Creepy, crawly — and cool

Youngsters waded into the waist-deep water of a slough southeast of Minot last week in search of bloodworms, leeches and other creepy crawlies.

“If you see tadpoles, net ’em!” called Ken Cabarle, instructor of the Minot State University College for Kids class called “Salamanders, Frogs and their Homes.” “Get your hands on those things!”

Cabarle said the class of 8- to 12-year-olds probably could not expect to find actual salamanders or frogs that day in the slough near the North Dakota State University Research Center, since conditions weren’t exactly right. But, in the past, scientists have found up to eight different types of amphibians living in the muddy waters, creatures such as tiger salamanders, wood frogs, spade-foot toads and Plains toads. Cabarle first explored the slough while he was working as a research assistant to MSU biology professor Chris Beachy. Cabarle, who is now an assistant professor at Dakota College at Bottineau and adviser to the fish and wildlife program, is currently finishing up his own Ph.D. He has taught previous College for Kids classes at Minot State and said some kids keep coming back year after year.

When they first began the four-day class, Cabarle said he taught the children about the different types of amphibians and the kids each adopted an amphibian in the lab as a pet that they were responsible for during the week.

They also learned about the amphibians’ habitat, how they walk and swim, where they breed and, on the third day, they learned about the type of food they eat. Wednesday, the third day of the class, was “food day,” or, as Cabarle’s son and teaching assistant Jordan, calls it, “Wet Day.” Jordan Cabarle said he doesn’t think he wants his own future career to involve anything that requires wading into a slough.

Some of the junior herpetologists, like Jordan, were less enthusiastic than others about getting their feet wet at first, while others charged ahead with their nets held at the ready. After a few minutes, all of the children were traipsing into the water and looking for creatures to show Cabarle.

Cabarle said he’s trying to grow future scientists by teaching these classes and hopes to spark an interest in biology by showing them what scientists actually do. Biologists don’t just work in a nice, clean laboratory, said Cabarle. They go out into the field to collect the specimens they study to learn more about nature, just like the junior herpetologists were doing.

There are several sessions of the Salamanders, Frogs and their Homes class this summer. The limit is 12 per class; Cabarle said he thought most sessions were full. For more information about openings in this class or other College for Kids classes, call Amy Woodbeck at 858-3989, toll free 1-800-777-0750, ext. 3989, or e-mail Amy.Woodbeck