When we started this pond study 21 weeks ago, I was aware, as any mummy would be, that along the way there maybe some stumbling blocks to getting to the pond on a weekly basis. Illness being one of them. I did have something up my sleeve, for use if, for whatever reason, we were prevented from actually visiting the pond. One Small Square is a series of books encouraging in-depth nature study by choosing just one small square to focus on. The last week or so the children have not been well enough to visit the pond, so I thought I would bring out my ‘plan B’. We have snuggled up on our big chair, all six of us, with the two cats causing chaos trying to squeeze onto someone’s lap, and we have been slowly working our way through this complete gem of a book.
In just the first few pages it covers safety, basic equipment useful to making pond study more rewarding and how to choose and measure your small square. Almost immediately the children started planning where their small square would be. It was lovely, even in the midst of illness, to hear their enthusiasm.
The book takes its reader gradually through the stages within the small square and the nature one might see there. It has gone from just above the water, to the surface of the water to just underneath the water. From here it journeys into the micro worlds found under the lily leaf and in a cupful of water. At every step the author includes everything from bugs, to animals, to plants and even includes microbes. Each small paragraph we read was punctuated with cries of, ‘Oh, I remember seeing one of those!’ and ‘Yes! I didn’t know their name though!’ We may not have been at the pond but because we have visited so frequently, recall of this particular area of the pond was so clear, it was almost like being back there.
In addition to much pond information, to the side of each double page is an idea (which you can choose to implement or not) to further increase the educational aspect of ponding. So far these tidbits have included keeping a pond notebook, tracking and building nesting houses for ducks (!).This is an incredibly thorough book and absolutely perfect for the home schooler. The information presented is illustrated clearly and attractively throughout. Even my two-year old enjoyed looking and studying the pictures.
This is not just a glorified field guide. It does not tell you only what you might find, and it doesn’t just tell you where you might find them. It goes one more step and explains why you would find certain creatures or plants in a particular place, also explaining any behaviour peculiar to its species. For example, did you know the mosquito nymph, although it lives under water, is unable to breathe for itself by absorbing oxygen? This means you are likely to find one just under the surface using its funnel to breathe (the funnel sticks out of the water slightly). This is just one of many, many explanations found within the covers of this wonderful book.
The science of the pond, for example- photosynthesis and surface tension, is presented in such a way that a child will not be aware he is learning tricky scientific concepts. Life cycles are casually meshed in as part of the main illustration. So much informational treasure, presented in such an accessible way. Even the food chain is presented in such an easily understandable way that my four-year old understood, and yet it was meaty enough to hold the interest and offer something to my well read nature fanatic son.
This week we read the first half, which completed the layers of the small square. We are so much more knowledgeable now than we were a week ago. Next week we will read the second half, which I will report on during our week 22 blog entry. Suffice it to say that so far this is the very best book we have ever read about ponding and we all highly recommend it.