Spring is Here & New Life is Welcomed
Spring has arrived here in West Franklin County quite suddenly. Just as the very last traces of the most stubborn and well-frozen snowbank disappeared, so came 80-degree days, red faces, and an almost instantaneous burst of light green just about everywhere. We somehow managed to entirely bypass mud season this year, and have not had to exercise patience in waiting for the landscape to dry so as to easily accommodate our adventures. The brown grass is about to give way to a surge of new squashy green stuff, and newly-hatched leaves adorn the twig-ends of each and every deciduous branch that the eye can see. Indoors, our collecting follows this common thread of hatching, and new life is beginning right before our very eyes. The landscape is awake, and so are the creatures. And when the creatures have awakened, they reproduce as if their lives depend on it.
Our focus this month lies not in collecting natural treasures, but in observing them. After feeding the birds outside our window all winter long, we’re eager to learn how to spot new nests and to (perhaps) see them fill up with eggs. Indoors, our pond snail habitat has recently revealed four clutches of eggs – and it’s certainly possible that a few more are well-hidden from our eyes. We’ve also acquired a small community of tadpoles, who made their timely appearance just days ago and are slowly growing gills and becoming accustomed to three meals a day of frozen lettuce leaves. Soon, we’ll be able to watch the development of a handful of chicken and guinea hen eggs as well. We’re also waiting for a butterfly to emerge from a chrysalis formed last fall, which, while not an egg, speaks to a similar process.
Eggs make a fantastic topic for study because they’re full of mystery. Even species who lay translucent eggs – like our snails and frogs – leave no clue as to what their round-ish masses will eventually reveal. To the untrained eye, even an egg whose inside is clearly visible looks nothing like a living thing in its earliest days. The tiny black dots of frogs’ eggs and small, silvery beads of snails’ eggs bear no resemblance to the beings they will eventually become, and for those of us who lack a deep scientific understanding of why exactly this happens, the slow transformation of egg to adult is utterly fascinating. Watching limbs, feathers, scales, fins, and whatever else develops on young egg-laying creatures’ bodies is truly magical.
This month’s collection is scattered throughout our classroom, but includes:
- tank of frog eggs and tadpoles
- tank of snails and eggs
- incubator with guinea hen and chicken eggs
- swallowtail chrysalis
- three birds’ nests
- a collection of feathers
Some books that pair nicely with studies of eggs are:
- Chickens Aren’t the Only Ones by Ruth Heller
- An Egg is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston
- A Nest is Noisy by Dianna Hutts Aston
- Guess What is Growing Inside This Egg by Mia Posada
- The Mysterious Tadpole by Stephen Kellogg
- Just Plain Fancy by Patricia Polacco
Robin Morgan Huntley, Community-Based Education Correspondent
A native to Maine, Robin joined Hilltown Families in early 2011. She is a graduate of Antioch University with a masters in education. Her interests within the field of education include policy and all types of nontraditional education. For her undergraduate project at Hampshire College, Robin researched the importance of connecting public schools with their surrounding communities, especially in rural areas. Robin lives and teaches 5th grade in the Hilltowns of Western MA and and serves on the Mary Lyon Foundation Board of Directors.