The Nature Friends program is for 4 or 5-year old children with an adult. The maximum group size is 20 child-adult teams. Programs are outside unless weather does not permit.
Box Turtle at Long Pond by William T. George and Lindsay Barrett George
“How are snakes and turtles alike? Do they both have dry scaly skin and lay eggs?” Discuss the box turtle and show it. Then discuss the snake, how it hears, smells, sees, and eats. Bring it out and show it. What other animals are reptiles? Alligators, crocodiles, and lizards.
Reptile Egg Hunt – Activity #1
- Before group arrives, put several “egg nests” around the area, i.e. in old logs (snakes), on sunny slopes of hills near water (turtles).
- Have adult/child teams go in search of the “reptile nests”
- The adult/child team should count the number of nests they discover but not tell the other teams.
- Bring the group together, review how many nests were found.
- Take the group on a tour of the nests relating which would be the snake nests and which would be the turtle nests.
Skin the Snake – Activity # 2
- Divide the group into a parent team and a child team. Have the kids go first.
- Use hula hoops to demonstrate how the snake sheds its skin.
- The kids need to stand in line – front to back.
- Place their left hand out in front of them and their right hand between their legs and grab the person’s hand behind them.
- They have just created the backbone of the snake. They should try to not break the backbone.
- Starting at the front of the line (the head of the snake), place the hula hoop over the first person. This person must step through the hoop and move it back to the next person and so on.
- The group must work together to get the hula hoop (the snake skin) to the end of the line (the tail). Little kids might need help with this so they don’t fall.
Craft: Walnut Shell Turtle
*Cut the walnut shells ahead of time for easier gluing.
- Give each child a turtle card with the outline of the turtle and the turtle poem on the inside.
- Have each child color and decorate their turtle.
- Glue the walnut shell onto the paper.
Strawberries and kiwi (box turtle food)
Yogurt covered raisins (reptile eggs)
Finger Play: The Little Turtle
There was a little turtle,
He lived in a box. (Make a box)
He swam in a puddle (Swim)
He climbed on rocks. (Climb)
He snapped at a mosquito (Snap high)
He snapped at a flea. (Snap waist high)
He snapped at a minnow. (Snap low)
And he snapped at me. (Snap towards self)
A turtle is a reptile. Its home is on its back. (point to your back)
It never has to worry if someone will attack. (wag finger left and right)
When it spies an enemy, what does it do so well? (shrug shoulders)
It simply takes its head and feet and pops inside its shell. (cover head with arms)
(Remind children that alligators are reptiles too. We do not have any alligators in Iowa.)
Five little monkeys, sitting in a tree
(Hold up fingers on one hand.)
Said to each other, “Gator can’t catch me!”
(Wiggle fingers on one hand.)
Along comes the gator, quiet as can be,
Reptiles have dry, scaly skin, lay their eggs on land, eggs are soft and leathery, cold-blooded.
A turtle’s bottom shell is called a plastron, the top shell is the carapace. Eggs are laid on sandy, sunny hillsides. Common turtles in Iowa: painted turtle, snapping turtle, Blandings’ turtle (eastern and north central Iowa), and the ornate box turtle (threatened in Iowa). The three-toed turtle looks similar to the ornate. It is found in Missouri and frequently carried into the state.
Specific areas in the state: Red-eared turtle, SE; map turtle, Mississippi River; false map turtle, Mississippi and Missouri rivers; Blandings’ turtle, central and NE; wood turtle, NE; yellow mud turtle, SE; alligator Snapping turtle, SE; stinkpot, Mississippi River.
References: Bugs to Bunnies, Hands-on Animal Science Activities for Young Children
- smell with their tongue and the Jacobson’s organ in the roof of their mouth.
- a clear scale covers their eye (they will never blink).
- no external ear openings but hear by vibrations with an inner ear.
- eat their prey whole with jaws that extend or stretch.
Common snakes in Iowa: fox snakes, bull snakes, garter snakes, milk snake, brown snake, northern red-bellied snake.
Endangered snakes in Iowa: yellow-bellied water snake, speckled kingsnake, western hognose snake, massasagua rattlesnake, prairie rattlesnake, copperhead. Diamondback water snake, smooth green snake, and western worm snake are listed as threatened snakes in Iowa.
Bugs to Bunnies, Hands-on Animal Science Activities for Young Children
Activities provided by:
Polk County Conservation Board
Nature Friends is funded by Polk County Conservation Board, West Des Moines Park and Recreation, and the Des Moines Chapter of the Izaak Walton League.