I don’t recall much from my preschool years, but I do have a vivid memory of exploring a pond. Armed with empty milk jugs, we collected water and dumped it in a basin to see what we had captured. We had magnifying glasses and, looking through them, we made countless, excited, discoveries. Our teachers were excited for us, “Oh my goodness, Caitlin! You found a water strider! Wow!”
I was amazed that water was so full of life, that so much could be discovered with just a milk jug and a keen eye.
Simple Pond Study
Now, I am all for well-planned unit studies but sometimes it feels like the most genuine learning happens when we let go of the reigns and see what happens. My children, at 8-, 6-, and 4-years-old are still young and they love super-simple unit studies. Today, I’m going to tell you about our recent pond study. It is a simple pond study, but it was heaps of fun!
Putting together a super simple unit study is easy. All you need is a stack of great books, some basic supplies, and your children’s natural curiosity.
We start every unit study with a stack of great books. When the kids are interested in something, we make sure to grab books on the topic during our weekly library trips. Before heading out to the pond, we read a tower of fantastic pond-related reads. Then, armed with excitment, curiosity, and a few supplies, my children spent the entire afternoon at the pond.
I have had such fun exploring with my children. It’s amazing what they will find when left to their own devices!
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Truly, all you need is a collection container and good eyes to enjoy this unit study, but if you’d like to take it up a notch, I’d recommend a DIY Nature Explorer Pack. Here is what we packed in ours:
- Nets for catching butterflies, frogs, tadpoles, insects, and other living things.
- Basin to collect water samples to study and to use as a holding tank so that your children can observe what they catch.
- Microscope for studying samples of water, insects, and plants. We love these portable microscopes. Tip: always practice with them first to reduce frustration because it takes some getting used to. We usually test them out at home for a few minutes before we leave on our adventure.
- Magnifying glass for examining your pond “loot”.
- Binoculars for observing birds and other wildlife.
- Camera for chronicling finds. My children will often create their own scrapbooks of our adventures!
- Underwater viewers are fun for everyone, but especially for your youngest scientists who may have difficulty manipulating a microscope.
- Field Guides to help identify what you observe in and around the pond. We packed these:
- Doodle Diaries or a nature journal for those who love to sketch their finds!
- Be sure to dress for mess!
My children had a blast at our neighborhood pond. We found innumerable insects and insect larvae, tadpoles of all different shapes and sizes, and a couple baby crayfish.
We couldn’t let the fun end after we’d left the pond. My kids were determined to explore their backyard as thoroughly as they had explored the pond and, in minutes, they had found two of these fellas:
The kids used their magnifying glasses to observe his sticky feet and they rejoiced watching him climb up and down our fence post. We identified him with a quick google search and we giggled when, as we were listening to his song on the internet, a cacophony of little frogs hidden around our backyard answered.
And this just goes to show you, once again, that learning happens all the time when we relax and let it!