Winter Ponds


Youth observe creatures as large as fish and tadpoles and as small as beetles and dragonfly larvae. Using an existing curriculum (developed for the traditional school context but easily adapted for out-of school and for different age groups), we provide suggestions for activities for long-term explorations of larger (fish, tadpoles, snails) and smaller (dragonfly larvae, daphnia) organisms.

Youth observe samples of pond water using microscopes to see how many different kinds of very small organisms may be present.

Youth isolate a few of the microorganisms and study how they move using microscopes.

Using simple equipment, youth discover where different organisms are found in ponds and collect multiple samples to bring back to the center for a long-term exploration studying organisms in-depth. The goal of this activity is to have youth witness the diversity that can be found in one kind of ecosystem.

Youth have collected specimens from a pond and have brought them back to their science center. Now they look at them more closely with magnifiers, examining how many different items they've collected and comparing and contrasting them.

Youth observe their collected organisms very closely by placing one organism on a tray or plastic
plate and then studying its body structure and other features using magnifiers. Youth keep
notes of what they see and make drawings or take photos that they can share with the whole
group during discussions.

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Pond organisms provide both continuity and contrast to the study of plants. Comparing and contrasting pond organisms provides opportunities to reinforce basic biological principles, such as the relationship between form and function. Exploration of pond organisms can span the range from large organisms (such as fish and tadpoles) to macro invertebrates (such as dragonfly larvae) to microorganisms. It is often easier to have younger children start by observing the larger pond organisms, and as they get comfortable with them, they can start to view smaller and smaller organisms. Once youth have observed large and small pond organisms, it is time to move toward a smaller scale of organism: microorganisms such as paramecium, euglena, and algae. Youth are often fascinated by these tiny organisms that they can barely see with the naked eye. Having the chance to observe them more closely provides youth with a way of expanding on the concept of biodiversity and food chains.

NOTE: If youth have not done anything previously with pond organisms, it is recommended that some time be spent having them become acquainted with organisms that are visible to the eye. This can give youth a better sense of where microorganisms fit into the ecology of a pond.

To carry out these observations, you will need microscopes in addition to other equipment. Some of these microorganisms are probably already present in containers the youth have been using to hold larger organisms. However, to ensure that you will have sufficient numbers and varieties for all participating youth, you should order some from a science supply business.