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Ponds are teeming with living things, large and small, especially in the springtime. This sifter, created from an embroidery hoop, lets kids get up close and personal with the fascinating critters -- bugs, snails, tiny shrimp, crayfish, and more -- that call the pond's floor home.
Cut two circles (or octagons like ours) from tulle that are slightly larger than a 7-inch embroidery hoop. Place the hoop between the circles. Staple the pieces together around the hoop's perimeter, pulling the tulle tight. (TIP: Staple one side first, then pull it tight and staple the opposite side. Continue stapling around the hoop this way.) Now find an area of the pond where plants are growing or draping into the water (plant roots and leaves provide shelter from predators for pond-bottom dwellers). Lower the hoop into the soil on the pond's floor, sweeping it slowly back and forth, then gently raise it out of the water (if the sifter is empty, try again -- it may take a few sweeps to collect something). Transfer your findings to a small plastic container filled with pond water. When you've finished your examination, gently return the critters to their home.
For further exploration: Get tips on critters to look for, and learn more about your finds, by bringing along a field guide. We like Pond, by Donald Silver, and Pond Life: Look Closer, by Frank Greenaway.
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