It’s a Pond Life for Kindergarten Ecologists

If you need an expert on ponds, look no further than the kindergarten classes at Matthew Paterson Elementary. 

When asked what a pond is, a student named Jackson said: “It’s where there are water and lily pads." 

His classmates were quick to add to that list, citing even more creatures that live in and around ponds, including frogs, fish, snails, turtles, snakes, swans, ducks and even alligators in some southern states. 

Students touch turtle shell artifacts

An in-class Pond Ecology presentation from the PNW BOCES Center for Environmental Education (CEE) brought a lesson on local pond organisms, ecosystems and the food chain directly to the students. 

“If you went out to a pond or lake, you might actually be able to find any of the animals that I show you today,” said CEE assistant naturalist Daniel Carvill. “These are animals you can find near where you live.” 

As part of Carvill’s presentation, the life cycle of frogs raised excited chatter among the students. 

“I have frogs at my pond at home,” said Caroline. 

“I have a tadpole at my house,” chimed in Isabella. 

The students also learned about the food chain within a pond and how every creature plays a vital role in keeping the eco system balanced.  

“This just shows how important each little animal is for the entire pond. Every animal is important, even the really tiny things that we can barely see,” said Carvill. “That is why we want to protect all the animals and plants in a pond, not just the ones that are really big, like an eagle.” 

As part of the lesson, students were allowed to touch, feel and observe  different pond organisms and animal artifacts.  

At two classroom stations, the students crowded around shallow pans of pond water to help identify bugs, critters, and other living creatures from a local pond using picture guides. They easily spotted a snail, water scorpion, dragonfly nymphs, and even a crayfish. 

Adam had a simple response to identifying a water scorpion in the bin: “It’s creepy!”  

The students learned from Carvill that water scorpions have something like a snorkel that lets them breathe air under the water. 

A third station included different preserved bugs and insects for students to observe and identify. The fourth and final station allowed students to examine and touch animal artifacts including turtle shells, raccoon fur, and an animal skull. 

With animal skull in hand, Carvill asked the students to first guess which animal the skull was from before he would reveal the answer. The top guess: a dinosaur. The students quickly learned it was the skull of a pond friend who likes to chomp down trees. A beaver, of course. 

But the most exciting part of the presentation: meeting the live animal ambassador, Mona, the painted turtle!