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Nature Nuggets

Our award-winning Environmental Education team have put together a collection of their favorite nature-based learning activities for kids of all ages. These "Nature Nuggets" can be done in your own home, or outside your front door! Share your outdoor and indoor nature exploration with us on Facebook and Instagram with #GetIntoNature and #MohonkPreserve!


Thumbprint Insects with Cathy Shiga-Gattullo
Nature Nugget  |  May 13th

Location: Anywhere with a table 
Great For: Students and Families, Ages 4 and up  

What are the parts of an insect? Use your fingerprint as a base to draw an insect. Or invent one of your own! 

1.  What are the parts of an insect?  

  • Three body parts (head, thorax (middle), and abdomen (end)) 
  • Six legs 
  • Two antennae 
  • Wings (sometimes 2, sometimes 4, and in parts of its lifecycle none at all. Sometimes they’re folded up under a shell like a ladybug)  
  • Compound Eyes 
  • Exoskeleton 

Here’s a song to remember it by (to the tune of Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes): 

Head, Thorax, Abdomen, Abdomen! (touch your head, middle, and knees) 
Head, Thorax, Abdomen, Abdomen! 
Plus six legs and an exoskeleton! (stick three fingers out on each side, and knock on your shoulder like it’s crunchy) 
Head, Thorax, Abdomen, Abdomen! 

2.  Here’s a nice chart of basic insect body parts. Go outside around your home and see if you can see any insects and observe their body parts.  
3.  You need stamp pads or a dish of paint, markers, pencils, and something to stamp on – paper or cardboard. 

Bonus: Make trading cards. Put your stamped picture on one side and write some info on the other. Give your insect a name, a personality characteristic, a best friend, a favorite food, etc.  

Extra bonus: Invent an insect. Choose colors and body shape. Choose a habitat and name it. Make sure it has the basic body parts, though, or you’ve invented an alien (which would also be cool).  

Selected resources: 

How to Build an Insect; Roberta Gibson and Anne Lambelet; Millbrook Press, 2020. 
On Beyond Bugs: All About Insects; Tish Rabe and Aristides Ruiz; Random House Books for Young Readers, 1999. 
The Backyard Bug Book for Kids: Storybook, Insect Facts, and Activities; Lauren Davidson; Rockridge Press, 2019. 

Inchworm song from the film Hans Christian Anderson (Did you know? Inchworms are the larva of the geometer moth, not a worm at all. And caterpillars of all kinds still have only 6 legs – because they’re insects! Whatever little nubs towards the back of its body are actually false legs.) 

Since we’re using our thumbs...Thumbelina song from the same movie. 

Squirrel Study with Lauren Borer
Nature Nugget  |  May 12th

Additional Resources:

Squirrels of NYS 
Squirrel Observation Data Sheet - Elementary School
Squirrel Observation Data Sheet - Middle/High School

For Teachers:
Squirrel Study Activity Standards

Act Like an Animal Charades with Cathy Shiga-Gattullo
Nature Nugget  |  May 11th

Location: Indoors/Backyard 
Great For: Students and Families, Ages 4 and up 

How does your favorite animal move? How does it move differently when it’s doing different things? 

  1. Think about the way your favorite animal moves. Get down on all fours and lumber like a black bear. Can you waddle like a goose?  
  2. What does your animal do if it’s scared? Does it tuck in its legs and head like a turtle?  Does it fly away like a bird?  
  3. What does your animal do if it’s looking for food? Does it scratch the ground like a turkey? Does it lean its head down like a white tail deer?  
  4. See if someone can guess what animal you are imitating. This is a great video chat activity with family and friends. You can give hints, like it’s a type of bird, or it’s found in the rainforest. 

Bonus: Here’s your chance to make a TikTok video! Try this activity as a dance.  
Use Camille Saint Saens’ Carnival of the Animals for animal suggestions all in one place.

View More Nature Nuggets:

Banner Photo by Christy Belardo