People are naturally drawn to water for sustenance, aesthetics, recreation, and a myriad of other practical factors. The chaotic mayhem of a neighborhood swimming pool, the deafening roar of a great waterfall, or the soft patter of a spring shower all connect us to the molecule known as H2O. Children are no exception to this natural gravitation toward all things wet.

Tips For Getting Your Child To Explore Water

  • Take your children to a local watershed. Everybody lives in a watershed so knowing your “watershed address” is necessary to begin an intelligent dialogue about our most important natural resource.
  • Discussion about neighborhood water issues can begin around your kitchen table, the classroom, or your place of worship. Simple queries such as, “How did that creek get its name?”, “How big is our watershed?”, or “Is our watershed healthy?” often lead to answers that spark a child’s interest in her backyard stream. These conversations foment discussion of culture and history.
  • Language skills can be honed through nature journaling.
  • Nature journals hone many cognitive skills. Science, math, and communication are naturally taught through projects that encourage careful observation, data collection and documentation, analysis, and reporting. 
  • Some schools are fortunate enough to have access to field trip destinations and forward-thinking educators that are willing to engage parents and organize investigations.
  • Schools and parents can take trips to a hiking trail, an estuary to observe aquatic life at low tide, or to the banks of a river for an ecology lesson by a resource professional.
  • With a little forethought, field trips can involve special needs children as well.
  • Learning events are nicely capped off by a picnic on a beautiful spring or autumn day. 

Community Partnerships

Community partnerships help link children with the outside world. A model community partnership is Trout in the Classroom (TIC), a program developed by the conservation group Trout Unlimited. The premise of the project is to get aquariums set up in classrooms with live trout eggs. Eggs are hatched, trout grow to fingerling size, and then the fish are set free in a local stream or lake. This project begins in the fall and ends in the spring, giving teachers and students an entire school year to nurture, study, and record everything in and about the fish tank. TIC works for elementary, middle, and high schools. An afterschool fishing program is another great way to get kids and community members together. Courses often run for several weeks and can be organized into several units:

  • An interactive lesson on basic fish biology.
  • A lesson by citizen anglers with all of their gear.
  • A day of casting practice in the schoolyard.
  • A hands-on fish anatomy class.
  • A field trip to a lake to observe fish “shocking” by experts,
  • An actual fishing trip to a local pond,
  • A session that expresses children’s experiences to family members.  

Conservation Organizations

Citizen monitoring groups and long-standing conservation organizations are ready to embrace new members, including the Izaak Walton League of America, Ducks Unlimited, the Sierra Club, and the Audubon Society. Local watershed groups are always eager to recruit new members into their world of volunteer water sampling, educational programs, and social gatherings. With a little research, families looking for an outdoor connection can locate a local organization willing to be engaged with the schools. Most are kid-friendly and supportive of single parent families that have no background in camping, fishing, or hiking. The opportunity to attract children into the outdoors can be easily accomplished by incorporating the wonders of water. The success of aquatic outings is only bounded by the imagination of their planners. The smiles, chatter, and questions that follow a well-planned event are proof that we can get our kids comfortable in the natural world outside of their classrooms.

Resources    (Find your watershed address)  (Citizen water quality monitoring) (Trout in the Classroom) (Meaningful watershed experience site) (Organizing a fishing class) (Fishing information) (Nature journaling) (Outdoor opportunities in Virginia)