Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Water, water, water

I'm hoping to catch up on a number of lesson updates...finally. I'm many weeks behind and now that it's school vacation week let's see if I can remember all the water-related activities!

In March we all participated in a water survey with our families at home. This is a fun 'What if?' game that the explores the many uses of water in the form of a questionnaire written by WaterPartners International.

Based on the questionnaire results, the students collaborated on a large scale collage, selecting images from several old National Geographic Magazines - depicting different uses of water - they cut these photos out for pasting onto a large poster board.

At the end of last month we had an introduction to storm drains and a visitor from the town water treatment center. The students were especially fascinated by the water pipes, gauges, meters, and large purification filters that our guest expert brought into the classroom.

One of the original questions posed by the students at the start of the semester was, 'How do we get clean water?' We were thrilled to have a geoscientist come talk to us about the process of water purification and to find out how the town provides us with safe drinking water. The students asked our guest many questions about the watershed and town well. In the future we hope to be able to visit the pumping facilities and treatment center for a first-hand look at the process.

In early April we started anticipating salamander egg laying season, more aptly termed 'Big Night'. The one special dark and rainy night, usually in early spring, when the temperature is just right (at or above 40 degrees), the ground is thawed, and the adult salamanders venture out from their underground hibernation dens to mate in nearby vernal pools.

Our science lesson involved making our own salamander life cycle booklet and learning to identify the different species of salamanders that we might expect see in our geographical area. Students were also very interested in the features that define a vernal (spring) pool vs. a pond, and in talking about what other animals live part of their lives in vernal pools.

We are very fortunate that our school has several nearby vernal pools, streams, and ponds for us to visit as we continue our water curriculum. So far the Redback salamander has been spotted by the students on several occasions and they were also lucky enough to see several sticks and twigs partially submerged in the water that were covered with gooey salamander eggs.

During another lesson we began learning about the different features that define ponds from lakes. We talked about the flora and fauna generally found within a pond habitat (drawing from their rich and recent experience of going on a nature walk with an expert conservationist!) and the microhabitats that can be found within different strata of a pond. After our discussion we decided to make our own mini-diorama of the pond ecosystem. The students painted a large cardboard box and created lily pads and other surface plants, insects, frogs, fish, worms, twigs, birds, and beavers all out of clay. It's a work in progress I hope to take a photo of the finished product to post here soon.