Vernal Pool Education Projects

Outreach project Certification
Field visit project Field Visit
Outreach project Outreach

Field Visit Project

Most everyone enjoys a visit to a vernal pool. There are bugs to chase, frogs to catch, mud to slip on, water to fall into, poison ivy to rub against and mosquitos to be attacked by. Okay, a class or group field trip might be a bit of work for the teacher but environmental education should have an outdoor component. If you are not familiar with taking a class to an undeveloped outdoor site, talk with others who have done so. Your school system might have procedures for such a visit with guidelines which must be followed.

Teachers might want to make only one visit to a pool, usually in the spring, to observe egg masses of obligate species, look for other animal species and observe general conditions. Classes with more time, might want to study one or more pools over the entire year, identifying and recording organisms while observing the physical and biological cycles of a vernal pool.

Some general guidelines for vernal pool field work

Determine the landowner of the property with the vernal pool which you wish to study and secure the landowner's permission before your field visit. The ideal situation is a nearby vernal pool which is on public property.

  • Student Safety.
    • Be aware of students with behavioral problems, medical conditions (allergies, etc.) and physical limitations. Compensate for all of these.
    • You might want another adult with you when you go to a pool. This is highly recommended, particularly with younger students. Consider having high school students help with elementary class visits.
    • Check school policy for leaving the building and/or leaving the school grounds.
    • Visit the site before the class trip to check for obvious hazards such as poison ivy, dangerous debris, deep water, dense vegetation, etc. It might turn out that your choosen vernal pool is NOT suitable for a class visit because of size, surrounding vegetation, etc. You or others might have to collect samples or take pictures and bring them back for the students.

  • Habitat Protection. The pool and its organisms should be in as good a condition when you leave as when you arrived. Every visit has some effect but these effects should be minimized. Yes, some vegetation will be trampled and the occasional tadpole will be squished. However, you should not leave a trail of devastation behind. Your visit should cause no more change than visits by other animals (deer, raccoons, herons, etc.) to the pool. Don't destroy what you are trying to study and protect.
    • Have only a few students or an adult enter the pool to observe or net organisms. Be careful not to disturb egg masses attached to vegetation.
    • Use a walking stick (cut off hockey stick) for stability when walking in water of a vernal pool. Be careful of submerged logs, debris and holes.
    • Protect captured specimens from excessive handling, exposure to sun, and being stepped upon.
    • If you bring specimens to the classroom for identification and study, quickly return them to the pool.
    • Know and obey all laws with regard to the collection of plants and animals. Many vernal pool organisms are protected by law and should not be taken from the pool.
    • Do not discard test chemicals (from pH, D.O. tests, etc.) in or near the pool. Bring them back (have a container for them) to the classroom for appropriate disposal. Don't use test kits if you do not have a plan for proper disposal of the test materials!
If you need help or just want to share your experiences as you progress, email the Vernal Pool Association.

The following information might be the type of data collected for each pool you study.

  • Photograph of the pool (with or without students in the picture)
  • Location of the pool
  • Pool designation (Certification number, your code number, or name)
  • Pool Characteristics:
    • Length, width, area, average depth, and approximate volume
    • pH
    • water color
    • dissolved oxygen content
    • water temperature
    • pool bottom type (peat, leaf litter, mud, sand, gravel, cobbles, bedrock)
    • presence of inlet and/or outlet to the pool
  • Habitat conditions:
    • Distance to nearest: road, building, lawn, woods
    • Tree canopy cover over pool (percent)
    • Vegetation types within pool (percent)
    • Vegetation types within 100 feet of pool (percent)
    • Pool type: woods depression, open field, drainage system, quarry or rocky area, swamp, coastal pond, bog, impoundment, man-made dug pool, other
    • General description of pool
    • Presence of inlet and/or outlet to pool
  • Biological conditions:
    • Obligate vernal pool animals observed.
    • Facultative vernal pool animals observed.
    • Other animals observed in and around the vernal pool.