Mobile aquatic classroom inspires students in Sterling.
With the final countdown to summer vacation underway, students across the Kenai Peninsula are taking advantage of the spring weather to take their classroom curriculums into the great outdoors of Alaska. Enhancing those natural educational experiences is the Alaska Department of Fish & Game Aquatic Education Classroom. In a recent stop over at the Moose River in Sterling, Allan Miller's 5th & 6th grade classes were able to examine life forms living in the Moose River. "This is actually a continuation of what we've been doing all year," said Miller, "We're studying the Moose River taking a look at the aquatic habitat and teaching the kids how to test the water quality and look at what's living in here."
According to Tracy Smith with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game Division of Sport Fish, the Mobile Aquatic Classroom is based out of Anchorage and travels all over the State of Alaska. "We travel throughout the state from April through November doing a variety of activities ranging from aquatic education programs to stewardship programs, fly tying, fly casting, dissections and all kinds of other programs," said Smith. The program is now in its third season funded by a statewide wildlife grant with matching federal funds. Smith was born, raised, and educated in Alaska, graduating from UAA at Fairbanks and loves getting students excited about biology, "I've been with the department 13 years now and this is everything I always wanted to do when I was in school and now I even get paid to do it," commented Tracy.
The mobile classroom offers students a laboratory to examine the invertebrates they collect and the water samples taken under sophisticated microscopes. Biologists have been working with the Sterling Elementary students all year and so far say they have found no invasive life forms such as Northern Pike in the Moose River. "My hope is that my students will gain a unique appreciation for this environment that we live in. We've been raising salmon fry at the school from eggs we collected in the fall and have been raising them all year. So by tying that in with the importance of the Kenai Watershed, our lifestyle and local economy, I hope to get the kids to understand more by getting their hands in the water and observing how complex this environment really is, they'll appreciate it a little more, and maybe become astronauts, biologists, or point them in whatever direction they want to go to make this a better world," said Allen Miller.
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