Every one of MI's 817 fifth graders are studying the ecosystem of Muddy Creek, a small tributary of the Miami River located behind Banana Leaf Restaurant in downtown Mason. The students have been finding tons of life in the water including crayfish, leeches, dragonfly nymphs, riffle beetles, gilled snails, and caddis fly larvae. They report that our community is pretty lucky because they're finding lots of organisms that are sensitive to pollution - which means we have a very clean creek!
Fifth grade MI teacher Maddy Rossetti worked with Rod King at Ohio Scenic Rivers to set up a walking field trip for her Team Aspire fifth grade science classes last spring. The experience was so rewarding, each of the school's 21 science classes chose to participate in the outdoor exploration of Muddy Creek from September 12 through October 21.
“Rod King, who was a former Middle School Guidance Counselor, and I have known each other for close to 20 years. He retired one year ago from Mason and started working for Ohio Scenic Rivers. I invited him to speak to my fifth grade science class last fall, and he brought in some samples of Aquatic Macro invertebrates that live in Ohio Rivers and creeks, and we discussed how you measure the health of a stream is by the life living in it,” shared Rossetti. “ The kids loved his presentation and he brought up the idea of taking the kids to Muddy Creek in the spring, so I took my classes last year and they loved it!”
According to Rossetti, kids need to know that something as simple as washing a car can affect the quality of life in a creek. “I don't think kids realize that soap can actually pollute and hurt living organisms.”
Rossetti and King then decided it would be awesome to get the whole fifth grade involved for this year.
“We teach Ecosystems in the fall so it lines up perfectly with our curriculum. A plan was formed to get all fifth grade science teachers to take their students to Muddy Creek.”
Students are encouraged to wear old shoes and clothes on the day of the trip as it is expected that shoes could get wet and dirty during the less than one mile walk to the creek. During the walk, students monitored the stream, gathered samples and assessed the quality of the water, while also looking for organisms and insects.
“The kids loved finding all of the aquatic life in the creek. They had no idea they we would be able to discover if the creek was polluted simply based on the type of organisms we would find,” said Rossetti. “The students have been finding so much life in the water including crayfish, leeches, dragonfly nymphs, riffle beetles, gilled snails, and caddis fly larvae. They identified and classified these organisms into groups based on their sensitivity to pollution.”
By classifying the organisms into groups, the students discovered that Muddy Creek is very healthy! Back in the classroom, food chains were then created with the organisms.
Rossetti also encouraged parent volunteers to join the homerooms on the walk to help the groups of students. Throughout the trip, the parent volunteers ensured that kids stayed on the sidewalk, assigned a student to carry a garbage bag as kids were encouraged to pick-up any litter along the way, and to also encourage students to maintain two points of contact on the stream bottom at all times.
“It is so much fun to get out of the classroom! The kids love being out in nature and exploring. Many of my students had never been in a creek and many of them didn't realize the creek was so full of life!” added Rossetti.