Sometimes when we talk about STEM we assume it needs to be engineering or attached to an electronic device. But the reality is we can learn so much by just exploring nature.
When we were Brownies, we took a short hiking trip to the local wetlands to explore the water life. I still remember to this day, the girls giggling as they splashed and drug their nets in the shallow water, discovering what they would find.
It’s a kind of learning you can’t find on a screen.
In this busy life, it’s wonderful to watch my Cadettes still take the time to wander. Whether it’s on a planned hike, a simple discovery of a stream, or an afternoon of creaking, water play and exploration is a treat.
Advice from Leaders Past
I was impressed to find a discussion on exploring fresh water life in an old 1920s issue of Girl Scout Leader magazine. The writer, a naturalist, discusses a number activities you can do with your troop to explore fresh water life. I love her sheer admiration for the natural world. I’ve excerpted parts here:
In taking up the study of life in a fresh water stream, pond or lake one really gets a glimpse, in miniature, of the life forces which have gone into the building of the earth’s surface as we see and know it today. Here is revealed to us a new world with a life all its own. It is this world, centering as it does about the stream, the pond, the lake, the marsh and swamp that we would take time to study and enjoy. Not any one little part of this
water world, either, but seeing it as a whole, with its setting and its plant and animal life. Such an intimate study naturally presupposes easy access to a stream, pond or lake and the approach must be made in a spirit of patient watchfulness, for one does not enter into the innermost secret of any life with haste and clamor. One must watch and wait through changes which come to nature with the seasons….
Go into your study with the will of a discoverer. A small dip net and an inexpensive pocket lens or, better yet, access to a microscope, and each hour you spend by the waterside the greater ·will be your wonderment for, in truth, the microscope does open to our human eyes an entirely new world, a world of marvelous beauty. In the waters dwell the largest and the smallest of all forms of life and it will be through these tiniest forms thronging the pools in countless multitudes that you may come to appreciate the truth of the old-time saying that “nature is most wonderful in little things.”
After selecting the body of water to be studied one is sure to be interested first in its general geographic and geologic setting. Any geological and topographical maps
of the local region will prove of great assistance. … If one is to work on a lake or pond, try to discover how it was made: was it by a glacier, springs or streams, by the filling in of a basin or depression in the mountain, by wash-outs, floods or barrier deposits? Look over the shore line and notice if it is rocky, sandy, swampy or boggy. Make a sketch map of the area and in your notes indicate the trees and plants you find growing along the shore. Are they like those growing farther away from the water? What birds and animals frequent the shore? There may be a marsh near-by overgrown with cattails, spike rushes, bur-marigold and sedges. Perhaps a bog may offer one sphagnum with sundews and orchids appearing here and there. When the water itself is reached it will be important to notice its color, whether it be clear and pure or stained with minerals or decaying vegetable matter; also, if it is swiftly flowing as in a small stream, or a stagnant pond or a clear placid lake.
Remember that a clear water surface reflects the sky as well as the shore. There is art and music and poetry in all this water world. Nature has lavished her bounteous gifts and beauty is a public obligation. Shall we ·not feel our responsibility to preserve them, for their beauty belongs to all people for all times. The safety of their beauty rests largely in man’s hands, for nature makes all pure waters lovely. Let man keep the waters free from pollution and the trees and flowers on the banks and headlands safe from spoliation and restfulness and rich enjoyment shall remain for all generations.
Whether it’s a planned excursion or a simple stumbling upon a stream, make time to explore your local watershed. It’s worth slowing down for.