One of my favorite things that I have been able to share with my students is looking at pond water. I take it from my pond in 5 gallons buckets, first filling the bucket with water and then scooping up moss and dead grass with my hands and depositing it in with the water. I take the buckets to school. The experience is a good workout and builds muscles. That’s what I keep telling myself anyway. First, we search through and identify the macro-organisms, and then we use the microscopes to observe the microorganisms. Not only do the students get to have the hands-on experience of searching through the moss and grass in their containers and finding small wriggling creatures of all shapes and sizes (finding leeches is still the all-time favorite), I can take that experience and learning in any direction. We can move on to food webs, habitats, body systems, etc. So much can be introduced with a quick delve into the watery world. My students don’t get as excited as I do about using the microscopes, or maybe they do but they don’t show it by running around the room voicing their excitement loudly. They are, after all, in middle school and usually cool is king.
I decided to look at pond water under a microscope this week since things around the pond are simply continuing to progress toward their summer vitality. The cattails have started to grow in their usual spot in the far corner. We got a new lawnmower this week after ours being broken since the mowing season began. The back pond, akin to a jungle before, is now more tame and docile as my husband mowed around it. I’ve always been torn between a maintained lawn and a wild lawn. Sometimes we like to let it grow up, much to the dismay of our neighbors I’m sure, to see what will grow. We have lots of interesting wildflowers and new trees from this practice. One year I ended up with sweet william growing at the edge of my lupine patch. This plant is not a wildflower and I figured the seeds must have been brought in by a bird. So cool! This year I had to defend my wild strawberry patch from mowing. I guess after not having a mower for so long my husband was excited to master the lawn. My son is also learning to mow and it is surprising that anything is safe from the whirring, chopping blades. Who knew mowing could be so much fun! The crows are still loud and active. We think we found one of the babies dead near the edge of the pond in front of the house. I discovered it and I wasn’t sure which type of bird it was at first. It sat still near the water as if it were hiding and it might fly up at me at any second. I thought it might be a ground-nesting bird sitting on a nest. I carefully reached down to see why it was being so still. That’s when I realized it wasn’t alive. We’re assuming it fell from the nest, whether it survived the fall and was carried there by an animal, or if it ended up there itself we will never know. We have seen both the male and female mallards on the pond together this past week. She doesn’t have any babies, yet. I’m wondering if her eggs didn’t make it with the cold weather we had this spring. She may have another clutch later in the summer. We’re hoping. The daisies are about to open. I keep checking them everyday. It seems like they came up and got tall so quickly but they seem to be taking forever to blossom. I guess a watched daisy never blooms. One evening, in between scratching mosquito bites and swatting at the little heathens, I scooped up some pond water along with some moss and grass into a flat container. Once back in the house, itchy from my short excursion to the pond, I took out my microscope to see what miniature beings I had captured. It always astonishes me to see the peaceful world under the lens. I like to put the water in a petri-dish and then I can move it around and observe different things. At first, the water is still, lots of brown detritus with wisps of green from living moss and small pond weeds. Then, suddenly, a minuscule clear creature, only discernible by its outline, zooms through the scene. I start to focus on movement and notice the outline of a circular shape moving slowly around the edge of the moss, presumably eating maybe the moss or other zooplankton to small for me to see. Other clear creatures of different shapes and sizes meander through my field of view. As some of them lurk near the moss and other debris their insides turn from clear to the color of what they are near. It is obvious that they are eating it. Amazing! I have always spent a lot of time in my yard but I have reveled in this opportunity to observe my favorite spaces close up these past few weeks. As I sit here anticipating an 80-degree day it's hard to believe that my first post started with knee-deep snow. I am looking forward to continuing my observations into the fall and finding pleasure in the seemingly minute changes from week to week.