By Kim Foley MacKinnon
You don’t have to live near a teeming ocean, a sprawling lake, or even a
rushing river to help kids get their feet wet when it comes to aquatic
science. From measuring water velocity to perusing paramecia, there’s
plenty to investigate in ponds and streams near you.
For its hands-on-learning series A Mountain Classroom,
which runs throughout the school year for students in grades 5 through
10 at various AMC backcountry destinations, the Appalachian Mountain
Club relies on a small pond next to Cardigan Lodge, in New Hampshire.
find that water studies are a fantastic way to ignite the spark that
gets a lot of students interested in their surroundings,” says Lisa
Gilbert, coordinator of A Mountain Classroom for AMC’s Cardigan Lodge
and Highland Center. “Plus, it’s pure and simple fun!”
a trip to the White Mountains scheduled? You and your kids can benefit
from the same tools and strategies AMC educators use. Follow Gilbert’s
great advice on how you can adapt these activities close to home.
BIOLOGY TESTS: IT’S ALIVE!
kids use a hand lens or a magnifying glass to get an up-close look at
water samples, they’ll see their favorite swimming hole in a whole new
light. For starters, you’ll need a small net. The kind you can get at
the pet store for transferring fish from one home to another is perfect.
You’ll also need a clear plastic bucket or another type of large, clear
container; an eye dropper or a turkey baster; and ice cube trays.
kids get their nets down into the mucky leaf matter and detritus at the
edge of a pond or stream and scoop some of it into their nets. Kids can
dump the contents of their nets into the clear container, which should
be filled with water from the pond. Let everything settle for a minute
and then watch what happens.
You should see lots of young
insects and other macroinvertebrates moving around, including dragonfly,
stonefly, and mayfly nymphs; crane fly and mosquito larvae; and
predacious diving beetles. Using an eye dropper or a turkey baster to
catch them, transfer each critter into its own section of the ice cube
tray (also filled with water) so kids can get a better look. When you’re
done, make sure to release the creatures gently back into the water.
The easiest way is to slowly submerge the container then turn it over
and remove it. For more info on indentifying pond insects, check out the
Stroud Water Research Center.
PHYSICAL TESTS: DEEP AND WIDE
tests can be a fun way to tie in basic math and measuring skills. For
starters, kids can determine water velocity by measuring a specific
length of stream then floating a tangerine or an apple down the same
stretch and timing how long it takes to move from point A to point B.
Kids can also use a tape measure to check a stream’s width or a
yardstick to measure depth. Junior scientists eager to go to greater
depths can weight one end of a string and sink it to the bottom. Mark
where the surface hits the string before pulling it back up and using a
tape measure to find the depth.
Who knows? By plunging in early, kids may discover a future career—or at least some cool bugs. Have fun!
Find more ways to introduce kids to citizen science in the AMC Outdoors archives.
You can always get more tips on raising the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts in the Great Kids, Great Outdoors blog and share your own ideas in AMC’s community for families, Kids Outdoors. Photo: Leslie Science & Nature Center/Flickr Creative Commons 2.0
Labels: citizen science, kids, Kim Foley MacKinnon, Outdoors with Kids, science