Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Mississippi River Institute Tuesday, July 28: Macroinvetebrates & Geological Inquiry

by Steven Beardsley
Tuesday July 28, 2015 - Day 2

Reflections & “Blue River” Activity

Participants look at each others' logos from yesterday

After a very rainy start to the day, participants trickled in as David led us in a reflection over the logos that participants drew from yesterday. Teachers got a chance to reflect over the activity and how to connect science with language arts as well as assessing the needs of each individual student. For instance, teachers got to discuss strategies for engaging students who are more comfortable with drawing while encouraging other students who are not as confident at drawing. After reflecting and going over some revelations from yesterday, Janine Kohn from the DNR and Karl led participants through “Blue River” Project Wet activity.

Janine Kohn from the Minnesota DNR guides participants through "Blue River"

For the “Blue River” activity, individuals went outside and lined up along the path leading up the visitor center to represent the Mississippi, St. Croix, and Minnesota rivers. The activity involved individuals passing down various objects (from dried pasta noodles to casino chips) to the very end where other instructors recorded the number of objects to make it down the end of the river. The activity was also meant to represent precipitation during the various seasons with various rules such as being restricted to passing down only one object at a time during the winter while spring and summer involved passing down as many objects as possible. This activity was also a fun way to simulate how rivers flood when individuals accidentally drop objects or how certain rivers may send down more objects in the form of pollution or runoff from individuals that live by that particular river. 

Where the 3 rivers meet

Guided Geological Inquiry

Ed and Sil describe stream tables to participants

After the “Blue River” activity, we divided up into two groups: one group involved Macroinvetebrate Inquiry and went down to the river for sampling while another group performed investigations along the rock formations by the Highway 5 bridge or stayed and did stream tables. Since I had some experience doing stream tables in the past, I decided to join the group led by Ed Pembleton and John Olson to the Highway 5 Bridge. The excursion took us up the path near Fort Snelling where we were encouraged to use our four senses, like on the Magnolia Blossom, to record observations about the geological formations. John stopped along the way to highlight different areas especially the small tunnel we found on the way up.

John Olson leads us on the hike to the Highway 5 Bridge
The hike up to the bridge
A sealed up entrance up the path
When we finally reached the stone underneath the Highway 5 Bridge, John had participants use a variety of tools and tests to analyze different aspects of the stone in the area such as small beakers with acid and hardness tests. The activity was a great way of testing out various hypotheses after making detailed observations along the trip. We even had participants climbing up the nearby slopes and getting hands on in their investigations. At the end, John managed to explain the layering of stone that included sandstone, limestone, and shale as well as asking how teachers might be able to do a similar activity with their students. 

John answers questions from participants
Some teachers were more daring than others

Open Macroinvertebrate Inquiry

Collecting macroinvertebrates
After each individual group debriefed and the group had lunch, participants that got to do macroinvertebrate switched to do geological inquiry and vice versa. The afternoon had a different twist however, the focus would be open inquiry where participants got the chance to formulate their own testable questions and gather data to answer them. Since I went with Ed and John in the morning, I accompanied David, Karl, and Janine down to the river. After Karl demonstrated how to properly collect macroinvertebrates through various nets, my group and I decided to test how diversity of macroinvertebrates changed as one got further away from the shore. Luckily one of us had ocean chest waders and was able to go as far as five feet into the water. After filling our buckets with the macroinvertebrates, we had the fun challenge of looking to see which kinds we managed to collect. It turned out that a foot to two feet from the shore had us looking at a bunch of damselfly larvae, midges, and dragonfly larvae while three to four feet involved looking at larger creatures such as beetles and Water Boatmen. Other participants managed to collect larger beetles and even a little tadpole almost about to be a frog. 

Participants examine their macroinvertebrates

We then participated in another Project WET activity “Macroinvertebrate Mayhem” where participants formed a line and acted as various species found in the river. The goal was to reach the other side of a marked area without being tagged by the “Environmental stressor.” What made the activity interesting was the restrictions put on certain species such as Caddisfly Larvae who could only hop while dragonfly larvae could run in a straight line without restrictions. Moreover, the restrictions were meant to show how certain species are more sensitive to environmental change, and it was a great way of simulating this phenomenon outside of the classroom.

Janine explains the "Macroinvertebrate Mayhem" activity

Concluding Thoughts

Today was a fun day that involved making detailed observations and testing out hypotheses. Participants got a chance to engage in hands-on learning from scratching at a rock to determine its hardness to walking into the river to collect macroinvertebrates. All in all, I thought today was a great way of connecting science content to fun outdoor activities that teachers could do with their students. David gave the final assignment of writing either a one page fictional piece about the day (for instance a poem or a short story) or a nonfiction piece from the perspective of a scientist’s field journal. Participants would also have to bring in their land developments from the “Sum of the Parts” activity assigned on Monday. 

No comments:

Post a Comment