Sometimes, we don’t pay much attention to the necessities of life until we experience a shortage, as was the case one summer with the drought. As the sultry days droned on with escalating temperatures, the cracks in the ground widened and the earth seemed to beg for a drop of rain. Lakes and rivers dried into sand cakes, trees and plants languished under the weight of record-breaking temperatures. Our lush lawns turned into crunchy needle-like beds unfit for bare feet. Eventually, many of us gave up on keeping plants barely alive with the sprinklers. Our daily prayer became, “Please, Lord, send rain!” Finally, one August evening, clouds rolled in, and at last, the sky opened. Our family went outside to stand in the downpour. We could hear neighbors cheering as they celebrated the return of water from the sky. The drought may have been a result of weather patterns, but for me, it was a reminder that life-giving water comes from a merciful God, and is a gift to be appreciated.
Forms of Water
Much of the world’s most beautiful scenery involves water in some form: Niagara Falls, Mendenhall Glacier, and the blue tropics of the Caribbean. However, we need not travel far to find opportunities to learn about this wonder of nature. Even in winter, the forms of water around our homes can provide endless experiences in nature study. Oklahoma’s diverse weather gives us ice, snow, dew, frost, fog, and hail, all part of the hydrologic cycle that provides organisms with life-sustaining fresh water. An investigation of the various forms of precipitation could also include a study of ground and surface waters. Oklahoma is home to over two hundred public lakes and reservoirs, none of which are natural, with the exception of some oxbow and playa lakes. In fact, we have the largest number of water sources created by dams of any state in the USA. Most were man-made for flood control, hydroelectric power, recreation, water supply, or fish and wildlife. Ponds, watersheds, brooks and waterfalls also provide ample opportunities for exploring a most valuable resource.
Children can learn from their observations by capturing water forms on camera and creating a nature journal of their discoveries. Captions can include details about the subject, such as the type of water source, whether it is natural or man-made, what life forms benefit from that particular body of water, or whatever your student finds interesting. They may even create a calendar for recording precipitation, cloud forms, or the types of animal tracks found near a local water source.
Water can be most fascinating in winter. Capture a snowflake on a cold piece of dark flannel and quickly observe the crystals through a hand lens. Ask your students to remember its geometrical designs in their mind’s eye, then paint or sketch their observations to add to their nature journal. Talk a walk on a brisk morning and photograph intricate designs of frost on cold surfaces. How did the temperatures affect this form of water? Is the frost clinging to the tree a rime or hoar frost? What causes these differences?
Our study of water can certainly continue into the spring when its forms change in the warming air. When we were so weary of the heat and drought in summer, I reminded my children of a particular rainy season when they were younger. That April, it had rained for nineteen straight days. The creek near our house was in a constant fury. We were tired of being indoors, so in rain ponchos and bare feet, we headed out into the deluge. We gathered some milk cartons and cut them into makeshift boats, then added some little clay people. We raced them down the street, laughing as we watched the miniature “people” bobbing around in the current, and then captured them just before they disappeared in the storm drain. I taught them how to play “Pooh Sticks”. We each chose a branch that we tossed over the bridge into the rushing water, then raced to the other side to see whose had “won”. Mostly that was just a lot of fun, but also an opportunity to appreciate water in a powerful state.
Anna Comstock in her Handbook of Nature Study says, “Water in its various changing forms, liquid, gas, and solid, is an example of another overworked miracle—so common that we fail to see the miraculous in it.” Whatever winter may bring, watch and learn as nature gives witness to the Maker of the miraculous.
Resources and Books for Water Study:
(All are for younger children unless noted otherwise.)
- Paddle to the Sea by Holling Clancy Holling
- The Snowflake: A Water Cycle Story by Neil Waldman
- The Water’s Journey by Eleanor Schmid
- Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Comstock
- Ice, Water and Snow by Ethel Barrett (out of print)
- Snowballs by Louis Ehler
- Dream Snow by Eric Carle
- It’s Snowing It’s Snowing! by Jack Prelutsky
- Once Upon Ice and Other Frozen Poems by Jane Yolen
- Snow, Snow: Winter Poems for Children by Jane Yolen
- Snowflakes in Photographs by W.A. Bentley
- A Drop of Water: A Book of Science and Wonder by Walter Wick (for all ages)
- Water-related Education Materials for High School (older students)