by: Angela Danovi, Regional Projects Manager, Ozarks Water Watch
Rogers’ Elmwood Raiders 7th-graders took their ecology lessons to the field on Wednesday, May 22. Over 280 students visited Lake Atalanta Park, located in the Beaver Lake Watershed. Throughout the day students were testing water clarity, conducting soil and water chemistry testing, measuring stream flow and many other exciting hands-on learning experiences! This was the second year for the Elmwood Ecology field trip, expanding to twelve stations this year and giving students an opportunity to learn from professionals and trained volunteers from the Northwest Arkansas Master Naturalists what it is like to conduct environmental field science in their own back yard.
The Elmwood Ecology Field Trip was concieved by Angela Danovi, Regional Projects Manager for Ozarks Water Watch and Elmwood Middle School Science Teacher, Jane Mohr. “This field trip is exciting for our students because they can gain hands-on experience outside of the classroom, reinforcing the work we are teaching them in class,” said Mohr. The expansion of the field trip was in-part supported by a small grant to Angela Danovi as non-formal environmental educator from the Arkansas Environmental Education Association. The grant supported the purchase of student soil and water testing kits, allowing the students to practice field science by conducting student-directed scientific tests and collecting environmental data in their local park. Next year’s 7th grade students will use the data to practice graphing and other math skills and to learn about normal variability found in routine environmental science.
This year’s field trip was particularly timely for students because they had the opportunity to measure the stream discharge in Prairie Creek, the stream that flows to Lake Atalanta, just days before the flooding of the Arkansas River. Students practiced using the instruments during their science class, prior to the field trip. During the field trip they were able to implement the procedure in the field and calculate discharge in cubic feet per second and then convert that number to gallons per second. During the past few days, the teachers have been sharing stream discharge updates and videos taken by the US Army Corps of Engineers on the Arkansas River, demonstrating for the students how the work they did on their field trip is used by professionals to manage our water resources.
In addition to water quality science activities, students enjoyed programs by Alan Bland on Mammals of the Ozarks, Chris Pistole of Hobbs State Park on Food Webs, Trish Ouei of the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension on the ecology and history of Lake Atalanta Park, and Dot Neely of Beaver Water District on permeability of surfaces in a watershed. Additional professional parterners included Carrie Byron of Beaver Watershed Alliance who led a stream chemistry station and Danielle Dozer of Ozark Natural Science Center who led a macroinvertebrate survey. The 2019 Elmwood field trip was a success and hopefully gave the students a positive field science experience and a sense of connectedness to our water in Beaver Lake Watershed and the Ozarks.