Lesson Plan

Spotted Salamanders: Love those Spots!

Male Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) found along the Natchez Trace Parkway.

NPS Photo

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Grade Level:
Pre-Kindergarten-First Grade
Biology: Animals, Ecology
30-45 minutes, depending on discussion time
Group Size:
Up to 36
National/State Standards:
Life Science: 3a, 3e
metamorphosis, Amphibian, spotted salamander, poisonous, adaptations


Spotted Salamanders have yellow spots which warn predators that they are poisonous. While not lethally toxic, their poison makes them taste very bitter to an animal that would like to eat them.  Salamanders lay eggs in water and juveniles metamorphose and lizards lay eggs on land and juveniles resemble adults. 


Enduring Understanding: Animal species have characteristics that help to define them.

Essential Question: Why are spotted salamanders spotted with bright colors?

The student will:

1.) Use descriptive words to describe

2.) Learn that bright colors on animals are often warnings and protect the animal from predators.


Spotted salamanders are common through much of the United States. They have bright spots that function as a warning to ward off predators. They have a very bitter taste and are slightly toxic. These salamanders migrate to vernal home pools to lay eggs on cool, rainy nights. Unfortunately many get run over. The Natchez Trace Parkway now has signs posted to help warn motorists in areas of heavy migration. See the fact sheet for more complete information.


1.) Spotted Salamander Fact Sheet

2.) Spotted Salamander Coloring Page and Photo

3.) Photo Pack

4.) Photos of brightly colored toxic insects and camouflaged non-toxic insects (http://www.cals.ncsu.edu/course/ent425/tutorial/Ecology/defense.html)

5.) Crayons

6.) Option: A loudly colored stuffed animal that is not representative of the actual coloration of the animal it represents: For example, a lime green-pink polka dotted stuffed pony



1. Contribution to class discussion: does the student appropriately contribute to discussion?

2. Accuracy in coloring the picture: does the student follow directions and match the colors of a real spotted salamander?

Park Connections

The Natchez Trace Parkway has a salamander crossing near the Jackson, MS area. Speed limits are reduced through this area during migration. Many salamanders are killed by vehicles during migration. The Natchez Trace Parkway in attempting to help to protect the salamanders by using flashing signs that light up on cool rainy nights when the salamanders migrate.


Option: Comparing toy animal with actual spotted salamander.

Why is this (pony) is brightly colored?

• Answers will vary but should cover the idea that many people like brightly colored objects.

Is this the way real (ponies) are colored?

Teacher can show pictures of real ponies.

Teacher Closure: Tell students that if they see a brightly colored stuffed animal it means "Cuddle" but in nature bright markings it often means "keep back!"

Additional Resources

Big Night for Salamanders by Sarah Marwil Lamstein (available for check out under Materials)


salamander, poison, bitter

Last updated: April 14, 2015