Check out the highlights of River Watch's Fall Programming!
Since 1998 (with a few exceptions [COVID-19]) the Metro Water Festival has invited elementary students to the MN State Fair Grounds to explore the wide world of water science. In the form of a field day, classes move from station to station with activities centered on different topics presented by government orgs (DNR, MPCA, FWS, BLM) and local non-profits like River Watch. Patti and I had the pleasure of leading an activity at the Water Festival this year, working with 6 different groups of 4th Graders.
The activity was simple: define and create a watershed. Each student was given a ball of clay and asked to shape it into something we would find on a map (hills, valleys, farms, roads, bridges, parks) and we combined them all together to make a unique watershed. Then we poured water on the clay creation and saw how it moved across the environment.
The real strength of this hands-on activity is that students of all levels can use their creativity to participate and begin to understand how water moves across the environment. With a simple piece of clay, everyone can contribute something meaningful to the “map”. The secondary lesson is to point out how water creates runoff, and the environment/human impacts can move pollution through the watershed to downstream areas, where it collects.
Though the sessions were short (25 minutes) we witnessed so much creativity and mental connections being formed in the students' young minds. I hope we can participate in future festivals celebrating and investigating the vast topics of water science. It is our most important resource.
A Wacky Watershed assembled by Water Festival participants!
Fall is the perfect time to get outside and learn about nature by being in nature. This was the basic idea of the Minneopa Field Day event hosted by the MN Dept of Natural Resources. Over 2 days, nearly 500 students from Mankato East trekked out to Minneopa State Park to participate in stations covering a wide range of ecological topics (Prairie Ecosystems, Bison & the Land, Technology in Nature, River Exploration etc).
River Watch helped lead the station on Benthic Macroinvertebrates (water bugs), along with members from the DNR & MPCA. The lesson covered functional feeding groups [new information to me], and how macroinvertebrates can indicate how healthy our water is. With the basics out of the way, students got to explore the creek: scooping for macroinvertebrates, traversing the rocks, and identifying flora and fauna from the creek. I find it particularly fun to carry a bug around showing it off to those who seem squeamish. The bugs are always harmless, so there is no danger in looking, but not everyone is cool with a 10 legged amphipod, or a large clawed crayfish. Ultimately, I hope students walked away with a deeper understanding of the complex ecosystem hiding just below the surface of the water, and, if not an appreciation, a lowered aversion to these strange wonderful water creatures.
*Not all macroinvertebrates are classified as bugs
This is the collection box from Day One. A close look will reveal 3 crayfish, and a predacious diving beetle. We collected many other macro's which didn't pose for the picture.
*Dobson Fly Larvae
* Net-Spinning Caddisfly Larvae
*Northern/Tube-Casing Caddisfly Larvae