Who polluted the Flat River?
It was a brief history lesson, and as much a “how” question as a lesson in ways to keep freshwater sources clean — and Alto Elementary students were drinking it in.
Second-graders from across the district spent time recently at the Wittenbach/Wege Environmental Agriscience Center as part of their water resources unit.
Center Director Courtney Cheers led an ick-inducing demonstration to show how runoff from roads, farms and industry affects waterways, as well as how lawn and garden products, everyday trash and dumping chemicals on the ground make water unsafe for drinking, swimming, wildlife and fish.
How can you clean that? she wondered aloud.
“Get a net and start scooping stuff out,” offered Ava Weller.
A student on the other side of the room had a suggestion: “Go scuba diving, use a GoPro and try to find out who did it,” he said.
Students headed to nearby Lee Creek to test the pH, oxygen level, cloudiness (called turbidity) and temperature as part of the World Water Monitoring Challenge. The international activity invites kids, teens and adults to test the quality of freshwater sources near them, and upload their readings to a website for scientists to monitor.
They pulled on waders and dipped nets into the chilly creek and examined their findings. Certain insects indicate health of the water, explained naturalist Shannon Goodwin.
Jayden Pelletier examined a caddisfly in his net and a stonefly scooped by a classmate, then consulted a chart to see whether their presence indicated healthy or unhealthy conditions.
“Looks like we’re clean,” he declared.
With the Great Lakes making up the world’s largest freshwater system on the planet, “we have a big responsibility living here to keep the water clean,” Cheers told students. “If we all make better choices, everyone can continue to enjoy it.”