The last seven weeks at Hope Elementary School have been full of lesson plans and practical experiences to get the students prepared for their field study by the middle of May.
Denise Blanchette, a biologist with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), has provided immense support to the project through her instructional visits to the class. On two separate occasions, Denise spoke to the class about invasive species in Maine, her work within the DEP, and how to conduct a biological survey and proper methods to recover samples. The students found Denise to be a wealth of knowledge; she engaged the class with her level of experience and expertise as a field biologist. We have been incredibly fortunate to have Denise as our liaison to the exciting world of field biology.
We were also lucky to have a visit from Kristina Dube, who worked as a wildlife biologist, to speak to the class. Kris brought her in-depth knowledge with high energy to talk to the seventh grade about lake ecology and the impact invasive species have on ecosystems. The students found this to be an incredible and educational presentation.
For the last two weeks, much of the work has been devoted to the methodology we will use in the field, starting with creation of invasive species portfolios for field identification. Using plans from Denise, we have begun the construction of the bucket periscopes we plan to use to conduct our survey. Additionally, we have the materials to build our modified grapples for sample collection, also inspired by the example Denise had shown the class during her last visit.
Outside of field preparation, we have been busy conducting our independent surveys of some of the local waterways in and around our study area. The seventh graders have learned how to collect samples and record sample data. We have already processed most of these samples by conducting several laboratories on the water quality index. Individually, the students have learned how to measure turbidity, temperature, and pH levels.
The students are incredibly engaged with every lesson and activity related to the project. We have not had to confront any challenges thus far, but we still have to complete fieldwork. Conducting fieldwork brings about all kinds of unforeseen problems, no matter how well prepared one might think they are. I suspect as a class we will have to face some challenge or challenges soon enough. In the meantime, we will forge ahead with our planned excursion!
by Colin Amundsen