For years, swamps and marshes have been viewed as mucky, mosquito ridden wastelands which
could only become useful or beautiful after being filled in or drained. This
tragic misconception has led to the second most productive ecosystem on
our planet (second only to coral reefs) being
reduced by 60% compared to what was available only a century ago. And
along with this radical habitat loss has come a drastic decline in the
numbers and species of birds, frogs, reptiles, insects, and other
creatures that call the wetlands home.
But even as wetlands disappear before our eyes scientists continue
to discover ways in which our
wetlands are beneficial, even vital. For
starters wetlands purify our air and water, they provide
important nesting and feeding grounds for migratory
birds, they support more than a third of America’s endangered species, and
they are a major asset in buffering our cities and
neighborhoods against hurricanes and floods.
But what is a wetland? "Wetland" is a
broad term for any flat, spongy, water-saturated, semi-terrestrial environment.
The land mixes with the water. And the water mixes
with the land. Wetlands are characterized by
distinctive plant and animal species. Wetlands can be tidal or non-tidal and can hold fresh, salt, or even brackish water.
Some wetlands stay wet all year and others experience
prolonged dry periods. And in fact some portions
of a wetlands environment may be dry for many years,
only to be completely transformed into a wet, marshy
wonderland for frogs, ducks, and long legged herons
during a year of exceptionally heavy rain.
Because wetlands occur in so many different parts of
the world and vary greatly, there are
many different words used to
describe them, even within the English
language. Some you may have heard are: slough,
swamp, bayou, bog, estuary, fen, and vernal pond.
Although wetlands come in different types and are called by many names, they
all fill a critical role in providing homes as well
as breeding & feeding locations for wildlife, for
regulating climate and flood patterns, and for
supporting a healthy ecology in the other biomes
that interconnect with them.
Most importantly, they are all
very sensitive ecosystems that can easily be
thrown off by harmful changes introduced by human
actions such as pollution, water diversion, the
introduction of foreign species, and habitat reduction
through the filling and bulldozing of wetlands to make
way for homes, farms, roads, and industry. [Click
here to learn about
Spencer's Pond, a seasonal wetland habitat that was
threatened by highway construction.]
But even as we are learning about the delicate nature of
wetlands and their important ecological role, we are
discovering how important wetlands are to us
emotionally, aesthetically, and educationally.
Wetlands provide a sensory rich natural environment that
reconnects us with the awe and wonder so uplifting to
the human spirit. A value once championed by our
great writers like
Thoreau and naturalist
John Muir, this spiritual and psychological
renewal is now being verified by modern science!
Time spent in nature has been clinically shown to reduce
depression and irritability and to improve health and
mental focus, for both children and adults. And in
many communities wetlands are one of the few places one
can find wide open spaces, a naturalistic landscape, and
abundant wildlife. Many communities are also
dotted with micro-wetlands -- small pockets of nature
within a larger urban environment -- that provide ready
access to small but powerful doses of nature.
Meanwhile research in the field of early childhood
development continues to validate and verify the
importance of hands-on, sensory rich learning activities.
Learning through touch, sight, sound, smell and movement
engages all the senses and boosts cognitive development
(i.e. intelligence). Play and learning in the
sensory rich outdoor worlds of wetlands, woods, fields,
streams, and shore also provides children and young
people with plenty of opportunities to move their bodies
(exercise) and to navigate a variety of physical
challenges that studies show improve balance, eyesight,
and physical coordination. [Read
Why Take Your Kids Outside, from the U.S. Fish &
So if wetlands are good for us, good for the
environment, and absolutely critical to so many species
of wildlife what will we do to stop their destruction?
In short, we can all become wetlands boosters. We
can learn more. We can share what we know with
others. And most importantly we can seek out our
local wetlands and find out what we can do
Below you'll find resources that
you can use to educate yourself and others about caring for and enjoying
and the creatures that live there. We've also included plenty of
fascinating fact sources about different wetlands habitats and the
birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, fish, and insects that live there. You'll
also find book ideas as well as craft and activity
resources for younger children.
If you have a favorite
resource that you'd like to see included,
please let us know.
