The sun went down and the world came alive for a group of 20 children and adults that participated in last Friday’s nighttime expedition “Things that Go Bump in the Night” at the Webb Mountain Discovery Zone in Monroe. The Connecticut Science Center’s Hank Gruner led the expedition of budding scientists armed with high-powered flashlights and specimen jars into the darkened woods to capture and observe what they found and to learn about the lifecycles of the frogs, salamanders and other creatures that live in and around the ponds and pools found at the Discovery Zone.
Mr. Gruner, Connecticut’s leading expert on amphibians, opened the program with a question and answer period explaining to the group what a vernal pool is and why we see mass migrations of frogs in this area on wet spring and summer nights. When the class arrived at the vernal pool, they were encouraged to watch and listen before the flashlights were lit or the water disturbed. Then the group fired up their flashlight beams and explored the waters as Mr. Gruner stood ready with his dip net to safely capture what was found.
In short order the discoveries began, “Look! A salamander!”, “I see a frog!!”, “I found something over here!”, “There’s a diving beetle!”, “What’s THAT?!” Every collection jar was filled with a unique discovery including egg masses, salamanders, frogs, tadpoles, fairy shrimp, beetles and other organisms passed around to each of the participants while Mr. Gruner identified each creature and shared something unique about its behavior or habitat.
“This was our first nighttime event and being able to personally discover and view these unique and in many cases seldom seen organisms so vividly while surrounded by the dark of night was an unforgettable learning experience for the children participating in the program and for their parents,” said Tom Ellbogen, Director of the Discovery Zone.
Friday night’s event was a follow up to the daytime vernal pool investigation also conducted by Mr. Gruner on April 29th. Gruner along with Nick Bellantoni, State Archeologist, helped create the interactive Scavenger Hunt at the Discovery Zone that parents and their school age children can visit free of charge any day of the week. In addition, the Discovery Zone offers a series of unique and high quality programs featuring top experts in their respective fields, including “Bird Calls for Kids” in June, hosted by Milan Bull, widely regarded as Connecticut’s top bird expert, and an archeological dig in September featuring Nick Bellantoni, who has been featured on the History Channel.
For more pictures of this program and information on upcoming events planned at the Discovery Zone, visit www.webbmountaindiscoveryzone.com
Webb Mountain Discovery Zone is an outdoor learning center located on 171 acres in Monroe CT providing enrichment opportunities and links to school curricula in the areas of nature, science and history. The Discovery Zone is located at 71 Webb Circle in Monroe. Please note the Discovery Zone entrance is separate from Webb Mountain Park.