Today was the big Seahurst Park field trip. Over 100 students and 12 adult chaperones traveled by bus down to the park where we met our hosts from the Environmental Science Center (ESC). ESC staff guided groups of students through six stations, with students spending a half-hour per station.
Watersheds (with Joanna): Students used a physical model of a city to learn how buildings, vehicles, pets, and other sources all contribute to the accumulation of pollution in Puget Sound. Students each shared one way they would personally help reduce their own impact on the environment.
Water Quality Testing (with Jennifer): Students first read a brief article highlighting why harmful algae blooms occur (below). Students then measured a variety of factors related to water quality by sampling water sources from around the park. Students worked in groups, with each rotation measuring one of the following: dissolved oxygen, phosphate, nitrate, pH, and turbitidy. Students compiled the data into mini lab reports, sharing out their findings with each other and then analyzing it through graphing and writing a brief conclusion.
Plankton Tow (with Kelly): Students collected samples of Puget Sound plankton using a plankton tow. Samples were collected into cups for analysis during the Plankton Lab.
Plankton Lab (with Jarett): Before using the microscopes to see the plankton in their Plankton Tow samples, students watched two brief videos to help them better understand the scale and consequences of harmful algae blooms (HABs). The first video, “Toxic algae blooms contaminate U.S. drinking water,” explains the impact of HABs on marine life, the fishing industry, and consumers. The second video, “Toxic Algae Bloom Causing Seizures in Sea Lions,” shows the neurotoxic effect of the algae toxin domoic acid on a sea lion found on the Washington coast. Students then viewed their own plankton under a microscope. Identification cards created by the Washington Sea Grant were used to identify species of plankton observed by students. Specifically, the Marine Zooplankton of Puget Sound card and the Marine Phytoplankton of Puget Sound card (pictured below) were provided.
Recycling (with Megan): Students learned all about how various types of common household waste can be separated into recycling, food waste, and garbage. The CleanScapes Recology community education program emphasized the importance of properly disposing of the various types of waste, with a focus on the types of waste often generated by teenagers.
Bioaccumulation Game (with Brendan): Poker chips, bags, arm bands, a few bright orange vests, and an energetic group of students was all it took to bring to life the concept of bioaccumulation. The game began with more than half the students (representing small fish preyed upon by salmon) scrambling around for 30 seconds to fill bags with poker chips (plankton) that had been scattered around in the grass. Next, the salmon were released, represented by students wearing bright green arm bands. When a “salmon” touched a smaller fish, the smaller fish gave the salmon their poker chips, representing a transfer of energy. After another 30 seconds, the orca entered the game (two students wearing bright orange vests) and devoured most of the salmon who then turned over their poker chips to the orca. When the game ended, the two orca had most of the poker chips. Students were then pushed to consider what might happen to the orca if a biotoxin were present in the environment and was being consumed by species lower toward the base of the food chain.
This was such a fantastic opportunity for students to visit a beautiful local park, interact with the talented and dedicated ESC staff, and spend the day bonding with peers and staff from our school, our district central office, and our community. There are an enormous number of people to thank for making today a success, and my students will be recognizing all of the behind-the-scenes people in the coming days.
Looking ahead, we will use our experience today as the basis for the final part of our first unit. As students make sense of what they learned and begin to take ownership of their own power to protect our local environment, they will be challenged to publicly share their learning. Stay tuned!