by: Angela Danovi
May 30, 2018
It was 8:30 in the morning on May 2nd when 238 7th graders descended on the lawn near Lake Atalanta for their ecology field trip day. Elmwood Middle 7th grade science teacher, Jane Mohr, and I had been preparing for the day for over two months. We were excited and hopeful the students would have a fun and educational experience learning lessons in water quality and ecology. We decided several months earlier to do a day-long field trip to provide students with several different opportunities to interact with different instructors outside of the classroom. Our idea was for students to visit six stations throughout the day, learning about different ecology concepts and engaging in different learning activities. We decided to have two water activities, two activities where students could explore the park, and two opportunities for students to engage in observational ecology lessons. To lead each of the stations, we invited several partners who were well adept at leading field trip activities and lessons in ecology and water quality. Our partners were excited and willing to help out with the huge field trip!
Students got to kick up and identify macroinvertebrates with Kayla Sayre from the Beaver Watershed Alliance, measure stream discharge with me, do a geography and history scavenger hunt with Trish Ouei from the University of Arkansas Cooperative extension service, complete a runoff simulation with Casey Rector of the Illinois River Watershed Partnership, tour the low impact development features of the park with Dot Neely of Beaver Water District, and complete an ecological survey with Laurie Scott of Northwest Arkansas Community College.
The water activities were favorites of most students. At the macroinvertebrate station, students entered the creek to kick up benthic sediments and collect macroinvertebrates. They used dichotomous key to macroinvertebrate life in the river to identify the specimen they had collected. Once they identified their macroinvertebrates, they used the StreamSmart field data sheet to determine the water quality level. The students found the water quality of the streams flowing to Lake Atalanta to be good water quality.
The students visited with me to learn about stream discharge. This was the first time I attempted to teach stream discharge to students younger than high school. I simplified the the StreamSmart discharge procedure so they could follow the process and determine a discharge that would still be fairly accurate for the stream. The station gave the students real world experience in using math and and taking measurements to find an answer. For many students, and even some adults, they were shocked to learn there was not a “right answer,” but instead I was looking for an answer that made sense. This is what I ask my volunteers to do in the field and it’s often what we do when we are doing field science. So, it was a good opportunity for them to gain a first-hand experience in field science, while having fun in the water.
Overall, it was a great day and some students declared it the best field trip they had ever done. Plans are already underway for next year and we are looking forward to making it an even better experience, while giving students a real-world scientific experience in ecology and water quality.
Thank you to everyone who made this day possible and we look forward to having another great ecology field trip with Elmwood Middle again in 2019!
Field Trip Partners
- City of Rogers Department of Parks and Recreation
- Elmwood Middle School in Rogers, AR
- Ozarks Water Watch
- Beaver Water District
- Beaver Watershed Alliance
- Illinois River Watershed Partnership
- University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service, Benton County
- Northwest Arkansas Stormwater Education
- Northwest Arkansas Community College