Water Gardens and Home Schooling, a Perfect Match

Published on March 18, 2015

Twelve years ago when I joined my husband full time in our green industry business, I left behind a twenty-five year commitment to helping kids learn through active doing. My background as a school-based Occupational Therapist provided me with the skills I now use routinely to educate, engage and enjoy water gardening. So when a family committed to homeschooling their two young children approached us about building a recreational pond in their backyard, I envisioned potential well beyond a new backyard landscape.

Home school family enjoys nature's laboratory
The new pond created a new appreciation for wildlife with this 1st grader (click on image to expand).

Our design consultation with the family identified the primary goal for their backyard pond: A pond that would provide the family with dynamic time together both in-and -outside of the water, while offering a setting to extend their outdoor living enjoyment beyond their newly constructed deck. The two children expressed their primary interests in play and inviting wildlife to their backyard, so we set about designing and constructing a recreational pond to meet these family goals while providing them with plenty of full season gardens to enjoy and explore.

A very interesting thing happened along our design and construction journey. This three-year tenured homeschool family immediately discovered that the natural ecosystem pond complimented their home school curriculum. The timing was perfect to use the construction as part of a daily lesson plan for the children’s first and third grade curriculum.

When the massive dump truck delivered the first load of rock, this impressive visual provided real life calculations in math to include weights and measures. Excavation proved to be a “get your hands dirty” lesson in basic geometry and physics. And, of course, the engaging construction crew offered amble doses of fun with learning along the way.

The new pond allowed for a new appreciation for this 1st grader and also wildlife bond began.
The new pond allowed for a new appreciation for this 1st grader and also wildlife bond began (click on image to expand).

Installing the skimmer unit gave the third grade boy a closer look into the use of hand tools, which is a lost art with today’s children. He actually helped my husband, Chip, in handing him tools during the process. The parents later commented how valuable and endearing that experience was for them as both teachers and parents.

Filling the pond became the invitation for wildlife to arrive on the scene: You build it and they will come. This fascinated the first grade girl as a new appreciation and bond for wildlife began. An “accidental slip off the rocks” during pond filling gave the youngest member of the family dibs on being first to use the pond “recreationally.” “We still laugh about that incident”, exclaimed the parents, “that was no accidental slip, but the desire to be first in the pond.”

Once the project was completed, the family assured us we had met their initial goals for the project. I interviewed the family two years post construction to determine if they had begun using the backyard pond centrally in parts of their home school curriculum. From my initial impressions during and after the build, I had a sense this might be so.

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The family spoke of the unexpected benefits of the pond for their home school curriculum. One of the lessons in the fifth grade curriculum was learning how to classify and the family’s fifth grader proudly showed me his worksheet as it applied to the backyard pond. The son was able to use the pond as his personal learning lab to outline domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family genus and species. Pond animals and plants were used for this project. Wetland filtration and rainwater harvesting systems are an integral part of the initial pond construction and it also became a hands-on way to teach the children sustainability concepts.

It was clear the children not only integrated the learning, but could articulate concepts to others. During our last water garden tour, the two children were giving sustainability lessons to tour patrons. They explained how the pond wetlands and rainwater harvesting benefit its natural ecosystem.

Hands-on learning trumps the textbooks every time!

In the water garden industry, we often promote the backyard paradise, an enhanced life, or fulfilling customers’ desire for leisure and entertainment in their backyards. We should also consider outside the box value as this parent-led homeschool family demonstrated. A natural ecosystem pond became an integral tool in educating their children.

We are proud to have been a part of this family’s learning journey through water gardening. It is one of the many things that make this business so incredibly rewarding.

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