Sunday, April 19, 2015

Mississippi River Institute Tuesday, July 29: Geology Inquiry and Macroinvertebrates

Day Two - Tuesday, July 29, 2014

by Steven Beardsley

Where we were for the last two days of the three-day institute

Reflection Sharing and Blue River Activities
Today, we were at the Thomas C. Savage Visitor Center at Fort Snelling State Park. We began the journey of our day by seeing a few deer up the path and a couple of turkeys walking around the center. We spent the morning sharing the reflection paragraphs that we wrote about yesterday’s events. The reflection was a great way to do an open-ended assessment, which also led to conversations about using multimedia like iMovie and iMovie Trailer to create reflections after a class period.

Next was a fun activity outside, simulating the flow of a river. Participants formed various tributaries, sending representative colored beads to the end of the river. We simulated seasons of rainfall from winter to spring to summer, and had fun adding a source of point pollution that simulated contamination along the waterways. We learned that the activity could be adapted to include other man-made creations along rivers, like locks, dams, and even storm drains.

Participants share their reflections
River activity from Project Wet

Geology Inquiry with Stream Tables
The rest of the day involved geology inquiry and macroinvertebrates. Participants were able to choose which activity they wanted to do in the morning and in the afternoon. For instance, I had the opportunity to experience stream tables with Ed and Sil in the morning. Sil first demonstrated how water flows down an elevated surface, letting participants make guesses about where watersheds would form.

Next we did stream tables, and though I was able to do them at the St. Croix River Institute last month, I learned more about the importance of modeling development along the river.

For instance, we got to identify different parts of rivers that formed in our stream table while creating various communities along it. The modeling raised questions about how communities manage to get clean water and what happens if the river floods and ends up toppling a bridge.

We then talked about our communities and discussed a video, Wolves in Yellowstone, exploring how the introduction of wolves back into Yellowstone Park influenced the river. Finally, Ed and Sil gave us a chance to walk around the park and see how water interacts in the real world.

Bridge collapse and houses getting soaked
Sil leading “What is a Watershed?” activity

Open Inquiry and Macroinvertebrates

The next part of the day involved driving down to the beach to study macroinvertebrates. This part of the institute was an example of "open inquiry," because participants were asked to come up with a question to study and then to determine how they would study it in a one-hour period. My group explored how the biodiversity of the river changed more and more the further we were from the shoreline. The best laid plans often go awry. We ended up spending more time looking at the macroinvertebrates that we found furthest from the shore. We found a variety - from dragonfly nymphs to caddisfly larva. Did you know that caddisfly larvae wrap materials from the environment around their bodies to make a home? Many of the caddisfly larvae we found looked like little stick leaves.

David, Carl, and Sam leading Macroinvertebrates
Using a black tarp to gather macroinveterbrates
A dragonfly larva was my group’s biggest find


Final Thoughts

Today was a great day filled with geology and macroinvertebrate inquiry. I found myself enjoying both the opportunity to see what lives in the Mississippi River and the chance to model developments along a river. Overall, I think the experience taught a great deal about how people influence and are influenced by the Mississippi River, and it provided important activities teachers can use to guide students in their own experience and learning about the environment around them.

Part of Dichotomous Key used to identify macroinvertebrates

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