Monday, April 15, 2013

Aquatic Ecology and Mother Earth Week at the Ziibiwing Center

This week I am participating in Mother Earth Week celebrations at the Ziibiwing Center in Mt. Pleasant.  Mother Earth Week is an event that focuses on environmental stewardship for elementary school students.  Students rotate through a series of activities over the course of the day including learning the history of Earth Day, learning about wild rice and having the opportunity to sample some wild rice, and a craft activity.  My station is about aquatic insects and other aquatic macroinvertebrates.  This will be the fourth year that I have participated in this event. 

As I have discussed before, water is very important to people in Michigan. The activity that I do at the Ziibiwing Center is a variation on my classroom Aquatic Ecology program.  I bring in buckets of pond water and have the students identify the organisms that they find and, depending on the age of the students, complete a biological monitoring sheet.  Then we discuss how the presence or absence of certain animals can be used as an indicator or water quality.  I like the biological monitoring data sheet from Hoosier Riverwatch, because it is easy for kids to use.

For identification purposes, I like to use the Pond and River Keys available from the University of Wisconsin Extension Office.  The original files are available as a .pdf  file and can be printed in any size desired.  It is easy for even very young students to use.  Even if they do not understand how to use a dichotomous key, they can usually find the picture of the animal and identify it that way.

UW Key to Life in the Pond

UW Key to Macroinvertebrate Life in the River

Monitoring pond or rivers is a great activity for citizen scientists of all ages.  It requires only a net and a pan or bucket to put your findings in.  You can do it on your own or join part of a larger effort.

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