Sibbald Point O.E.C - Pond Inquiry
Sibbald Point O.E.C.
Pond Systems, Sustainability and Stewardship
SUBJECT & SKILL AREA: Science (Life Systems), Language (Reading, Writing, Oral Language)
FOCUS OF INQUIRY:
Pond Diversity & Sustainability
SIBBALD POND INQUIRY
Located within Sibbald Point Provincial Park on the south shore of Lake Simcoe, Sibbald Point
O.E.C. is the most northerly of the York Region District School Board's five outdoor education
centres, all of which provide mandated outdoor curriculum-based programs to Grade 2, 4 and 7
students in the YRDSB.
Grade 4 Pond Inquiry: Sibbald’s Story
Tanya and Trevor have embraced a shift in the programming at Sibbald Point OEC from a more structured,
teacher-centre approach to one where the kids who visit often lead the way. It was a new framework which
was implemented slowly over the year, but the benefits of the switch were evident every step of the way.
“Some of our programs are definitely better suited to fit the inquiry model so we explored different
approaches with a variety of schools and made adjustments as we went along”. Both Trevor and Tanya found
that by welcoming questions and inquiry both at the beginning and throughout their day, they provided a
more inclusive environment which increased student engagement and participation. It also meant
maximizing their time outdoors!
Focus of Inquiry: Pond Diversity & Sustainability
Starting the Environmental Inquiry Process:
Trevor and Tanya knew students were always excited about their visits to
Sibbald Point OEC and were curious where the inquiry process would lead for a
Grade 4 Pond Study Program. They knew that children who connect with
nature grow into adults who care about protecting it and that this is particularly
important when talking about our disappearing wetlands. The goal was to have
students understand that everything at the pond (and in nature) is
connected. They wanted to reach a wide range of learners and create authentic,
meaningful experiences through lots of hands-on exploration. They sat down together and generated a list of
questions connected to the current Pond Study Program then used them to prompt students on the morning
the students arrived. They also suggested that classroom teachers generate program-specific questions
before their visit through a KB Circle. Tanya and Trevor found that both methods of generating questions
(either pre-visit or on the day of) allowed them to be more inclusive in their responses to individual and
Using both the board in the classroom and the moveable white board, students had a scheduled snack and
inquiry time which allowed them to record in both pictures and words, what they were wondering about.
Next, Tanya and Trevor explained that by studying the creatures that live in
the pond on a regular basis, students from York Region are directly helping
the Provincial Park update their official records (Detailed Life Science
Inventory). Real Science! To build more excitement, they showed the group
pictures on the iPad of some of the creatures we may find, as well as some who
may be less common. Finally, just before heading outside, we read Eggbert’s
Dragon Dream by Frank Glew about the dragonfly nymph who eventually
turns into the beautiful dragonfly.
SIBBALD POND INQUIRY
Will we see animals change
in the pond?
I wonder if we will catch
I wonder if most ponds still
have lots of life?
Will there be fish?
I wonder if we will go fishing
or catch tadpoles?
Will there be tadpoles and
frogs and fish?
I am wondering how deep
the pond is?
Are there swans?
• What do you WONDER
about life in the pond?
• What animals do you think
live down at our pond?
• Why are ponds/wetlands
• What would it look like if
you were to put on scuba
gear and jump into the
middle of the pond? What
would you see?!
Students snack and explore the classroom when they first arrive at Sibbald, recording their responses and questions on both the wipe
board and the blackboard.
Experiential Learning & Integration:
“What do you wonder about life in the pond?” It was time to explore! Students set out, dip nets and
magnifiers in hand, ready to examine the pond life up close. Experiential Learning emphasizes that
information is best accessed from a variety of sources so materials included reference books, Tanya &
Trevor’s iPads, Pre-Made Identification Charts and the expertise of the group.
After discussion around respectful exploration and dip-netting technique, students paired up and began to
gather samples from our pond. Once a variety of different samples had been collected, groups brought their
larger white buckets to a more central location and separated a few of the creatures that they wanted to
know more about. They gave each creature both a made up name (e.g. Eggbert) and a scientific name if they
could identify it, and then on the back of each card, recorded something they were wondering about that
Tanya and Trevor found that one of the most difficult parts of
leading scientific inquiry was to avoid providing answers right
away. They found that interviewing kids on the iPads
(“Speakers Corner”) helped with this and provided really great
opportunities for students to share some of their questions and
inquiries based on what they were finding. Both the “I
Wonder” questions written on the cards and the videos were
then shared with the classroom teacher and groups were
encouraged to follow-up with their inquiries back at school.
Made up name, scientific name, and “I
SIBBALD POND INQUIRY
Sample Video Questions (Speakers Corner)
What are the little claws of the diving better larvae used for?
How many types of animals are here?
I’m wondering how caddisfly larvae make their homes that they carry on their backs?
How do little insects breath under water?
Everything that lives underwater – can they also breath above it?
How many animals play dead so they can fool their prey?
Why were most of the insects found in the shade?
Why do tadpoles become frogs and come out from the water to live on the land?
Why do the dragonfly nymphs eat a lot of things in the pond?
Why do some larvae need to be so vicious and kill all the tadpoles? It is really sad…
The Grade 4 exploration of the pond definitely taught and reinforced to students the need to protect our
wetlands. Noticing garbage along the shore of the pond began to take on more meaning when they saw how
many creatures actually called the pond home. The group asked fantastic questions that were recorded so
that they could explore more when they got back to the classroom. Students even suggested that they
conduct a similar study at the local pond near their school – great!
Trevor and Tanya followed up by sending the classroom teacher the “I Wonder” videos as well as their cue
card questions. Materials related to Pond Study (e.g. What you can do for wetlands? by David Suzuki, and
Toronto Zoo Adopt A Pond) were sent back with the classroom teacher for further investigation. A next step
could be to encourage creating a “Life Science Inventory” (similar to the one created by the Provincial Park
Staff) for their local pond, providing an opportunity to revise it each year.
Moving forward, Sibbald O.E.C. would like to add a 1-page resource on facilitating effective Knowledge
Building Circles to support classroom teachers implementing Inquiry Based Learning back in their
We are fortunate in York Region to have mandatory multi-grade (Grade 2, 4, and 7) visits to our outdoor
education centres. The opportunity to make positive connections to Sibbald Point Provincial Park means
that as students move through their elementary years, they are likely to be more invested in caring for both
this beautiful park and other wilderness spaces, leading to endless stewardship opportunities in the future.