Thursday, March 10, 2016

Sussex Snow Cheetahs Learn about Water

On a February afternoon, the sun warmed the air, but left the dirt beneath the grass a tad damp. In a line along the path by the river, the Snow Cheetahs (a Sussex Kindergarten class) were asked what they thought they'd be learning on their field trip to the WEN office.
     "About the underground water thingy," one of them suggested. The watershed!
     Becca strode down the bank to the water's edge, performed a couple tricky contortions to reach her hand into the water without falling in, and lifted up a pile of leaves tied together with a red ribbon. This was one of the students' leaf packs, carefully assembled and weighed two months before to measure how much the macro-invertebrates were eating.
     "They're almost gone!" one of the girls exclaimed.
     A fallen log lay across the bank near their leaf packs. Some gouge marks were gnawed into its surface. "What are these?" Becca asked. Several kids mumbled hesitantly and then confidently about beavers, excited by Becca's confirmation: "They're beaver marks!"

After checking on their leaf packs, we all gathered in a circle on the grass outside the Swift Building. We warmed up for the lesson with a water cycle song. One of the boys sat next to me, holding my hand tightly, which made it difficult to act out the song's gestures. At each step of the cycle mentioned in the song, the students yelled "STOP!" Then Becca paused the song to explore the new concept.
     "Does anyone know what evaporation is?" Several hands shot up. One boy explained, "It's when water goes up. You might think water can only go down but it can go up."
      Another boy considered a scenario. Evaporation happens "when a puddle gets hot." On that note, Becca gave the example of steam coming off boiling water when you make spaghetti. The Snow Cheetahs agreed they'd made spaghetti before and liked it. Halfway through the song, the child ended up in my lap.
     When the song finished the Snow Cheetahs got out their journals so they could draw what they thought the watershed looked like. Many drew rivers flowing under the soil.
     "I'm going to draw it going to somebody's house," said one boy, presumably thinking of a well or plumbing with access to the watershed.


Sadly, I had to leave to attend my own class at this point, so I did not get to watch the Snow Cheetahs act as water droplets in the cycle, going from station to station, mimicking how water moves from rivers to clouds to the ocean to animals. After this game they filed (well, "filed" is perhaps too orderly a word) into the Swift building and up the stairs to the WEN office to watch Becca demonstrate how the watershed works with our flow model. I can only imagine they found this exciting.

The Snow Cheetahs' teacher sent us these two pictures from the field trip:

Cassie Sevigny
WEN Intern

Monday, October 5, 2015

Washington Middle School’s flagship program is underway!

Washington Middle School on Thursday October 1st kicked off its first flagship program event and WEN was able to participate! This week’s lesson was based on the different types of aquatic macro invertebrates that inhabit our local streams and rivers.  Students were not only taught the general importance of macros as indicator species of pollutants but students also received an in depth lesson on the different feeding groups within our local macro invertebrate community.

                Students were informed of two ways to categorize macroinvertebrates: how the food is obtained and or the type of food that is consumed.  While both are proven to be accurate, macros are omnivores and may feed on different food sources seasonally. Therefore we focus on how food is obtained by macros as means for categorizing. Macro invertebrates are divided into five primary categories.  Scrapers, shredders, collectors, engulf- predators and piercers.

                As a way to test the ability of macros to break down and consume detritus, students in pairs collected leaves and created leaf packs. Leaf packs are roughly softball sized and are contained by netting with small holes to allow macros to freely move in and out of leaf packs.

                The leaf packs are currently submerged at student chosen locations in ponds near Washington Middle School. We will revisit Washington Middle School’s flagship program this week after having collected the leaf packs. In class students will weigh their leaf packs and compare them to the pre-pond submersion weight that was obtained last Thursday.  After comparing the two weights, students will consider the influence that macros had on the total weight changes and rate of consumption.

                Thanks to all of our students, Washington Middle School’s flagship program coordinator Mike Lessard and the faculty that helps keep applied science in the classroom!