Cultivate Wonder

Exploring Science with Children

Wild about Wombats

diaryofawombatEver since I read Jackie French’s Diary of a Wombat (Clarion, 2003), I’ve been wild about wombats. On a recent visit to the Columbus Zoo, I discovered that they are now home to a wombat, Glen, one of very few zoos outside Australia to have one, as they are very closely regulated (rightly so.) And young Glen is just as adorable as Mothball, charmingly drawn by Bruce Whatley in French’s books. Though Wildlights is one of the main reasons people visit the zoo on a cold evening in December, another great bonus is that the animals in the nocturnal house are awake. Somehow we even lucked into arriving just before feeding time. IMG_2094

As the caretaker entered Glen’s enclosure with a handful of carrots, the little wombat stopped digging and gave all his attention to him, ears swiveling alertly forward. When the person stopped, Glen trotted over eagerly (wombats are actually pretty fast runners as it turns out!) So we saw Glen dig, scratch and roll in the dust, and eat carrots . . . just like the wombat of the book. You can see Glen in this video from the zoo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJHX_8YvbMs

All of this wombat fascination inspired a wombat storytime. I brought in a globe and began by showing the children where Ohio was and then where Australia is. We talked about the several unique animals that are found in Australia: kangaroos, koalas, and wombats.

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In addition to Diary of a Wombat, I shared Carol Diggory Shields’ Wombat Walkabout (Dutton, 2009). with its’ whimsical illustrations by Sophie Blackall.

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In adapting this program for a slightly younger audience, I’m planning to use one of Charles Fuge’s wombat stories.

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Other books include Michael Morpugo’s Wombat Goes Walkabout (HarperCollins, 1999)

one-very-tired-wombat-by-renee-treml-soft-cover.jpgand Renee Treml’s One Very Tired Wombat (Random House, 2013).

Songs included “Here Comes a Bear” by the Wiggles, which does include a wombat in one of the verses. Other than the bear, the animals mentioned are Australian, and children can act out the motions with the song (the kangaroo hops, snake slithers, and wombat crawls).

We learned how wombats are called “nature’s bulldozers” because of their incredible capacity for digging and the large tunnels they dig (again, just like in French’s book, where the wombat digs several holes, including one right up under the human’s house!) We watched a BBC video where the reporter actually goes into a wombat’s tunnel before designing our

own wombat tunnels.

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This craft uses two paper plates and turns so that the tunnel below the ground can be revealed. Children had fun playing a hide and seek type game with the wombat.

wombatcovnRead more about the real Mothball, the inspiration for Diary of a Wombat, on Jackie French’s site: http://www.jackiefrench.com/wombat.html

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