By Patrick McShea
In early October, when a pre-school teacher requested frog and toad materials from the museum’s Educator Loan Collection, she mentioned plans to share the items with a fifth-grade teacher.
Jean Nipaver, an early childhood teacher at Pittsburgh’s Beechwood PreK-5, has long borrowed museum materials to create stimulating learning environments for children 3 – 5 years old. In her email request, she credited a former student for the plan to share resources:
“Yesterday, a fifth-grade teacher stopped me in the hall. Her class is reading Night of the Spadefoot Toads, and a girl in the class told her about all the science she remembered from pre-k, especially about the frogs & toads we’d borrowed from you and the very cool frog song player that you lent us.”
Night of the Spadefoot Toads, which all fifth grade students in Pittsburgh Public Schools read as part a core literacy program, is an award-winning book from 2012 by long-established children’s book author Bill Harley.
It tells the story of a fifth grade boy’s adjustment to a move from Arizona to Massachusetts, and his eventual attachment to new varieties of wildlife and the habitat that supports them. As the author summarizes on his website, the book is “about nature and wildlife, friends, school, bullies, and finding a home in the world. The story reminds us that the place around the corner has its own secrets and treasures.”
At Beechview PreK-5, borrowed museum materials let pre-school students and fifth graders in on the same secret – the deep groan-like croak of the spadefoot toad. For the older students the spooky noise added a bit of a soundtrack to the engaging, relevant, age-appropriate story they were reading. For the younger students in Jean Nipaver’s class, the toad call was part of a school-year-long soundtrack, one focused on learning about science.
Learn more about spadefoot toads and play their call courtesy of the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory.
For information about the popular book, visit Bill Harley’s website.
Learn more about the CMNH Educator Loan Program.
Patrick McShea works in the Education and Visitor Experience department of Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Museum employees are encouraged to blog about their unique experiences and knowledge gained from working at the museum.