Environmental Science on the Three Rivers
North Campus Science Teacher, Brock Perkins

Are the three rivers healthy aquatic habitats? 

As a part of the Aquatic Habitats unit, City and North Campus fifth graders become environmental scientists as they board the Explorer to answer this question each fall. The students begin the trip by learning about and exploring watersheds, sources of water pollution, and the characteristics of streams in different habitats.  

The fifth graders then head to the deck to collect river water and to use digital sensors and other tools to gather information about the rivers' water quality. Once back inside, they double check the data gathered by these tools by performing chemical tests. As students conduct these tests, they learn about pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, and water temperature, and what their results suggest about the health of the rivers.  

After watching the city go by while eating their lunches on the deck of the boat, the students worked together to collect benthic macroinvertebrates and plankton. The fifth graders comb their sample for macroinvertebrates, study these organisms using magnifying glasses and stereoscopic microscopes, use a dichotomous key to identify as many as they can, and then determine what their sample indicates about the quality of the water. In the plankton lab, the fifth graders make wet mount slides and use microscopes to find all the phytoplankton and zooplankton they can in a couple of drops of water. After identifying and counting the plankton, they make a conclusion about what this data tells them about the health of the rivers.

At the end of the day, the Explorer crew leads the fifth graders in reviewing all of the data they have collected. Based on this data, the students come to a conclusion about the health of the three rivers.  

So are the three rivers healthy aquatic habitats? If you want to know, you'll need to ask a fifth grader.

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