Animal Secrets Revealed at Springfield Science Museum

New Exhibit Satisfies the Animal Scientist in Young Children

What does an eagle feed its young? How do mother bats find their babies in a cave? Children ages 3 through 8 and their parents will answer these questions and many others while exploring Animal Secrets, the newest traveling exhibit to arrive at the Springfield Science Museum. The exhibit, designed by Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, begins on January 31 with a special Opening Celebration and will run through May 3, 2015.

Young children are natural scientists, curious about the world around them, and Animal Secrets was designed to encourage this curiosity and foster a sense of wonder about nature. Through dramatic play and multi-sensory hands-on activities, children will discover nature from an animal’s point of view as they explore immersive natural environments including a stream, woodland, meadow, cave, and naturalists’ tent. One of the most appealing aspects of Animal Secrets is that it is designed for both children and adults, allowing families to share in the enjoyment of learning together. Text panels and interpretive materials are provided in both English and Spanish. Read the rest of this entry »

Western Mass Winter Brings Tracking Opportunities

Some of Nature May Nest but Signs of Movement Remain to be Explored

During the cold months of winter, many of the creatures often seen during the rest of the year have migrated south, are tucked away in burrows for most of the winter, or have become even better at hiding so as not to be easily spotted against the snow. But their signs are still there and a lot of fun searching for! Looking for signs like tracks, scat, dens, and nests is a fun and educational way to learn about the habits of wildlife living near you. Read the rest of this entry »

Family Camping Grows Respect for Nature

Great American Backyard Campout invites families to camp outdoors, even if it is in their own backyard

Get up close and personal with nature with you family via camping…even if it’s just in your own backyard!

One of the most classic summertime adventures is a weekend of camping. Those of us who went camping as children likely have fond memories (or cautionary tales!) of sleeping in a tent, cooking over a fire or camp stove, and spending full days exploring outside, collecting treasures, and building forts and nature sculptures. It’s likely, too, that many of our readers have made a commitment to sharing these experiences with our children – taking them to sleep outside, teaching them basic survival skills, and giving them small-scale adventures similar to those we enjoyed as kids. And it’s a good thing that so many of us do so – studies have shown that people who are given the opportunity to explore nature as children are far more likely to grow up to have a respect for nature and to support environmentally conscious behaviors.

This month, the National Wildlife Federation offers families a chance to experience the magic of camping together, while also helping to raise money for the organization’s wild-life saving conservation efforts. This year’s Great American Backyard Campout takes place in late June, and calls for families to spend a night camping out together – even if it’s just in their own backyard. Read the rest of this entry »

Capture & Record Your Wildlife Encounters for Fun & for Science

WildObs: WILDlife OBServations

With camera in hand, families can be empowered as citizen scientists, capturing images of critters in their local environment and sharing them through WildObs. WildObs is an online wildlife sightings community that helps scientists with data and families in discovery of wildlife in various habitats, including their own! [Photo credit: (c) Sienna Wildfield]

Does your family snap photos of the wildlife you see in your yard? Have you accumulated images amass, all featuring a feathered friend, shy mammal, crawly bug, or slippery amphibians? Share your wildlife sightings with WildObs, an online wildlife-finding community that both supports nature-loving folks in learning to spot hard-to-find creatures, but also contributes data and other useful information to organizations that solicit input from citizen scientists.

WildObs allows users to upload their own photos, paired with a location tag and a caption describing the species pictured, the action in the photograph, or any other important details that help others to understand what they’re looking at. Not only do users add their own photos to the database, but they can browse through others’ photographs to see what it really looks like to be up close and personal with everything from a grasshopper to a bear! Of course, it’s likely that you’ve already had lots of close ups with grasshoppers on your own, but thanks to the fact that WildObs users hail from all corners of the map, you might find photos of a variety of species that you’ve never seen in real life. And, while a real-life encounter is always better than a photograph, the images on WildObs are mostly taken by amateur wildlife enthusiasts, whose encounters with creatures are possible to replicate and don’t require any fancy gear, exorbitant fees, or jobs at National Geographic.  Read the rest of this entry »

Searching for Nests & Animal Tracks in Winter

Stalking Winter Nests & Wildlife Tracks
Family Outdoor Adventures

“Because robin nests are fairly large, and so well built, they are one of the easiest to spot after the nesting season. Look for them in shrubs and on horizontal branches in the lower halves of trees.”

During the cold months of winter, many of the creatures often seen during the rest of the year have migrated south, are tucked away in burrows for most of the winter, or have become even better at hiding so as not to be easily spotted against the snow. But their signs are still there and a lot of fun searching for! Looking for signs like tracks, scat, dens, and nests is a fun and educational way to learn about the habits of wildlife living near you.

To inspire families into winter tracking expeditions, Mass Audubon offers an online list of the Top 5 Nests to Spot in Winter! The list includes information on the American Goldfinch, American Robin, Baltimore Oriole, and Chipping Sparrow, as well as Eastern Gray Squirrels, who builds nests high up in trees as well. The nest list not only shares information on spotting and identifying five different nests, it also includes facts about the nest’s structure, specific reasons for why each nest is created the way that it is, and interesting facts.

Identifying nests together with your family can teach them a lot about the habits of each bird species, and can help them develop a greater awareness of the many animal signs present around them. Mass Audubon also has Winter Walk Bingo Cards families can download and print that would make for fun this winter while searching for nests and other signs of wildlife.

Maybe even take Kurt’s advise and after a week of constant ten degree weather, head to the wetlands and explore an area otherwise not easily accessible outside of winter. Read more in his post, “The Ripple: Winter Wetlands.”

[Photo credit: (ccl) carfull…Wyoming]

Music Review: The Wild World of Wildlife

We’re Wild for Wildlife!

Kids love animals—real ones, stuffed ones, it doesn’t matter.

My son, Ivan, has two animal favorites right now: the Discovery Kids Smart Animals Scanopedia (he loves the sound of the turkey gobbling) and Birdie’s CD The Wild World of Wildlife. Oh, and his kitten, Murray, of course!

Birdie’s CD is a fun collection of songs all about animals, from reptiles to mammals, fish to birds. Most of the songs will teach your kids a little something about the animals (did you know that the Fiddler Crab shoves sand in its mouth, picks out the food, then spits out the leftover sand as a ball?) and some will just make your kids want to dance, like Shake Your Tail Feathers.

I personally like that Birdie adds some life lessons to the mix as well, as in the song Elephant in the Congo that teaches kids about how precious the elephant is and that we humans shouldn’t harm it.

So get out your shakers, put on your dancing shoes, and check out The Wild World of Wildlife. Animal lovers unite!

You can learn more about Birdie’s Playhouse at her website: or on her Facebook page.


Amber BobnarAmber Bobnar

Amber lives with her husband and son in Watertown, MA. Originally hailing from Hawaii, Amber and her family moved to Watertown to be closer to the Perkins School for the Blind where her son attends preschool. She has a Master’s degree in English from Tufts University and spends most of her “free time” writing about being a parent of a disabled child on or about the family’s musical adventures around Boston on But really most of her time is spent caring for and playing with her little boy. (Originally posted at Boston Children’s Music.)

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