Conduct this session at a local pond.
- Choose a local pond, perhaps at a local or state park, and take the class there on a field trip.
- Find a spot for the class to sit where they can see the pond without being too close. Read aloud Lily Pad Pond by Bianca Lavies (see Resources). Discuss the part of the pond food web described in the book. Note the plants and animals mentioned in the text and those that can be seen in the pictures.
- Explain that a pond habitat and its food web include the water in the pond and the land and air that surround it because there is interaction between plants and animals in and out of the pond. An established natural pond environment will have many plants growing around the edges and in the water and will probably have great biodiversity and a complex food web. If the environment is carefully manicured and has few plants, it will not support many animals, resulting in little biodiversity and a smaller food web.
- Ask students, observing the pond from a distance, to make predictions about the pond's biodiversity. Have them describe the general pond habitat and write their predictions.
- Assign students to groups, and direct each group to look for one of the following:
- amphibians and reptiles
- land insects
- water insects and macroinvertebrates
- water plants
- Provide each group with the appropriate wildlife guidebooks and resources for the assigned organism type. You might include a reference for identifying footprints and other evidence of animal activity. For the group searching for birds, a birdcall identification CD in a portable player would be helpful. Long-handled nets may be necessary for those groups who will collect samples of water insects and fish.
- Review safety procedures: remind students that they should not touch wild animals or broken glass. Consider providing rubber gloves for students who are handling pond nets. Discuss the effects of noise level on wildlife, and encourage students to work quietly.
- Finally, before students begin to observe the pond, instruct them to take notes (on clipboards, if available) on the types and approximate numbers of each plant or animal they identify. They should also note whether they saw the actual organism or evidence of it. (Additional ways to record data include taking photos with a digital camera, using a tape recorder to record birdsongs and insect sounds, and making plaster casts of footprints.)
Return to the classroom.
- Upon returning to the classroom, share the data with the class, and give a total count for types of organisms they identified. Instruct students to graph this data and draw conclusions about other organisms that are likely to have been in the pond environment but were not observed. (See Preparing Graphs and Charts in the Project Action Guide.) Discuss the level of biodiversity and the complexity of the food web in the pond. Have students organize and summarize their conclusions in a written paragraph.