeds for next year.
Help monarchs and other insects!
Let’s also try a craft where you can learn to make a monarch butterfly, an insect that needs milkweeds to survive:
Craft: Butterfly Stick Puppet
What you need:
o Printable Butterfly Wings (see next page)
o Wide craft sticks
o Black acrylic paint
o Orange marker (or crayon)
o Tacky craft glue and/or hot glue
o Black pipe cleaners
1. Print the monarch butterfly wings template on white cardstock. Each child will need one copy of the template.
Print it here
2. Invite your child to color the monarch butterfly wings template with an orange marker, crayon, or colored pencil. Next, cut out the pattern with scissors.
3. Paint the craft stick with black acrylic paint. Allow the paint to dry completely before moving onto the next step.
If you want to get technical, you could dip the end of the paintbrush into white acrylic paint and dab 6 dots on the craft stick near the butterfly’s head, just like a real monarch!
4. Glue the butterfly wings to the back of the black craft stick.
5. Next, cut a black pipe cleaner in half with scissors. Bend one of the pieces into a V to make antennae, then glue it to the back of the craft stick. Hot glue works best!
6. Invite your child to hold the craft stick, then gently shake their hand up and down. The butterfly wings really flutter!