Look for Wildlife in a Pond

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Keep your cool by exploring a nearby pond! Just put on some old sneakers or rubber boots, grab a pal, and your explorer’s kit, too!

What You Do

    • strainer or dip net
    • shallow white plastic pan
    • small white plastic containers
    • white plastic ice-cube tray or plastic egg carton
    • plastic eyedropper
    • small paintbrush
    • hand lens or magnifying glass
    • nature journal and pencil
  2. SCOPE IT OUT: Approach slowly so you don’t scare away creatures near the water. How many can you see? What are they doing?
    Are any creatures flying over the water? Wading? Skittering across the surface? Swimming in the water or moving along the bottom? (For a clear underwater view, use a face mask, goggles, or a homemade water scope.) Search plant stems and look under rocks and logs near the water’s edge.
  3. SCOOP ‘EM UP!
    Fill the pan and containers with water and set them in a shady spot. Next, use your net or strainer to catch small fish, insects, and other tiny creatures. Try these super scooper tips:

    • Scoop and skim in different places (at the surface, along the shore, across the bottom). Check for wiggly creatures in the muck as the water runs out.
    • Hold the net just under the surface. Have a buddy hold a rock or branch in or right over the net and gently swish off any clinging creatures into the net.pond 2
  4. SORT ‘EM OUT!
    Empty whatever you find into the pan or containers. Here’s how to see them better:
    Fill an ice-cube tray or plastic egg carton with clear water. Next, transfer the creatures from the collecting containers to the tray. An eyedropper or paintbrush works well to pick them up, one at a time. Put each kind of creature in a separate section of the tray. Now see if you’ve captured something that:

    • has no legs
    • has six legs
    • has claws
    • has a shell
    • has a tail
    • is red
    • is green
    • wiggles
    • swims sideways
    • swims upside down
    • stays on the bottom of the tray
    • stays at the top of the water

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    Note: Check a pond life guide book to find the names of what you’ve caught. Then be sure to let everything go. Gently lower the containers to the water and let the creatures swim or float out.


    • Tell an adult where you’re going.
    • Take a buddy along.
    • Stay near the water’s edge unless an adult is watching out for you.
    • Watch your step! There could be deep spots, slippery rocks, or thick muck.

    Activity by Luise Woelflein; Art by Jack Desrocher