Sunday, February 19, 2017

Guest Post: Once a Pond a Time

Author: Sigrid Peterson, Wisconsin Water Library

Here hunts the heron, queen of the pond,
that spears the fish
that swallows the frog
that gulps the bug
that nabs the nymph
that drinks the flea
that eats the algae, green and small,
                in the depths of the summer pond.
from Song of the Water Boatman & Other Pond Poems (2005) by Joyce Sidman illustrated by Beckie Prange

At UW-Madison’s Wisconsin Water Library, we have been taking an interdisciplinary approach to water literacy for children pre-K to second grade for a number of years. We define “interdisciplinary,” to include the simultaneous acquisition of STEM/STEAM (Science, Technology, Education, Arts, and Math) literacy and reading/language arts literacy.

Years ago, we began outreach to libraries across the state offering water-themed storytimes. This later evolved into the creation of formal STEM kits and lesson plans ( dedicated to a physical, biological, and/or ecological property of water. Our STEM kits circulate to interested schools and libraries across Wisconsin and enhance the traditional library story time with a water science topic, along with an introduction to the essentials of the scientific method: observation, hypothesis formation, testing, more observation, recording and conclusion building. Included in each kit are a full story time guide with a topical “science chat,” read-aloud books, a science experiment or game, songs, and craft ideas. The 13 lesson plans have the same content and are available as a download on our website.

With Spring approaching (okay. . .- ish), we’re already thinking about one of our favorite STEM kits, Once a Pond a Time (the “Ponds” kit for shorthand) With this kit we situate ponds as a special body of water—smaller than an ocean or a lake, but bigger than a puddle—with a unique ecosystem teaming with life most grown-ups don’t even think about. Our science chat challenges children to “think like a scientist” and hypothesize about what lives in and around a pond: Mallard Duck, American Toad, Tree Swallow, Largemouth Bass, Cattails, River Otters, etc. This is followed up with game that includes a simulated pond in the form of a large, blue rounded tablecloth set on the floor, around which children gather. One by one, kids announce a possible habitat creature or aquatic plant discussed earlier in the story time. With a correct response, a child receives a laminated illustration of the creature/plant—designed by artist, Kristen Rost—and moves inside the pond until it is overflowing with kids. . . and ecosystem knowledge!

Because the pond appears repeatedly as a natural setting throughout classic and contemporary children’s literature, Once a Pond a Time, includes a curated selection of four pond-themed picture books that are staff favorites, as well as an extensive reading list in the STEM kit guide.
If you need a taste of Spring in advance and want Once a Pond a Time delivered to your library, please Borrow a Stem Kit using our online submission form:

And please contact us with any questions you might have at

Happy STEM-ing!

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