Few things are more captivating than peering into a jar of pond water alive with a whole zoo of wiggling, swimming beasties – or watching larger types of pond life such as tadpoles and diving beetles going about their daily business. The educational potential of the average garden pond is enormous – so how can you make the most of this latent resource?
Pond dipping is a great way to start educating children about pond life, not least because you never quite know what you’re going to find. All you really need to get going is a very modest amount of equipment.
Pond Dipping Kit
- Net – This needn’t be an expensive item, but try to get one with holes that are small enough to catch your mini-beasts, but not so small that you end up with a net full of silt. The typical seaside “shrimping net” will do, but the stronger sort available from pet shops and garden centres for fish keepers are generally a better bet.
- Magnifying Glass – It’s a good idea to get a few cheap plastic ones for the children to use and a good quality glass one to be used under supervision for making really detailed observations.
- Spoons – A few plastic spoons can be very useful for moving the animals around from tray to container, or container back to the pond.
- Trays – A water-tight tray is a good place to empty the net into before transferring the beasts into separate containers.
- Pots and Containers – A range of sizes can be really useful for holding the catch. Toy shops sell small purpose made transparent pots with magnifying tops and margarine tubs can be used too – the white plastic making the animals much easier to see.
- Guide Book – A good guide book can be really useful to help identify the catch and even if you know perfectly well what you’re looking at yourself, it’s a great way to teach children this essential skill. The best sort to go for are ones which have actual pictures or very clear illustrations and give an indication of the size of the animal, making it far less likely you’ll be fooled by what you see.
Frogs And Tadpoles
Frogs and tadpoles have a special place in most people’s hearts and they’re great examples of how wildlife has adapted to the changing world. With around 70 per cent of Britain’s natural lakes and wetlands having been lost over the last century, frogs have been remarkably successful using our ornamental ponds as breeding sites.
At a time when amphibian populations around the globe are under severe threat, the common frog (Rana temporaria) has shown a wonderfully opportunist streak in ensuring its own survival in back gardens. Aside of providing a remarkably clear lesson in practical conservation, frogs in the pond also offer a great chance to observe their fascinating life cycle – and the ideal opportunity for educating youngsters about their metamorphosis from fish-like larvae to air-breathing adults.
Where appropriate, spawning can be used as a very effective introduction to the idea of sexual reproduction for children of a suitable age or understanding.
Safety around the pond is obviously something which needs to be taken into account if you’re thinking of teaching kids about pond life – especially for the very young. Drowning is the third most common cause of accidental death at home amongst pre-school children, so alert parenting is essential.
Establishing a few simple ground rules should go a long way towards ensuring that the education session runs smoothly. Something along the lines of “stay out of the pond, be careful around the edges and keep things that have been in the water out of your mouth” should suffice – and keep everyone safe and happy.
Water has an age-old attraction for youngsters. Add to this the amazing array of creatures teeming in the depths of even the smallest pond and you have the most wonderful natural laboratory quite literally on your doorstep. Best of all, educating children about pond life ends up being great fun – for everyone concerned!