Learning flows as MPHS freshmen measure health of Fraser River
Thomas Tindle waded into the Fraser River on Thursday so deep the waters nearly spilled over his green waders.
In one hand, the freshman from Middle Park High School held a bright yellow tennis ball. In the other, he held half of a tape measure with classmate Matthew Baumgartner on the other end.
“Pretty much, we’re just seeing how fast the stream moves,” Thomas said. “We’re just putting tennis balls (in the river) and seeing how fast they travel and long it takes them to travel that distance.”
All along the Fraser River by Kaibab Park on Thursday, freshmen from earth and space science teacher Carla Hargadine’s class were checking on habitat quality, counting macroinvertebrates, testing water chemistry and measuring stream flows.
For the two boys tasked with gauging the flow, ranking the outdoor experience on a scale of 1-10 was perhaps a little too easy.
“It’s like a 10,” Baumgartner said having just gotten out of the water. He explained that he’s always been “a hands-on learner,” so getting outside in the warm fall air and cool river water was a real treat.
Christina Burri, a watershed scientist with Denver Water, was on-site helping the ninth-graders perform their tests, and she too thought it a valuable lesson.
“It’s very important, especially understanding the importance behind the habitat and the biology of the stream, mixed with the chemistry,” Burri said. “It’s about understanding the well-rounded picture of the health of the stream.”
Burri also believes the knowledge the students learn through these kinds of projects will follow them for a long time to come, even if only on their fishing trips or when they’re passing by the river on a bike or in a car.
“Oh yeah, they’ll carry this knowledge with them throughout their lives,” Burri said.
Hargadine explained that the East Grand School District has been watching local waterways for nine years now, and the freshman class field trip was one of the “great trips” a number of local students get to take each year because of the effort.
After they do these tests, Hargadine continued, her students return to the classroom where they are tasked with forming a generalized picture of the river’s health. As for what they discovered on Thursday, Hargadine said the results aren’t back just yet.
“Well, they are going to be finding that out (this) week,” she said. “They’ll take all the data they collected, analyze it and come up with some conclusions, but I’d say from what I’ve seen, it’s pretty healthy and what we would expect to see from the headwaters.”
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