Not everyone can access a stream to discover aquatic life, but the stream can come to them! Stroud Water Research Center is making this possible through a new experiential learning tool: the aquatic macroinvertebrate touch tank.
The Education Department designed the touch tank to allow observers to see freshwater macroinvertebrates move freely through creek water in a simulated stream environment. The well-being of the animals is also key to the tank’s design, which includes natural habitat and ways to maintain temperature and oxygen levels.
At the conclusion of an education program, the animals are to be safely returned to the stream or river where they were found.
Using accessible, low-cost supplies, educators can build their own traveling touch tanks for both indoor and outdoor classrooms, community events, conferences, educator professional development, and more. Free instructions for how to build and use a touch tank are available at the link below.
Assistant Director of Education Tara Muenz says, “The touch tank is an innovative way to foster appreciation and awareness of aquatic life found in streams and rivers.”
Unlike most marine touch tanks, participants use tools such as petri dishes and plastic spoons to handle the macroinvertebrates. They can observe and identify the insects while discovering how they indicate water quality and support a healthy freshwater ecosystem.
Early adopters of the touch tank have said it makes engaging with macroinvertebrates easy and fun.
Muenz says, “Many people engaging with the touch tank are discovering macroinvertebrates for the first time, and they’re finding that just like people, these organisms need healthy water to exist.”
The Stroud Center gratefully acknowledges the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for supporting the touch tank’s development and use through the Environmental Education Grants Program.
While some of the Stroud Center’s work is funded by grants, we also rely on the generous support of donors. You can support innovative work like this by donating today.