Wetlands & Wonder: Reconnecting Children with Nearby Nature
"We need to be immersed in nature. We need to know
about it with all of our senses if we're are going
to care about it... You
don't conserve what you don't care about."
-- Robert Michael Pyle, author and naturalist.
& Wildlife Conservation
Be A Friend To Frogs - And Other Wildlife
In 1995 a
group of school kids and their teacher noticed a high incidence
malformed frogs in an area of Minnesota and decided they
wanted answers! What followed was a collaboration between
kids, scientists, and other community members to survey
the scope of the situation and find the source of the problem.
We now know
that frogs and other amphibians are very sensitive to harmful
changes in the environment. Various kinds of pollution,
increasing UV radiation due to the thinning of the ozone layer,
habitat loss, and the introduction of non-native animals are all
taking their toll, reducing the number of frogs at an alarming
rate all over the world. [Read
More]]. Learn more about the problems posed to frogs
and other creatures of ponds, streams, and wetlands by pollution, and what you can
do about it in this fun video on nonpoint source pollution:
There are many ways in which you too can
be an advocate for frogs and other wetlands wildlife, including migratory
birds. Don't hesitate to report injured or malformed
creatures to local wildlife officials. Remember too that human
activities that may harm wildlife preserves or our rivers, bays,
and oceans or other water ways may also require reporting.
Such activities include the illegal dumping of garbage,
pesticides, and household chemicals. And of course, remind your family
and school to cut down on the use of harmful cleaners,
chemical fertilizers and pesticides -- and to
dispose of them
properly when necessary.
amphibians like frogs need a pollution free habitat to live and
breed, consider volunteering your time caring for a local pond
or wetlands area. Your family or school group can clean up
trash and monitor the health of your adopted biome. Just
be sure to check with local officials if this is on public land
or to get permission from the owner/resident if it is on private
And of course, because habitat loss is an important reason frogs
are disappearing from our communities, you can help frogs and
other wildlife by making your backyard or school
how to create a backyard habitat from the National Wildlife
Participate in a local bioblitz.
A bioblitz is where
kids, scientists, and other community members work together to
count and record the number and diversity of animals species.
A bioblitz is a useful way to monitor the health and viability
of a local biome. Contact the staff at your local wildlife
preserve or department of fish & wildlife to find out when and
where the next bioblitz takes place. Or just google "bioblitz"
and the name of your community.
Using knowledge to take action - big or small - can be empowering and a very beneficial learning experience.
This publication from Ducks Unlimited provides inspiring examples and step-by-step ideas onactivities you might undertake from beginner to advanced level.
Bill Nye the Science Guy - Wetlands
Source Pollution - A Quick Slideshow Recap
This printable lesson guide
highlights the important role wetlands play around the globe. Wetlands and the World provides ways for exploring wetlands across cultures and for recognizing the value of wetlands in
maintaining a healthy world for all of us. Linked to the elementary school curriculum across Canada
in grades 1-8.
Activities to Explore
scientists often get their start as kids who love
playing in nature. Learn more about helping kids
connect with nature through family nature walks and...
You can use an empty coffee can or large size
plastic yogurt container to create this classic tool for outdoor pond or
creek exploration. Cut the end off the container (use a can opener on
the metal coffee can). If you wish, cover the rough ends where cut with
duct tape. You now have a waterproof tube.
Next, cover one end of the tube with sturdy
plastic and fix it in place with a large rubber band, such as
the one that binds your Sunday newspaper. If you don't
take the paper, ask a neighbor for one or pick some up at the
craft store. A piece of thin elastic may also be used.
To use your viewer, place
the plastic covered end into the water and submerge the viewer
part way. As the water presses on the plastic it's shape
changes from flat to concave, creating natural magnification.
Portable Viewing Tank
Save those small clear containers that your salads
come in from the deli department and reuse them as portable viewing
tanks. These are wonderful for dipping in ponds, creeks, and
tide pools -- and for keeping small water creatures in for temporary
viewing. Small fish, tadpoles, crabs, and crayfish are wonderful
to observe up close. And a clear container affords a
view from all sides of your small guest!
Another great clear portable viewing container can be made from an empty
soda pop bottle. See directions for this
observation bucket from Family Fun.
