Nature by Night

Pre-visit Guide

We are pleased to offer in-depth tours and programs developed in collaboration with the educators at East Stroudsburg University, rooted in current scientific knowledge.

This page details the complete content of the Nature by Night tour. Not all topics may be covered depending on questions from visitors, any requested focus on certain curriculum areas, and overall management of the group. We want to do everything possible to ensure that your visit is a successful one. Please contact us for any questions about programming, accessibility, or other issues.

Tour length:

  • Approx. 45 minutes
  • Scavenger hunt or story time Add-ons require an additional 30 minutes

Learning Goal

Explorers observe the nighttime sky and museum exhibits to learn about the behavior and characteristics of nocturnal animals.

Outcomes

  • Affective: Explorers are curious to discover nocturnal animals in their own backyards.
  • Behavioral: Explorers learn how it feels to try to walk, feel, see, hear, and smell in the dark.
  • Cognitive: Explorers learn the adaptations of nocturnal animals and can identify behaviors and characteristics.

Tour

INTRO

  • Who can name some animals that come out at night?
  • Have you ever seen or heard them?
  • What kind of body parts do they have to help them get around at night?
    • Big eyes
    • Big ears/bat echolocation
    • Sneaking up on prey
  • First we’re going to learn about some of the animals in the sky, in shapes called constellations; does anybody know any constellations? Discuss.
  • Planetarium film: Stars for younger groups, Little Star for older groups

NORTH

  • Gray wolf
    • Avoid the heat of day in summer
    • Come out any time in cooler temperatures
  • Canada lynx
    • Mainly nocturnal so they can hunt favorite prey, snowshoe hare
    • Vision like all cats: extra reflective layer
    • Hearing excellent
  • Snowshoe hare
    • During the day, hide in depressions or scrapes
    • Big fluffy feet help them in the snow, but also keep them quiet when moving
    • HOP LIKE SNOWSHOE HARES TO NEXT EXHIBIT…QUIETLY

WEST

  • Coyote
    • What’s it like in the desert? HOT!
    • Big word: crepuscular—anybody know what it means? (of course not)
    • Can be active any time but are crepuscular—coming out at dusk and dawn—mostly due to heat and prey
  • Ringtail
    • Related to raccoons, not cats
    • Large eyes and ears
    • WALK LIKE RINGTAILS TO NEXT EXHIBIT…USING BIG EYES

EAST

  • Raccoon
    • Smell important, especially for communicating with each other
    • Hearing excellent, even for worms underground
    • The most highly adapted mammal for tactile stimuli, with more of the section of its brain devoted to processing senses developed for touch than in any other mammal
      • paws highly developed for touch and flexibility, even without a thumb
      • special hairs on tips of paws help with identification (like whiskers in cats) through sensing vibration
      • even better when in water, softening tough skin on paws
    • FEELING ACTIVITY…IDENTIFY EDIBLE OBJECT IN BAG BY TOUCH ONLY
  • Bats
    • Mammals, only ones capable of true flight (not gliding)
    • Insectivorous (mosquitoes also nocturnal)
    • Echolocation: fruit-eating bats have good eyesight; insectivorous don’t
    • Found almost everywhere on earth
    • Large ears also pick up on rustling of moth wings, centipede feet, cricket/cicada membranes when not singing
  • Porcupine
    • One of the only animals that’s black and white (another being the skunk) using color to warn predators what they are; when it bristles, it creates a white stripe down the back
    • VISION ACTIVITY: FACILITATOR STANDS IN WATERFOWL CORNER AND HOLDS WHITE PAPER AGAINST BLACK BACKGROUND…HOW WELL CAN THE EXPLORERS SEE THE WHITE?
    • Also have an odor
    • Don’t see well and move slowly
    • Not good climbers and often fall out of trees, chasing young shoots; only climb as a last defense against attackers; so it’s good that they are the only animal in this part of the world with antibiotics in their skin, for when they stick themselves
    • Only real predators are agile, like the fisher, or large and don’t mind quills, such as mountain lions, bears, golden eagles, large owls
  • Owls
    • Eyes are fixed; have to turn head to look around; facial disk around each eye can focus feathers in the direction of sound
    • Flat face further captures sound
    • Can’t see well close up but have tiny feathers around feet and beak to feel prey
    • Excellent low-light distance vision
    • Ears aren’t symmetrical; helps with locating prey; turn their heads until sound hits both ears at the same time, making them directly face their prey
    • Many owls have special ruffling along the feather edges that make them silent; fishing owls don’t need this for hunting and don’t have it
    • Feathers have a coating that absorbs sound, damping it below what most prey can hear
    • Can also fly more slowly
    • Almost all owls use camouflage; snowy especially
    • HEARING ACTIVITY…QUIETLY RUSTLE LEAVES IN CERVID ROOM
  • Black bear
    • Mainly crepuscular, foraging at night around areas of human activity
    • More active in daytime when around other bears, e.g. mothers with cubs
    • Excellent night vision, especially for movement, but they’re omnivores—forage/scavenge more than hunt
    • Better fishing in low light, when the fish can’t see as well
  • THESE ANIMALS CAN BE SKIPPED OR CONDENSED AS TIME/ATTENTION SPAN PERMITS
  • Beaver
    • Always work at night
    • Can build a basic dam and chew down several trees in one night
    • Large trees for dams, small trees for food
    • Crepuscular; use cover of night for building and foraging/caching
  • Woodcock
    • Stay in thickets during the day, but fly at night to forage in fields
    • Is famous for its courtship displays at dusk
  • Flying squirrel
    • Glide, don’t fly
    • Nocturnal because they can’t escape diurnal birds of prey
  • Opossum
    • Slow moving
    • Prefer dark spaces
    • Out in daytime when hungry, especially in winter
  • Mink
    • Hunted by Great horned owls, bobcat, and fox
    • Mostly nocturnal where they don’t depend on fish; otherwise active in day

AFRICA

  • Hyena
    • sense of smell to find carcasses, watches vultures, and listens for other scavengers feeding
    • stays out of heat of day
    • SMELLING ACTIVITY…CLOSE EYES AND IDENTIFY FOOD BY SMELL…SAY “This smells as good to us as rotting carcasses smell to a hyena”
  • Leopard
    • stays of out of heat of day
    • mostly nocturnal, some hunt in day, but all follow prey’s schedule
    • uses hearing to hunt at night; sneaks up and pounces
    • hauls kill into tree to avoid other nighttime predators, e.g. hyena

CERVID ROOM

  • White-tailed deer
    • eyes have more cells for picking up light
    • may be able to see ultraviolet light, which is what occurs in early morning and late afternoon
  • Moths
    • tiger moths use echolocation to warn bats not to eat them (like color in a poison dart frog or viceroy/monarch mimicry) or to jam their sonar
    • some moths have a tympanum that reacts to echolocation to send the moth erratically flying, thwarting bats
    • FLYING ACTIVITY…FLY ERRATICALLY LIKE MOTHS GETTING AWAY FROM BATS

Allow time for questions.

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