It may have been a rainy day on Tuesday October 2nd, but that did not hinder our outdoor school class from a great afternoon of learning and having some fun at the Arboretum on campus! Our class gathered together and met with our guide, Rachel, a recent graduate in environmental sciences from the University of Guelph, who would be taking us to the pond located in the Arboretum. We began with a leisurely walk through the beautiful trees in the Arboretum, the same way that most of our recent trips had begun. What I observed was that every time is different and I notice new aspects that I missed on previous walks. Having this natural resource right on campus is honestly incredible. Eventually, we came to a stop in front of one specific tree. Rachel informed us about the history of the tree, called the Kentucky Coffee Tree, and how it was actually a food source for prehistoric mammoths. Wow! It was moments like these that were extra special and fascinating, being able to learn more about nature and all of the hidden gems in the Arboretum.
Before reaching the pond, our class made a quick stop to put on rain boots and grab some buckets and nets. As we continued through the forest, we passed by another beautiful sight, an old growth forest, which Rachel kindly pointed out to us. It was incredible to know that the Arboretum on campus contained trees that had been there for over a hundred years with little disturbance. What an amazing sight to take in! Finally, we reached the incredible pond, surrounded by trees. Rachel explained about a pile of 2 or 3 leaves on the ground. I had thought to myself that it was just some leaves that had fallen off a tree but what I learned was that the significance was not the leaves, but the small hill in the dirt underneath. This hill was created by earthworms, which Rachel told us was an invasive species to Canada, something I and many others actually did not know. Earthworms can do a lot of damage to areas by lowering the soil levels. You learn something new everyday! Once our discussion was over, we all set off to the edge of the pond for the main event, to catch some bugs and frogs!
I loved the opportunity of getting up close and personal with the insects and frogs in the pond. It is not everyday that you can walk through the mud in a pond to catch insects (at least not for me). Experiences like this one are the ones I will never forget as I find it a much more effective way of learning rather than being taught through a textbook in a classroom. I wish I could be out in nature for all of my classes, what a great time that would be! The places available around campus to experience nature are so unique, from the Bee Apiary to the Arboretum, there is something for every nature lover! How lucky are we to be surrounded by all of these amazing sites!
It was quite an adventure stomping though the mud to catch some bugs. I found that it was beneficial to work with other classmates to accomplish our task of catching frogs and bugs as it was difficult ensuring they were put into the vials. In the end, it was interesting to see the different species people managed to capture, from flies to frogs to small insects I had never seen before. As our journey for the days class neared the end, we gathered with Rachel to show her our findings. I think it was fair to say that Rachel was impressed with our pond discoveries! Vials of bugs were passed around as Rachel told us about each kind of bug, even providing us with identification sheets which helped us recognize the bug for ourselves. It was amazing to learn about how many different kinds of insects exist in ponds, more than you would ever think. Specifically learning about the Giant Water Bug was definitely something I will remember for a long time! Rachel even showed us how to properly hold frogs so that they cannot use their back legs to jump out of your hand and hurt themselves. All of these new facts are important to know, especially for those of us who love spending time in nature.
Ponds are important aspects of nature, for so many different species. A field-naturalist from Ottawa, John Sankey, has a site where he shares his knowledge of nature. I was reading his article about ponds when he stated a fact that surprised me. He said, “In Southern Ontario, people have destroyed 80% of our wetlands, and more vanish every day through lack of protection.” The fact that the Arboretum on campus has a pond is really incredible and shows that they are working to help protect wildlife. Another thing Sankey shared is that even people at home are able to help wildlife by properly building and maintaining ponds by their homes. Just consider, maybe you can help protect wildlife by creating a home for more biodiversity in your own backyard! From my experience at the Arboretum pond, I say it is definitely worth it!
By: Breann Saulnier
Make a Pond for Wildlife, John Sankey, 2018. http://web.ncf.ca/bf250/pond.html