Thursday, October 21, 2010

Project Based Learning

Back in April of this year, I blogged a bit about a program called Cascade Stream Watch. In that program, after an initial introduction to aquatic ecology in the classroom, students spend a day in the field studying watersheds, macroinvertebrates, and fish.

Another one of Wolftree's programs is called Project Based Learning. The students in this program are visited many times to acquaint them with their particular project, whether it be flying squirrels or beavers. They also get to go into the field to do their studies more than once. Last year I was lucky enough to spend three field days with the same group of kids from BizTech as they carried out their project. It was great to spend time with the same students as well as to see them become more proficient at collecting their data.

This year, I once again had the opportunity to mentor high school students from BizTech. Teacher Amy Lindahl's classes are working with the Johnson Creek Watershed Council, investigating the occurrence of the freshwater mussel, Margaritifera falcata, in Johnson Creek. The mussel is known to occur in the upper reaches of the creek, but it's full distribution in the watershed is unknown.

The students chose 3 locations representing the upper, middle, and lower watershed to carry out their study. Aside from looking for mussels, students collected and studied the macroinvertebrate population, collected water quality data and habitat variables, and calculated stream discharge at the three locations.

Although live western pearlshells were found at the upper site, the students found only the remains of the pearlshell(shells) at the middle site. They did however find evidence of the floater, Anodonta Clade 1 at both the middle and lower site. The non-native Asian clam was also abundant at both of these sites.

Now that the field work is finished, the students will begin their data analysis. This spring, they will present their findings at the Student Summit at Timberline Lodge. It will be quite interesting to hear what they have learned. And the best part about this project is that the data will be used by the watershed council as they continue their investigation into the occurrence of freshwater mussels in Johnson Creek.

Submitted by Donna Allard

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