NOTE: Always treat the
creatures you capture gently, and always put them back where you
found them before you leave their habitat. This keeps them
safe, makes sure there will be plenty for future visitors to the
habitat to see, and it practices the important values
of compassion and good stewardship.
Build a Box Turtle
Models give children a hands-on substitute for the wild animals
they long to hold and bring home. They also serve as a
concrete visual reminder of a trip to the wetlands, a story book
shared with the class, or an animal visitor to the classroom.
Here's a a fun project that allows children to make their own
box turtle. Be sure to look at real turtles, or at
least pictures, so that children can see how these funny fellows
carry their homes about on their back. Talk about what
turtles do when frightened -- they pop their heads and limbs
back inside! Be sure to also discuss how the turtle's
humble colors and variegated pattern help to camouflage them on
land and in the water.
Our box turtle craft uses two paper
bowls, painted with tempra or acrylic paints. Paint is
applied to the rounded backside/underside of the bowls. Let
children explore color mixing with either purple and orange
paint or with green and orange paint to make brown.
A dash of black adds definition to lines. Paint the
"shell" halves first and let dry.
print out these handouts with the head, tail, and feet.
Children can color these with colored pencil, crayon, or even
watercolor paints and then cut them out. Finished pieces
may be attached to the underside of the dried top shell with
tape, staples, glue, or hot glue.
Lastly, attach the shell halves
together with staples or hot glue.
TIP: If you need to speed up
the drying process, use an old hair dryer to blow dry the
shells. Don't worry if the "shells" crimp around the edges
while drying. This give them a more authentic look.
Art projects help children process and express what they've seen
and heard during lessons and field trips. And ducks are a
favorite wetlands animal because they are all at once beautiful,
comical, cute-n-cuddly, and often easier to spot than many denizens of
the pond or marsh. This link offers an assortment of duck
related crafts for preschoolers and young elementary school
I saw a little creature that was slimy, smooth, and wet.
I thought it was the oddest thing that I had ever met.
It was something like a lizard, but it had no scales at all.
It was something like a frog, but it didn't hop- it crawled.
So I took it to my teacher and she told me right away,
" I see you brought a salamander into class today."
There was a little turtle
That lived in a box. <put hands together to make a box>
He swam in a puddle, <make swimming movements>
And he climbed on the rocks.
He snapped at a mosquito, <pretend "snap" with fingers, like turtle mouth>
He snapped at a flea,
He snapped at a minnow,
And he snapped at me.
He caught the mosquito, <hands clap together>
He caught the flea, <repeat clap>
He caught the minnow, <repeat clap>
But he didn't catch me!! <point to self>
Games, Pond & Wetlands
Amazing Diversity of Plants, Creatures, & Biomes
If someone asked you to name the creatures that usually live in
a pond you would probably list ducks, frogs, turtles,
dragonflies and other small animals, birds, and insects.
But in a pond big things eat little things, and some of
the littlest things of all can only be seen with a microscope!
For a preview of what you might see
if you collect some pond water and look at it with a microscope,
Pond Scum and browse the links to see his microscopic
If you plan to do your own microscope
investigations, be sure to check out this
handy chart that classifies the different types of things
you may find. Includes links to helpful overview guides
that will help you identify your finds.
Young children can drag and drop
plants and animals to create a pond scene. Talk
about the roles each one plays. Who might perch in that
tree? Who makes a nest in the rushes? Who is found
in the air, the water, on the shore, in the depths or on the
surface of the pond? Why? Now get out there and
visit a real pond and see who you can spot! Hint:
don't forget to look for tracks, scats, and other signs of pond
How people use the land can help or harm living
things in an ecosystem. In this game the citizens of a nearby town want to develop a park in the area that surrounds their local pond.
But how will changes to the land affect the fish in the pond? Changing the land that surrounds a pond ecosystem can either help or harm the fish living in the pond.
game provided by Discovery Education. you will be an environmental scientist who experiments to find the most eco-friendly way for the citizens to build their park.
Think all wetlands are the same? Get the quick low down
definition on what makes a swamp, a bog, a fen, or a marsh.
