Ponds are fascinating places. They can be small ecosystems, with all life forms supporting and dependent on each other. Young children enjoy discovering interesting things in nature, and finding a pond to explore can be the first step in developing a love for nature.
Ponds are more accessible than you may think. Hiking in the woods will often reveal puddles or other areas of still water that can certainly be classified as ponds. You may have a neighbor with a pond on his or her property, or you may have one available in your own yard. Even urban dwellers can create a pond by putting a container out to catch rain water and leaving it undisturbed for a week or more. Wind, rain, and visiting creatures will deposit some sort of life form (eggs, spores, etc.) as the water sits undisturbed.
Before beginning to teach young children about pond life, check out some good books at your local library that are appropriate for your age group. Depending on the age of your kids, notebooks and other means of recording observations are helpful. Regularly visit the pond and record what you and the children see, keeping an eye out for those creatures you have read about already.
Bring the Pond to You – Dipping
Pond dipping is one way by which you can bring a portion of a pond into your home or classroom. An aquarium is ideal, but you can use any clear container. Even white plastic containers will work for small projects, as you can view small creatures well against the white surroundings. If your indoor pond begins to dry up, you will have to collect more water from the same pond or use rainwater. Tap water could kill your critters.
Here are some creatures you might collect in your pond dipping or find in your observations.
* Horsehair Worms – Worms can be rather freakish to look at, but many worms are completely harmless to humans. An example of such an aquatic dweller is the horsehair worm. It looks like a long, usually dark piece of horse’s mane that waves gently in the water. They tend to show up in bowls of rainwater that are left undisturbed. Horsehair worms actually eat more harmful or annoying creatures, such as mosquito larvae. If you see one, leave it alone and observe.
* Tadpoles – Many of us remember a tank of tadpoles in our preschool or grade school classrooms. Watching the transformation from tadpole to frog is remarkable, and since frogs’ numbers are dropping in many areas, adding more frogs to the environment is a good thing to do.
* Fish – Fish are always popular with children. You will find interesting (and sometimes ruthless) behavior between fish and other life forms in your pond.
* Water Bugs – It’s fun to watch water bugs skate over the surface of the water. They make a perfect visual example for teaching children about surface tension on water.
* Microscopic Creatures – Pond water is teeming with protozoa, diatoms, and microscopic plant life. Children are fascinated by these little critters, but you need a microscope to view them. If you have access to a microscope with a screen, the wiggling, tiny life forms can be seen by more than one child at a time. Your local college, university, or high school science department might be willing to work with you to arrange some pond-water viewing time if they have such equipment.
* Plants – Aquatic plants like bladderwort are fascinating. Bladderwort is actually a carnivorous plant, opening up the possibility of a whole study on the subject.