One morning at `Tadpole Central'

Rain peppered the pavement April 9 as a gentle Gorge shower rolled up the river, bringing with it a thin fog which scattered in and out of the trees.

Raincoats of every color -- pink, yellow, blue and even ladybug -- dotted the playground at the Bright Beginnings school in Hood River. Kids played on the jungle gym oblivious to the morning showers which kept most of the adults huddled in the school doorway.

Teacher Patty Boots had asked parents to make sure each child wore rain boots and brought a change of clothes on Wednesday. It was only coincidence that the kids happened to be taking a field trip to Catherine Creek that morning in search of tadpoles.

The field trip was part of a Frog unit, where the preschool class will have the opportunity to watch the lifecyle of a Frog, beginning with tadpoles.

"We try to incorporate a lot of nature units into our program," said teacher Billie Rumsey.

One by one, 18 or so preschoolers, and 13 parents, piled into cars with windshield wipers swinging and headed east down the Gorge to the popular Washington hiking area.

"Stay behind me and in front of Billie," said Boots as she collected all the kids running around, searching for rolly pollies and the like, after the 20-minute car ride.

Holding hands, the class then headed up the trail, stopping at a large mud puddle midway through for a little play time. Stomping boots -- splash -- laugh -- chuckles -- rolled out of the kids as they got their boots good and muddy for the second half of the hike.

Rounding the corner was a beautiful, large oak tree with branches stretching out over the backside of a small pond. Tadpole central.

Some of the kids started slowly, while a few of the braver boys grabbed their cups and went full force into the water. Others were content to squat down at the water's edge and keep their feet on dry ground.

"Someone falls in every year," laughed Boots as a few of the toddlers lost their footing and ended up gently falling down in the water, making their pants fully soaked.

"I found one," yelled a few kids in unison. Cup after cup dipped into the ponds. Hands were then raised high, trying to grab what little sunlight was breaking through the clouds, to see if any tadpoles were swimming through the murky green pond water.

Dozens were discovered. Maybe hundreds. Slowly they were put into a large jug to take back to the classroom. Leaving the pond, the kids hiked down a small creek in search of further discovery.

Some found -- and held -- worms for the first time. Egged on by their peers, discovery was limitless.

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