While you're visiting thisUntamed Science
Biomespage, check out their
map showing the distribution of wetlands in North America and
check out their ideas for helping wetlands.
Coastal wetlands, inland
wetlands, saline marshes, wet prairies -- what do they have in common and what makes them each so special?
Useful information for anyone doing a report on wetlands. From the Environmental Protection Agency.
Learn about the difference
between frogs and toads, meet some really strange and wacky frog
species, and find out all about the life cycle and adaptations
of different frog types. Part of the great
Frog Land site
with lots of cool frog
Giving the reader a dramatic, pond-dweller's-eye view, Rosen and Leonard memorably depict a freshwater ecology. On each spread,
a lush, fluidly composed acrylic painting places the reader at the sight line of a different representative of pond life--snail,
bat, ant, dragonfly, snapping turtle, mallard and so forth (12 in all). Rosen, meanwhile, relays each creature's perspective via not altogether buoyant verse ("The snapping turtle sometimes sees / the muddy deep, sometimes the trees, / and sometimes nothing but inside /the painted shell where it can hide"). Bursts of lyricism ("The water strider walks the shine / where air and water form a line") occasionally boost the impact of the text to the same level as the thoroughly striking art. Ages 4-7.
What would you see if you sat at the edge of a pond and looked into the water? In this hand-size book, Anne Hunter illustrates in loving detail the creatures
that live in and around a pond-a water strider, a tadpole, a red-winged blackbird, a painted turtle, and more. Each illustration is accompanied by simple yet detailed text describing the animal's characteristics
and habits. Young readers can put this book into a pocket or a backpack and take it with them to the pond. The artwork and simple sense of wonder will inspire children to explore their environment.
illustrations and rich language make this volume of interest across
the grades as the author depicts a day in the Everglades. The lush
river of grass—inches deep and miles wide—is home to a wide variety
of interesting residents, both flora and fauna. Predator/prey
relationships are depicted.
Written by Melvin Berger. Illustrated by Megan Lloyd.
In Look Out for Turtles! readers will discover why these creatures have survived so long. Hard shells protect many turtles from harm. Colorful markings on their shells help some turtles to blend in with their surroundings. Different kinds of turtles can live almost anywhere on land or sea and can eat many kinds of plants and animals...Today turtles must struggle to. survive. They are hunted, and threatened by pollution. There is less and less open space for turtles to live in. If turtles are going to be around for another 200 million years, they are going to need our help!
A day in the life of a box turtle is rendered carefully in words and lifelike illustrations with a text
that respects its subject, avoids any anthropomorphism, and is simple enough for very young listeners. It records the turtle's actions as, slowly but with perseverance,
he drinks, searches for food, evades danger, and sleeps. The outstanding gouache paintings in borderless, horizontal two-page spreads are so realistic that one almost
reaches out to feel the turtle's textured shell. Although at times the turtle seems to be camouflaged, blending into his surroundings, he stands out clearly once located.
The animals he encounters are equally well illustrated--readers will almost hold their breath so as not to frighten the raccoon and chipmunk. The book's design is excellent;
even the well-chosen type, superimposed on the illustrations so that there is no visual break from the scenes, is clear and easily read. This is superior nature study for young readers and listeners.
Written and illustrated
by Gordon Morrison. Hardcover,
32pages. Reading level, ages 4-8.
Changes and activities that occur over days and weeks
throughout the seasons in, on, and around a pond are described.
Through the narrative and illustrations the reader observes
interactions of thriving plants and animals. Insets provide
additional details about these plants and animals, the seasons, and
how a pond is formed.
Stunning, well-placed photographs pull the reader into
this book. The story here is diversity--of wetlands and the abundant
life they support. It also speaks of their precarious future and the
importance of preservation. Cone's richly innovative text is enhanced
by touches of alliteration and an almost poetic cadence.
The publication measures 8.5X11 in.
The full 15 pages may be printed to create a master, which can then be copied back to back. The reverse of the "contents" page is blank. The booklet serves educational needs for Grades K-5.
It addresses: What is a wetland?; Wetland plants; Wetland animals; Wetland types (marsh, swamp, floodplain, etc.); Visiting a wetland; and Value of wetlands.