Students from Kalifornsky Beach Elementary School work with Shelly Brenneman of the Kenai Watershed Forum, at left, to measure the flow rate of Slikok Creek on Tuesday afternoon during an Adopt-A-Stream field trip.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
In the woods surrounding Kalifornsky Beach Elementary School on Tuesday afternoon, a group of fifth-grade students marched through the trees and sang about their work like Snow White’s 25 dwarves.
“Hey lets monitor the water, because we want a healthy stream,” the chorus of students sang as they headed toward Slikok Creek.
About eight of the students carried wader boots slung over their shoulders, and when Kenai Watershed Forum education specialist Dan Pascucci asked them to volunteer for a list of tasks they would complete at the creek, he was met with eager bounces and raised hands.
The students had begun their first of a school year’s worth of monthly visits to the creek as part of the Adopt-A-Stream program, coordinated by the Kenai Watershed Forum.
Every month the students will go down to the creek to record data monitoring the creek’s health, including oxygen levels, temperatures and the types of insects and juvenile fish found there.
Once all of the students had reached the banks of the creek Tuesday and had been clumped into groups, each targeting a designated task, the creek was abuzz with activity.
Standing on a platform next to the creek, Ariana Gabriel, Koryne Godfrey and Kylee Bowman fiddled with a box of powders, a test tube and a vial, as they worked to determine whether the creek had a enough dissolved oxygen to keep fish and plants healthy.
Near the dissolved oxygen testers, a second group of three students hunched over a fine mesh net stretched flat on the platform and plucked their way though clumps of leaf litter and other debris as they searched for aquatic insects strained from the creek.
“They’re really hard to find,” said Keely Abendrogh as he leaned closer to the mesh. “I thought they’d be big, but they’re small,”
As they continued to hunt for insects, Pascucci hunched down into the huddle of bug collectors for an update on what they had found. Focusing in on a stone fly they had found, Pascucci asked them what they could determine about the creek by having found the insect in its water.
“Just by being here, what do the (stone flies) tell us?” he asked.
Looking down at an identification sheet, describing the insect and indicating that the insect is sensitive to pollution, Casey Murphy offered an answer.
“That they like it here and it’s not polluted,” she said.
Deciding to strain and investigate a second insect sample, the three insect collectors clunked their way from the platform and into the creek where Pascucci held the mesh net downstream. Once in the water, Pascucci asked the students to stir up debris and insects from the creek bed.
“Do a little dance, make a little love, get down tonight!” he said, as he did a little jig below the mesh and the students did their jig above it.
Jacob Worsfold examines one of about a dozen juvenile salmon the students trapped for examination during the afternoon trip to the tiny stream near the Kenai Peninsula College.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Leaving the insect group to sift through their fresh bounty of insects and creek debris, Pascucci checked in with the dissolved oxygen testers to see if the creek had the minimum 7 milligrams of oxygen per liter of water it needed to sustain a healthy population of insects and fish.
The group found the creek’s water contained 12 milligrams of oxygen per liter of water, and Pascucci asked them what that tells them about the creek.
“It’s OK?” Gabriel ventured an answer.
“OK, healthy, awesome, totally cool,” Pascucci said offering an extra kick of enthusiasm. “Dissolved oxygen team, you have wrapped your heads around dissolved oxygen.”
The Adopt-A-Stream program will post the students’ results on an international Web site.
The students’ first day of monitoring was also held in honor of World Water Monitoring Day, which is today. According to Shelly Brenneman, a K-12 education coordinator with the Kenai Watershed Forum, more than 6,500 sites in over 50 countries have been monitored by more than 80,000 individuals since the first World Water Monitoring Day was held in 2002.
Patrice Kohl can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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