School Watery Workshops

Published: 5th November, 2020

What do cacti, polar bears, water lilies and pond skaters all have in common? As students from four primary schools within the Broads National Park can now tell you they are all specially adapted to their environment! During the last month we’ve been in schools delivering half day workshops helping students explore some of the incredible adaptations aquatic plants and animals in the Broads National Park have evolved to survive.

“An amazing start to our science topic. So well fitting with our curriculum content and so nice to do some experiments.”

Dell Primary School

The topic is introduced through examples of various animals and plants living in the world’s Arctic, deserts, rainforests and seas before homing in on those that live on our own doorstep – all of which are just as marvellous as their exotic counterparts. Take the water soldier for example, what other plant do you know excretes a chalk like substance over its leaves in the winter to make it sink to the bottom of the dyke or lake and so escape winter frosts? Then there’s the water scorpion that uses a “snorkel” projecting from its rear to breathe while hanging from the water surface looking for prey. Or the whirligig beetle whose eyes are split in half enabling it to see what’s going on both on the surface of the water and beneath it at exactly the same time.

A tray of water, some random classroom objects, a sheet to record results and you’re guaranteed a class of absorbed children as they work out which of the objects float and which sink and what changes they can make to reverse the results. They then use their results to work out what adaptation water lilies and water soldiers have evolved to enable them to float and answer the question “how do water soldiers escape from frost?”

We also explore the properties of water’s surface tension – everything from seeing how many drops of water fit on a 1p coin (alot more than you’d ever imagine!) to what happens when soapy fingers and earbuds are dipped into pepper coated water or behind floating bits of card! Again the results are used to work out what adaptations animals have evolved to enable them to exploit the water’s surface tension to their advantage. We look at those kings and queens of walking on water the pond skaters and the incredible water cricket. This little beastie exudes a soap like substance (again from its rear!) which breaks the surface tension and sends it gliding motionless over the water surface towards its prey – a true phantom!

Judging by the water splashed work books, total concentration and the myriad of questions covering, not only animal adaptations, but also all other aspects of science the workshops are a definite hit!

“Children were able to learn in a more adventurous way by investigating and finding their own answers and evaluations.”

Lingwood Primary Academy

“Usually we focus on other animals e.g. finches but this session highlights the plants, creatures and habitats of the Broads.”

Surlingham Primary School