Friday, June 1, 2012

Skimming dragonfly larvae out of the school pool

You know summer is right around the corner when the school sends out the kids to clean the pool. From what I have experienced over the past few years while working in Japanese schools is that their pools are left to the elements for 9 months of the year. This lets the pool grow algae and bacteria into a putrid deep green color along with plenty of leaves and other debris that get blown into it over its long idled state.

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There is one plus to letting the pools go to hell for most of the year, it turns into a fun activity for the kids. There are a few things that the kids get to do to restore the pool to a safe and useable state. First off they get to skim the surface for floating algae for science class. Then they drain the pool till its about waist deep for the lower grade students to jump in and dredge the pool floor for a certain creature that lay peacefully dormant for a good part of the year.


What I’m talking about here is dragon fly larvae (ヤゴ). This year I joined the 2nd grade students in their annual dragonfly larvae hunt. They came fully prepared with swimsuits, nets, and buckets. The kids were thrilled just to be out of class getting dirty. Some even submerged themselves under the murky water at the teachers dismay. It didn’t matter if you were a boy or a girl, everyone seemed to enjoy this messy event equally. I didn’t notice anyone really freaking out that they were wading through a pool brimming full of biological organisms, mostly of the insect variety.

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I couldn’t be bothered to jump in the pool with them because I had a class afterward and didn’t bring any suitable clothes to wade in the pool with them. Instead, I ended up helping the kids empty their nets full of bugs into the tanks they set up on the poolside. I have never seen dragonfly larvae up close and was a little grossed out by it at first but was handling these things like harmless potato bugs by the end of it. I hope they eventually release the dragonflies when they are fully grown. It would be a shame to take away the joy of flight from these creatures.


After the kids had their fun dredging the pool for life the bigger kids gave the poolside and pool a thorough cleaning. Now the pool is ready for swimming. If it’s anything like last year I may be asked to join a class or two for some poolside lifeguarding with some occasional pool volleyball.

It’s kind of cool what kind of responsibilities the kids are given in Japan. I know I wouldn’t be allowed to jump into a half empty pool to gather bugs when I was that age in the US. I remember catching grass hoppers under rocks and stuff on the school grounds though that was on my own time during recess.


Here’s a quick and dirty cell phone video of one of the tanks the kids put the larvae into. Sorry its not clear.

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