Angelicscalliwags’ One Year Pond Study has had me excited about nature study in a way that hasn’t happened since … well, ever! Like angelicscalliwags, we’ve tried using an assortment of books, blogs and curricula for inspiration but nothing seemed to stick, so I contented myself knowing that with daily dog walks in the woods and by the river, summers at the beach and hours playing in our garden, C(9) and J(7) have plenty of opportunity to experience nature first hand.
But the idea of observing a local ecosystem regularly over the seasons really captured my imagination. So a couple of weeks ago we set off to get better acquainted with our own beautiful local pond.
I didn’t have any agenda for our first visit to the pond, other than to let the children explore and for me to observe what interested them. They were keen to take their nature study notebooks which I’d retrieved from the back of a shelf (last entries, May 2011 – ahem!)
What is a pond?
One of C(9)’s first questions was “Why do we call this a pond and not a lake?”
When we researched the answer later, we discovered some experts say that the difference is just about size, while others say it has to do with depth: ponds are shallow enough for plants to grow across the entire pond bottom. This area where plants can grow is known as the “photic zone”, meaning the sun’s rays can reach the bottom.
We also discovered that a person who studies bodies of fresh water is called a limnologist, from the Greek “limne” meaning “pool” or “marsh”.
We saw mallard ducks – “about four male ducks for every female”, C(9) noted in her journal.
A pair of Canada geese.
Even evidence of moles – our puppy (happy to be finally let out of the car once we were safely away from the swans) was especially interested in these!
We saw daffodils in bud.
And in bloom.
J(7) picked a willow tree to draw.
C(9) tested the temperature of the water and was surprised to discover that at 5℃ (41℉) the pond was warmer than the air (2.9℃ /36℉).
Pond temperature has higher resilience than air, so it is slower to lose heat following cool air conditions. While air may have high daily temperature variation, water remains relatively constant. (Now we know why we often see steam over the river on winter mornings.)
An unexpected bonus – Frogspawn!
We struggled to find a benchmark to measure the water level in the pond, but we know it must be pretty high because the surrounding meadow area was covered in large puddles. It was in one of these puddles that we were excited to discover a jelly-like substance with lots of little black dots in – frogspawn!
My mum said experts are concerned about frog reproduction this spring because with the late cold snap, ponds are too cold for frogspawn. Well our local frogs had found a solution – we just hope the puddles don’t dry up too soon!
Also in the unexpected category – C(9) found a solitary egg drifting around the edge of the pond!
Our pond is in the middle of a popular dog-walking area, so we were find a tiny island which is close enough to shore for us to observe, but provides a small wildlife sanctuary from humans and their pets.
Surprising local history
When we looked up the name of our pond (which is in the next village, about 5 minutes’ drive away) we discovered some fascinating local history: until the 1970’s, naked bathing was permitted there! There were changing huts (for those with more modesty, we speculated?) and even a lifeguard in attendance at 630am on summer days. How times have changed since I was a child!
What a great time of year to begin a pond study. After a long winter with nothing much happening, nature is preparing to burst into life before our eyes. And as we braved the snow flurries (on 25 March!) I imagined how pleasant it will be to spend time pond-side when the spring sunshine finally arrives!
Thank you, again, for the inspiration, Claire and family!
To see what other homeschoolers have been doing this week, visit Adventures In Mommydom’s Science Sunday link up, and for more outdoor kids fun go to Country Kids from Coombe Mill and Outdoor Play Party at Learning For Life.