Pond Melt: We found this idea in our “Nature in a Nutshell” book. We collected a sample of pond ice in a jam jar (that in itself was quite an achievement as it was very thick and hard to break a chunk off), then we brought it back home to melt. It was then ready to examine for life, to see if anything lived in it during the winter. All we could find in our ice was algae under the microscope (we were using a pond life identification kit page from www.microscopy-uk.org.uk). It was still interesting for them to see though.
Examining pond water: The next exhibit was a sample of pond water collected in a jar. In here we saw lots of tiny little brown organisms swimming around madly. The children used their magnifying glasses to get a closer look and loved watching them.
Purifying water: I gave the children some soil to mix into a jug of water. I then gave them a plastic bottle with the top cut off and inserted as a funnel. I lay next to that small stones, cotton wool pads, and coffee filters. I then gave them the task of making the water clear. With big sister’s advice and instruction they put the coffee filter in first, then the cotton wool pads, then the small stones. This meant that she’d chosen to filter substances out in quite a logical order We did get much clearer water out the other end, so I wasn’t brave enough to recommend drinking it!
The story of our pond: We laid out various items to use in our story: flour to act as waste from a factory, soil to resemble a result of deforestation, food colouring for chemicals we put onto crops, shampoo for the soaps we use to clean ourselves, oil for vehicle and cooking waste, and raisins for human and pet waste). We then made up a story of a pond in an uninhabited area, which then gradually became a built up area, and all these waste products ended up in the water. As we told the story we put them into our clean bowl of water. The children were horrified with the result, and it really made them think of man’s impact on the environment.
Microscope work: Our little lady whiled away an hour, happily making up slides and looking at pond water and pond water plants. She also digressed which is always good with any learning!! She started pipetting water onto the stems, revisiting the concept of surface tension. She then decided to slice the reeds apart length ways, discovering the various tubes inside. We then had a brief conversation about xylems and phloems.
Why don’t frogs freeze?: The last experiment was to do with finding out why frogs can survive the freezing temperatures of a pond in winter. We took 2 containers, and put water in one and syrup in the other. We also marked the level at which the fluid was at. We then put them into the freezer overnight. On removing them in the morning, the water was frozen, and had expanded (to a higher level in the cup), but the syrup was still a liquid. Our blood is represented by the water. Ice crystals form, making the fluid expand, which would then damage any cells and they would die (so would we). The syrup represents the frog’s blood. Some animals like frogs make glucose in the liver and then send it via their blood to their body’s tissues. This doesn’t freeze, and the frogs are fine 🙂
The Nature Curriculum we use is, “Exploring Nature with Children. A complete, year-long curriculum”. It is a beautifully written framework, written by Raising Little Shoots, and can be found over at https://raisinglittleshoots.com/ It suggests a topic for the week, and then provides some background information and suggestions for nature journaling and outdoor exploring. It also provides a comprehensive suggested reading list (fiction and non-fiction) for each week, plus a poem and a piece of art to study. There are extensions activity ideas too. We use the topic as the theme for our week, and follow the ideas for our journaling, and one fiction book. What we have been doing from the curriculum can be found on our curriculum overview post. The craft, science, maths, and English ideas we have researched ourselves to fit in with the theme 🙂 This makes a learning a lot more nature based.