4th graders from Northwest Expedition Academy donned their citizen-scientist gear along the dike at Hayden Lake one Wednesday in April. Amidst heavy sighs punctuated by cries of “I just want to jump in the water!” they launched their investigations. Their goal: to answer the driving question, “how do we affect the local environment, and how does it affect us?”
The day dawned warm on this initial exploration at Hayden Lake. Students took time to draw and describe what they observed. They connected to their environment through their senses, paying attention to what they saw, heard, and smelled. As all kids do, they tested their balance on the rocks along the shore. They came away with wet feet, but no one fell in. They checked the buoyancy of pebbles and twigs in the water. To nobody’s surprise, rocks don’t float. They also spontaneously conducted a trail clean-up when they became alarmed by the trash that visitors before them had left behind.
Looking Closer by Habitat Hunting
As the Public Outreach Manager for the Hayden Lake Watershed Improvement District, I was on hand to engage the students in a bit of habitat hunting. This was motivation to look more closely at the diversity of life in this environment. Students quickly identified the essential parts of a habitat – air, water, food, and shelter. They brainstormed what evidence they might see that the dike area is a healthy habitat for some critters. They set out on a treasure hunt for such evidence and reported findings of scat, discarded exoskeletons, nests, and burrows. One lucky student found a perch well-out of the water which, it appeared, had fallen prey to a fish-eating predator.
Students Will Continue to Investigate
NExA Students will continue to pursue the investigative question through research, discussion, critical thinking, and future field work at the lake. They will communicate their conclusions through an art exhibit and public presentation. I plan to be there to celebrate their awakening passion for and their commitment to the Hayden Lake Watershed.
My goal: Preserve and Enhance, Enjoy and Protect
My goal is to help these students become responsible stewards of the Hayden Lake Watershed. Many of them and their parents visit the lake frequently during the summer. What they learn about interacting with the environment through this project will affect how they and their parents interact with this watershed. It’s important to the Improvement District and me to help develop student and parent awareness. Through that, their actions will hopefully go in the direction of our mission: to preserve and enhance the watershed and all its parts.
References - find more on the web:
Northwest Expedition Academy