My three-year-old in particular has been mesmerised and I have been surprised at her engagement and dedication to the project.
“No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy”
…paraphrased from Helmuth von Moltke, 1900
Since beginning to play with the Mayfly in the Classroom (MIC) idea in 2008, many instances of “contact” between the concept, associated apparatus and its users have occurred. Arising feedback from schools (teachers & pupils) as well as delivery partners (Rivers Trusts & Friends-of groups) is continually used to shape and tweak the resources and methods.
By 2021 it became clear those accumulated tweaks would merit a guidebook to help set people up with the best chances of success with MIC. The book walks you through how to borrow aquatic larvae from a local river and nurture them through their lifecycle before release back into the wild as winged, breeding adults. Along the way, the struggles facing our rivers and the aquatic life they support can be brought to life.
All very well on paper – but is MIC truly simple enough to set up at home, in your kitchen?
We asked Amy and family to find out…
Mayfly in the Classroom - or Mayfly in the Kitchen?
At the end of February, I met up with Paul to spend a day kick-sampling and setting up up-cycled aquaria for mayfly collected from the local river/I had recently agreed to facilitate the MIC unit in local schools, drawing on my previous experiences as a primary school teacher, and a recent MSc in Sustainability. I had read the brilliant MIC guidebook and chatted it through with the WTT team, but it was agreed some guided practical and a dry run at home would be the best way to fully understand the ins and outs of the unit. It is important to say at this point, as passionate as I was about primary school science during my time in the classroom, I had never attempted or supervised the capture and care of any live creatures before.
Despite a little trepidation, it wasn’t long before I found myself with wellies on feet and bucket in hand heading down to The Sett with Paul and enjoying a morning of kick-sampling and invertebrate identification. Back at home in the kitchen, Paul and I assembled the necessary aquaria using simple equipment from the local pet shop and up-cycled water bottles. It was surprisingly easy and made a refreshing break from the usual flow of the working week. And when my two young children got home, the real fun began.
The Kids Take Over: Ownership of Caring for Mayfly is a Key Factor
When one of our nymphs moulted, she kept the “skin” in a plastic tub and shone her torch on it with absolute fascination.
My daughters, aged six and three, were keen to assume roles at the new mayfly aquarium – the eldest was tasked with checking the air supply to each of the bottles which are housing the mayfly larvae. She also checks the temperature of the water each day and, in the event of it getting too warm, directs her younger sister to refresh the freezer blocks which cool the water bath in which the bottles sit.
Now that we are set up and the kids’ interest has been caught, we have been down to the river for more kick-sampling and identification – the lure of nets and buckets has proven to be quite addictive. My three-year-old in particular has been mesmerised and I have been surprised at her engagement and dedication to the project. When one of our nymphs moulted, she kept the ‘skin’ in a plastic tub and shone her torch on it with absolute fascination. When one nymph died, she had to process that it wasn’t asleep, and it wasn’t coming back. She has regaled her nursery-mates with tales of her nymphs, and she clearly sees herself as an expert and as a scientist. I am excited to see if this confidence can be replicated on a greater scale in local classrooms and kids who’ve enjoyed the MIC workshop observe and care for their own mayfly.
So back to the question of simplicity, the kick-sampling element really was easy enough for a pre-schooler. The aquaria were slightly more challenging but once one was assembled and connected (we made four in total), it all clicked into place with relative ease. The up-keep and monitoring have been simple and easy, and having a copy of the MIC book on hand has answered any questions as they have arisen.
Overall, if you have a spare corner in your home or classroom for your mayflies to occupy, and one or more curious minds to occupy, Mayfly in the Classroom (or kitchen) is incredibly educational and engaging for all ages.