I opened up the book that goes with the pond section, One Small Square: Pond, Donald M. Silver and Patricia J. Wynne.
"What's that?" asked fine young gent over my shoulder.
"A book about ponds," I replied. "It's for your science. Do you want to start by learning about ponds instead of Africa?"
"Can we do it right now, Mom?"
I put together a pond box using the recommendations from both the My World Science teacher manual and One Small Square: Pond, and today we went pond dipping.
We saw dragonflies and damselflies, water bugs and minnows, very noisy crows, a large beetle, duckweed, and a nutria. We learned stuff and everyone got wet, including the dog.
"Can we go again tomorrow?" the fine young gents begged.
How to Make a Pond Exploration Box
A large backpack
A clear plastic container with a lid-- large enough to store your other items, small enough to slide into a large backpack.
Nets (I bought ours from the fish section of the pet store for $2 each. We also used a small kitchen strainer, which worked dandy.)
Bug collecting jars
Small containers, some with lids if possible (we reuse yogurt cups and small vials from lovely lady's science supplies)
A plastic bag large enough that the whole kit or wet shoes will fit inside
A pond field guide
Paper and pencil
Optional art supplies:
Watercolor paints and paper
A pond (This item will not fit in the box.)
Tips and Ideas:
The plastic bin doubled as a small collection pond, which allowed us to observe the minnows and water bugs that we caught. The bug that looks like it's floating upside-down in the corner is a backswimmer, a water insect that swims on its back. We read about backswimmers in Song of the Water Boatman & Other Pond Poems, which I've written about here.
Don't forget Mom's bag: Drinking water, sunscreen, snacks if you think you'll be out long enough, and a blanket for sitting.
The only items we couldn't do without: The nets, the plastic bin, and the bug jars and other assorted containers. If you've got those three things you're ready.
Bring at least one net per child because they are the item with which to dip.
Be prepared to get wet. Make sure the kids are wearing clothes that can get muddy, and if you're familiar enough with the pond that you're comfortable with kids wading make sure they've got shoes that can get wet and muddy too.