Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ten Tenacious Trespassers

An education trunk focusing on “Ten Tenacious Trespassers” is in the final stages of development.  These trespassers are aquatic nuisance species that are already here in the lower Columbia River basin or pose a threat to those waters. 
The trunk will contain preserved specimens of some of these species, educational videos, identification guides, curriculum, and activities.  From these materials, students will learn how to identify local aquatic nuisance species, where they come from, how they are introduced, the potentially devastating effects they may have on native species and the aquatic environment and actions every person can take to prevent the introduction and/or spread of aquatic nuisance species.  The trunk will be available for checkout to any educator.
To kickoff this new trunk, one of the trespassers will be highlighted each month in this blog - so be sure to stay tuned!  Can you identify the Ten Tenacious Trespassers?

Submitted by Donna Allard and Jen Poirier

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Salmon Watch - Vernonia

The day started out a bit chilly and foggy but I knew the sun would soon be shining.  I drove up the road to Vernonia and stopped at the new school on my way to the salmon watch site.  Coincidentally, Aaron, the principal was just entering the school and asked me if I wanted a quick tour.  The school houses kindergarten through high school students.  It is LEED certified and replaces the older schools which have been ravaged by floods in recent years.  I was quite impressed with what I saw.  After a few minutes of chatting about the great natural resources based curriculum currently underway, I left school and headed to the stream where students would soon join me. 

Even though there had been no rain for the last couple months, the landowner said that he had indeed seen some fish in the stream.  Bonus for a salmon watch event.  Students from kindergarten, first, and fourth grade soon arrived on numerous buses.  After a brief introduction, I headed to the "water bug" station and waited for my first group.  The water bug station was one of nine groups that the students would take turns visiting.  The others included salmon viewing, salmon lifecycle and dissection, riparian walk, tree identification, and animal identification to name a few.

Students collecting macroinvertebrates.
There were about 8 students in each group for the morning session.  Each fourth grader was paired with a younger kid.  I watched as they held hands and worked with their younger partner.  I gave a short introduction on why we study water bugs and their importance to the stream and salmon.  Most of the fourth graders already knew much of this.  They not only study salmon but raise them in their classroom.  We spent the rest of our time collecting the insects, examining, and identifying them.

An extra bit of excitement at my station included a pair of coho salmon guarding a redd directly across the stream.  Every so often the female would do a little digging as well.  The students were very quiet so they did not scare the fish away.  All in all, I'd say the students had a fun day and learned alot.  And yes, the sun did indeed shine.

Two salmon sitting on a redd.

Submitted by Donna Allard

Monday, October 1, 2012

Columbia River Watershed Festival

Each year, around this time the Columbia River Watershed festival is held for students in Clark County Washington.  The Columbia River Fisheries Program Office (CRFPO), Clark County, City of Vancouver, Columbia Springs, and Clark PUD all contribute to making the event a success.  The event also depends on many other agencies and volunteers to give presentations or help in other ways.  Through games, songs, storytelling and hands on activities, students learn about watersheds, riparian zones, conservation, recycling and many other natural resource related topics.  This year the Columbia River Watershed Festival hosted 35 classes of 4th graders during the two day event.
Jen and Donna

The CRFPO (and partner Clark County Department of Environmental Services) developed a presentation and activity for the watershed festival that introduced students to the topic of aquatic nuisance species (ANS).  During the presentation we defined what it means to be an aquatic nuisance species (vs. native and non-native species), discussed where they originate from, how they are introduced, impacts they may have on the natural environment/economy/human health, and actions every person can take to prevent their further spread.  Next the students were introduced to ten ANS that threaten the lower Columbia River using photo’s, illustrations, and preserved specimen.  Throughout the presentation the students asked thoughtful questions and seemed genuinely engaged in the conversation.  Following the presentation we tested the student’s knowledge of ANS by playing a trivia game.  Students rolled giant foam dice and moved game pieces on a life size game board.  We were impressed by how much information the students retained from the presentation.  Students LOVED taking turns rolling the giant dice and the potential to steal points from another group if a question was answered incorrectly.  Several students deemed this activity the “best game ever” – a huge compliment for a learning activity!  We also received positive feedback from teachers as well.  All in all the ANS lesson and activity was a huge success!

Playing the game

The topic of aquatic nuisance species is very important.  The vast majority of ANS are spread into new water bodies as a direct result of human activities.  Whether intentionally or by accident, once an ANS is introduced and becomes established in a new ecosystem, it is very costly and difficult to control or eradicate them.  Often the best approach to preventing the introduction or further spread of ANS is to educate the public on the potential pathways of introduction and steps each person can take to stop the spread of ANS in their local community.  The CRFPO is developing an ANS education trunk that will introduce students to the Columbia River’s “Ten Tenacious Trespassers”.  The trunk will include among other things a teaching curriculum, posters, videos and preserved specimens.  We will be including a smaller version of the watershed festival game/activity in our ANS education trunk that will be made available to teachers and local environmental educators in the winter of 2013.
Jen teaching students about Hydrilla

 Submitted by Jen Poirier and Donna Allard