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Dipping in May's Prairie

This program may be scheduled for groups of any age and requires at least two weeks of advance notification due to limited center staff and volunteer availability. Participants in this program must be able to tolerate walking distances of at least one mile on sandy substrate in the climate typical to when the program is booked. Participants should be advised they will get wet up to the knees. They may wear old shoes or no shoes for the program, and it is recommended they bring a towel and hat. The length of this program is three hours.


May’s Prairie is a large open grassy prairie that lies lower in elevation than most of the Chinsegut Wildlife Environmental Area property. Due to its low elevation and thick peat layer, the prairie is often filled with water, which creates a great habitat for frogs, crayfish, aquatic invertebrates, turtles and many more animals. During this program participants will have the opportunity to use dip nets and to catch aquatic animals for identification. This program introduces participants to the importance of wetlands and good water quality to the Chinsegut food chain.

Pre-visit recommendations:

  1. Review terms:
    • Amphibian: animals with aquatic gill-breathing larvae such as frogs, toads, salamanders and newts
    • Reptile: Animals with dry scaly skin that typically lay soft-shelled eggs on land, such as snakes, lizards, crocodiles, turtles and tortoises. 
    • Aquatic: living in or around water
    • Nymph: the young of an insect
    • Naiad: the aquatic young of an insect
    • Predator: an animal who lives by consuming other animals
  2. Review the life cycles of frogs and dragonflies
  3. Discuss the kinds of insects you see around water


  • Safety discussion for the hike to May’s Prairie
  • Guided hike to May’s Prairie
  • Water quality testing in the prairie
  • Safety discussion for catching aquatic wildlife
  • Dipping activity
  • Review of collected specimens, allowing participants to decide what animals they have based on provided “easy ID” guides.
  • Return walk from May’s Prairie
  • Cleanup, review and evaluation

Post Visit:

  1. Create a classroom tadpole aquarium
  2. Dip net in other bodies of water and compare findings
  3. Obtain a water quality testing kit and test water quality in other bodies of water.