Exploring Freshwater Habitats

by Ana Maria Caballero McGuire, Children’s Education Fellow

May 10, 2017

Using plankton nets at Dawson Pond

Exploring Freshwater Habitats

Educators go ponding at Dawson Pond

Educators explore the diversity of animal life in and around ponds.

In between raindrops on a muggy Saturday morning, several educators gathered at the ponds to explore life in and around freshwater ecosystems. Armed with plankton nets, plastic containers, small spoons and a set of macroinvertebrate cards, teachers made amazing discoveries. Among the organisms collected were a damselfly nymph, hundreds of daphnias (water flea), some aquatic worms, several fast moving freshwater shrimp known as scuds, a water boatman, some other type of water beetle and many water striders.

Examining macroinvertebrates under microscopes

Educators examine water samples and collected macroinvertebrates under microscopes.

We also saw (or heard) many birds, frogs, turtles, geese and even a pair of wood ducks!

After about 1 hour of exploration, the water samples and organisms were brought back to the Hunnewell Building lecture hall for further examination and identification. Using pipettes and Petri dishes, collected samples were observed under microscopes, where whole new worlds were revealed! By comparing body structures, shape and size to ID sheets and field guides, teachers were able to determine what they were looking at, and share in the excitement of discovery and learning. Under magnification, we saw copepods with egg sacs, and noticed that many of the water fleas had eggs in a brood pouch.

Teachers gained an appreciation for biodiversity of animal life in freshwater ponds, and learned simple techniques for collecting samples and examining them under all types of magnification devices. Learning to “do” science in the field, and using tools back in the classroom for identification and gaining knowledge is an exciting way for teachers and their students to work as scientists.

The Arboretum for Educators aims to introduce Boston teachers to outdoor education with a variety of experiences in the landscape that highlight life science concepts.  Activities are meant to be easily replicated in outdoor classrooms at schools, or other outdoor spaces near where the students learn, as well as provide teachers with knowledge and opportunities to lead self-guided field trips in the Arboretum landscape. Our next Arboretum for Educators is June 3, 2017.

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