A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Testing the Waters: Teachers take to the water to become more familiar with environmental education

By Bobby Ellis
Kentucky Teacher

A job can’t always be glamorous, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun.

A group of teachers from across the state slipped on their waterproof shoes, or slipped off their socks, and waded into a creek behind Pulaski County High School earlier this summer. Some slipped and almost fell, others were harassed by mosquitoes, and all of them dug through mud looking for minuscule life forms.

But, they all had a smile on their face.

Stephanie Floyd, left, Rometta Brown and Dawn Curtsinger use a net and tote to search for insects, crayfish and other water life in a creek outside of Pulaski County High School during a water quality workshop put on to help science teachers introduce their students to water quality labs. (Photo by Bobby Ellis)

The teachers were wading through Caney Fork Creek as part of a water quality testing workshop, overseen by Tabitha Owens, an environmental education specialist with the Kentucky Environmental Education Council.

“The goal is to help equip teachers with the tools they need to take their kids out and do these experiments themselves,” said Owens, who came equipped with tools and water quality testing kits to demonstrate for the teachers. “You laugh, but a turkey baster works amazingly well at sucking up the real tiny critters you can catch in creeks.”

“It’s really interesting to get out here and try catching these little animals for ourselves,” said Ronetta Brown, a science teacher at McBrayer Elementary (Rowan County). “It really makes me want to get the kids out to some water and try this.”

Teachers used nets to scoop up mud and rocks, which were dumped into plastic totes and panned with water to separate any living organism.

“It’s like panning for gold,” said Owens. “And some of these animals are really, really small, so you really need to watch for them.”

Others used water quality testing kits to examine the pH level of the creek.

“We’re really wanting to test the entire health of the of body of water,” said Owens. “We want to help show kids how different chemicals in the water can affect the way life goes on in creeks and other bodies of water.”

If you would like more information on how you can prepare your students on water quality testing, check out the Kentucky Environmental Education Council’s resource site.

Science teachers look through rocks and mud pulled from a creek for wildlife during a water quality workshop.

Wendy Warren looks for works and other small creatures on a rock during a water quality workshop.

Bobby Ellis can be reached at bobby.ellis@education.ky.gov

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