When I posted my interview with Erik Gustafson, this year’s winner of Discovery’s Young Scientist Challenge, it wasn’t so surprising to learn that he’d launched his path to the top of the heap as America’s Next Top Young Scientist by investigating the creek in his own backyard. Now, it seems there’s been a whole movement afoot in Pennsylvania, Colorado and parts of New York to get kids involved investigating local creeks as a way to understand basic science and our connection to the natural world at the same time.
It’s called Creek Connections, and it started back 14 years ago as a program at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania. Since that time it’s grown, with students posting their results online to be shared with other participating districts, and for evaluation by Allegheny College.
As Jeff Blahusch, a sixth grade science teacher at Franklin Regional Middle School in Murrysville PA. who coordinates the program in his school puts it, "It increases student awareness to the natural resources around them, specifically where to be testing the water levels of a local waterway. We're looking to see, based on temperature and pH ... how healthy the creek is."
His students test for dissolved solids, dissolved oxygen, alkalinity and turbidity as well, and as one of them puts it, "It's fun because you have your hands on all the equipment. It's not just the teachers doing that."
Sounds like it could be something worthwhile to get your students involved with if you’ve got a local creek that’s accessible and you can fit it into the school day somehow… Because as Blahusch goes on to say, "The No. 1 goal is to bring the science classroom into a real world situation for these kids. They get to use actual tools that scientists use -- that's something they never have a chance to use in the classroom -- then see how it applies to their lives. We're hoping to develop their science skills from an academic standpoint, but also encourage them to become stewards of their environment and, more specifically, their community."
Which is wonderful to hear him discuss, because it seems to me that there is no more noble or worthy goal than to help kids in first-world countries like America understand where we’re at, how we’re all connected, and what we can do to protect the position we have while utilizing it to accomplish the most good possible for humanity.
Sound like a mouthful? It is. And it’s that necessary and important too… Most kids I've encountered have no understanding of the fact that the world outside their own personal network of friends and relatives actually exists, unless they get the chance to see it on MTV. Then, for some reason, it's gospel truth.