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Investigate a Rotten Log

What's so great about a dead log? Pick apart your own rotten log for clues.

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Average Rating:
Participant Age: Under 7, 7 to 12
Approximate Cost: Under $10
Duration: 1 to 60 minutes
Difficulty:
Physical Challenge:
  • 1 rotten log (or tree stump)
  • Notebook
  • Pencil
  • 1 large stick
Examine Log's Surface
  • First, check the surface of the log. What do you see? You may see slime trails of snails or slugs. Also look for mosses, lichens, nutshells (from feeding squirrels), or holes bored into the log.
  • As you and your child examine the log, draw or write what you see on a sheet of paper.

Peel Off Bark
  • Peel off a piece of bark. What do you see? You may see ants or beetles, or you may find the tunnels that beetles chew into wood.
  • Use a large stick to pick apart any crumbly wood on the log. Now what do you see? Did you send spiders, centipedes, or pill bugs running? Do you spot any insect eggs or larvae?
Look Inside

If the log is hollow, carefully poke your stick inside. You may find nest materials or a snakeskin.

Look Underneath

Parent: Roll over the log with your foot. You and your child may find snake or lizard eggs underneath. Remember to gently return log to its original position.

Talk About Your Findings

Ask your child to use the notes the two of you took to answer these questions:

  • What type of animals did you find in the rotten log?
  • What were they doing there? (Many were finding shelter, food, or places to raise their young.)
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