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Red Spotted Newt Unit Study

Updated on February 13, 2014

The Red Spotted Eft a Salamander Unit Study

Have you ever walked through the woods on a wet spring day and seen bright red salamanders scurrying across the leaf litter? Salamanders need the moisture of the forest floor to keep their skin damp in order to breathe. Just like frogs, salamanders are amphibians.

Today we will begin an exploration about Red Spotted Newts a kind of salamander found in the forest of eastern North America. What makes a salamander an amphibian? Why are some salamanders red? Where can you find salamanders? Could you keep a salamander in your room?

In this unit study we will be reading and writing about salamanders, learning the history and science of salamanders, drawing and painting salamanders, and even learning math with a salamander theme.

Step out into the forest and keep your eyes wide open. Let's look for salamanders...

Photo Credit: Red Eft (Notophthalmus viridescens) by DaveHuth

Used under creative commons

Red Salamanders in the Leaf Litter - Finding Red Salamanders

Red Eft
Red Eft

Photo Credit: Red Eft

Used under creative commons

Come take a walk with me to the waterfall across the field and through the woods near my Bed and Breakfast. First we walk across the dew laden grass until we get to the standing stones. The grass is wet because the air has been saturated with moisture and falling temperatures over the night caused water droplets to form on every available surface.

Our boots get wet as we walk across the field and enter the forest. We walk between rows of stone walls and finally reach the bank of a brook where the path leads to the left down to the level of the babbling brook. Now it is time to keep our eyes peeled.

Sweep your eyes left and right looking for salamanders. Their red bodies make finding them easy. Salamanders come out on damp wet days like today.

Salamander Language Arts

The Salamander Room - Salamander for a Pet

Brian tries to convince his mother to let him keep a salamander as a pet. His mom tries to explain that his room is not the right habitat for a salamander while Brian imagines what would need to happen to his room to make it the ideal habitat for salamanders.

I have read this book to many children and all have been delighted. What an imagination Brian has!

After reading the story, have the children create dioramas of Brian's room transformed into the ideal Salamander habitat.

Red Eft, the terrestrial phase of the Red Spotted Newt (Notophthalmus viridescens viridescens)
Red Eft, the terrestrial phase of the Red Spotted Newt (Notophthalmus viridescens viridescens)

Photo Credit: Red Eft by Putneypics

Used under creative commons

Have you ever seen a salamander?

See results

Salamander Tales - Stories about Salamanders

Big Night for Salamanders
Big Night for Salamanders
A boy and his parents help the salamanders cross the road to get to vernal pools on a rainy night.

Salamander Math

Salamander Science

Field Guide to Salamanders - Identify Salamanders

For general information about amphibians and how to recognize the difference between salamanders and other amphibians, be sure to check out the Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians.

A Field Guide to Reptiles & Amphibians of Eastern & Central North America (Peterson Field Guide Series)

Available on Amazon

When you are looking for specific information on salamanders, here is the most complete and up to date guidebook available on salamanders of North America. This field guide includes photographs, physical descriptions and taxonomy.

Salamander Egg! - Close-up of a Spotted Salamander Egg!

Salamander Egg
Salamander Egg

Photo Credit: Salamander Egg

Used under creative commons

Let's look closely at the salamander egg. Notice that there are two walls to the egg with clear substance between the outer layers with the salamander embryo swimming in the inner sphere. In the inner sphere you will see green algae that is beginning to grow. This algae is food for the developing salamander.

Salamander Habitat - Exploring Salamander Habitat

Set up a Sensory Table experience for your children. Add leaf litter gathered on your trip to the forest where salamanders were found. If you do not live in an area accessible to a forest, add potting soil and fallen leaves. Then add plastic animas to represent animals that share the forest habitat with salamanders.

As you read and learn more and more about salamanders, notice how the children change their play in the sensory table to reflect their new found knowledge.

Sensory tables are not just for pre-schoolers. This imaginative play is important for children as a pre-writing process and can lead to amazing stories for older children as they work out scenarios and plots while playing with the animals in the salamander habitat.

Red-Spotted Newt...

by George Grall

Available on Allposters

After the salamander eggs hatch they live underwater for a time as red-spotted newt larvae or tadpoles. Notice the dragon-like growths coming out of their heads. Aren't they adorable? They are the salamander's gills. As the newt larvae mature, these gills are absorbed and the salamander's lungs develop, its skin turns red and the tadpole becomes an eft transformed into its terrestrial stage.

Red Spotted Eastern Newt
Red Spotted Eastern Newt

Photo Credit: Holding a Salamander

Used under creative commons

Red Spotted Newts are delicate so it is important to catch and hold them gently. Squat down slowly so as not to attract attention. Reach out both hands and quickly scoop up the salamander with a cupping motion. Red Efts are light and tickle against the skin of your hand. Carefully open your hands just enough to see the salamander.

Look at its skin. Is the belly of the eft lighter than the back? Notice the spots. How are they formed? Are they complete circles? Are they round?

How many toes does your salamander have? Does it have the same number on the front and back?

Look into the face of your newt. What do you notice? Are the eyes on the sides, top or close together?

Salamanders excrete a mild poison so be sure to wash your hands after holding your eft.

Have you ever picked up a salamander?

See results

Salamander Music

Frog, Toad, Polywog - Amphibian Song

Here is a delightful song about amphibians. It features frogs, toads and polywogs but also includes salamanders and water dogs. Your children will love to sing along, maybe dance too as they learn a bit more about salamanders and their cousins.

Salamander Art

Writing about Salamanders

Come write about your salamanders on Wizzley, a fun and easy place to express your opinion:

Tell us about your salamander experiences. Have you ever seen a salamander? Have you ever picked one up? Have you read The Salamander Room? Would you like to have a salamander for a pet?


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