Skip to main content

Mayflies revisited


This summer saw the first running of “Mayfly in the Classroom” at Brantwood School in Sheffield. I was so impressed by the Year 8 pupils (and their teachers, Mrs. Skidmore and Mr. Jones) who got completely involved with the whole exercise. The beginning of the two-week experiment saw lots of puzzled faces (at what possible importance a lowly insect could have). Puzzlement was also followed by a certain degree of surprise that significant proportions of the lessons would be made up of what the pupils thought and felt about the issues raised. By starting with students collating and prioritising basic requirements for almost all life on the planet (oxygen, water, nutrition and shelter/habitat), we were then able to examine how the simple plastic aquaria (made from fizzy drinks bottles) supplied all these needs. This led on to the apparatus construction and the introduction of the nymphs to their new homes...
Throughout the experiment, students assumed the duty of care towards the insects. This included daily observation/recording of aeration, water level, temperature and emergence of adult mayflies within the apparatus. Any conditions that were outside of the boundaries recommended in the WTT’s supporting reference material were then corrected according to the instructions supplied as part of “Mayfly in the Classroom”.


In addition, students learnt through a variety of video and printed resources about the mayfly lifecycle, how the many species are specially adapted to their environment, the fact that mayflies require high quality habitat and clean water. These “biological basics” were then linked to how studying mayflies and other stream invertebrates can indicate the presence of harmful pollutants. Similarly, the act of protecting and restoring good quality freshwater habitats required by mayflies and trout was specifically linked to the benefits that humans and wildlife gain from good quality streams and rivers. The importance of mayflies to a wide variety of other wildlife (including bats, birds, spiders and fish) as a food source was also highlighted.
The final day of the exercise was a visit to their local stream (the Porter Brook) where the adult flies had been released. A kick sample and a river walk helped to illustrate the range of wildlife that has made a home in this urban park. What impressed me most about this final day was the assembly that the students had held in the morning. In it, they had formed two groups:
Firstly, a group of developers who wanted to build over the stream and park to make way for hospitals and vital amenities “a human utopia” in the words of their spokeswoman)
Secondly, a group of campaigners who wanted to protect the park and lobby for an alternative location for the development.
The consensus view reached was that the development was valid, but should be sited so as not to impact the park and stream environments.

Poem and display work produced by Year 8 (including the essay "The mayfly: God's most underestimated creature")

Comments

Andy Pritchard said…
Fantastic work Paul, this is the real deal; keep up the good work.

Andy

Popular posts from this blog

Why Presume to Remove Weirs? (with River Dove Case Study)

Weirs and the Backwards Ways that Rivers Work One of my favourite sayings on river restoration is a mangled quote from a movie "... boxing is an unnatural act. Everything in boxing is backwards: sometimes the best way to deliver a punch is to step backwards...but step back too far and you ain't fighting at all ". So my mangled version starts out "Everything in rivers is backwards...". Basically, I never seem to run out of new examples of "what SEEMS to happen in a river is actually the complete opposite of what really happens". The rest of this article looks at many of the "backwards" things about weirs and rivers - and finishes off with a real-world case-study that is playing out right now on the River Dove . One spoiler alert is that, from an ecological point of view, it is almost always safe to assume that: The best biological outcome for a river is the removal of some or all of an artificial weir.  Now, I don't exp

The Wild Trout Trust: A Film by Chalkstream Fly

Here is a great short piece that captures what the work of the Wild Trout Trust is all about. It was made for (and broadcast on) the very first "World Fishing Day" - a 24hr live fishing programme created by FishingTV.com . It features TV personalities (and WTT President & Vice President respectively!) Jon Beer and Matthew Wright as well as Director of the Trust, Shaun Leonard. You can see more work by the film-makers on Chalkstreamfly.co.uk  and, of course, you can join the Wild Trout Trust here: WTT Membership Paul Gaskell (Trout in the Town Conservation Officer)

Birmingham and Coventry's Urban Waterways

It's about time for a new blog post and I thought it would be good to flag up some of the investigations that I've been doing in conjunction with Waterside Care (which, in itself, is supported by Keep Britain Tidy ). As well as initial investigations on the River Cole around the Shire Country Park and Burberry Brickworks, more recent forays to the little Westley Brook, River Sowe, Stonehouse Brook and a little stream in the Holly Wood Local Nature Reserve (between Great Barr and Queslett) have seen me criss-crossing the M6 and M69 and the surrounding areas. What always surprises me is just how much of the Black Country/Coventry area is essentially "floating" on a vast network of underground watercourses which suddenly pop up into daylight in surprising places. Of course this puts a lot of pressure onto the biology of these streams - not only from the physical "encasing" of their channels in brick and concrete (both above and below ground). It is t