Science and Stewardship

The theme of the 2016-2017 class is based on local water quality issues and how we can address them. In our second year of offering an immersion-based experience for the middle school class at Morgantown Learning Academy, we broke the content into three trimester projects. Throughout the year, we’ve learned about a variety of water issues starting with the national level (1st trimester), then moving to regional (2nd trimester) and, lastly, a local issue.

First Trimester – Physical Science

During this time, students learned the basics of how to test and understand water quality parameters such as pH, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, and salinity. The students were able to sample within West Run and Lemon Creek, two streams that run through the school property. Marc Glass, a staff scientist with Downstream Strategies, guest lectured on local water pollution issues and the water chemistry associated with these pollutants. Students also had a visit from staff at The Mountain Institute and had a more in-depth experience with water quality parameters and sampling procedures.

Second Trimester – Life Science

The life science trimester explored bioindicators associated with water quality. We studied benthic macroinvertebrate sampling protocol and identification while learning pollution tolerance within the insects collected. Students were also given the opportunity to learn fish anatomy and pollution tolerance during a hands-on dissection lesson. The second trimester project was a mock Town Hall meeting regarding the 2009 fish kill in Dunkard Creek. Students were given roles of people involved in this real-life event. Each student was tasked with creating an explanation for what (and who) caused the fish kill and what measures should be taken to restore the quality of the creek.

Third Trimester – Land-Use and Conservation

For the last trimester, the class learned about watershed management with lessons on hydrology, and soil and water conservation, with 2 experts from West Virginia University as special guest lecturers – Brian Lemme, Environmental Health & Safety Stormwater Specialist and Dr. James Anderson, Professor in Natural Resources & Design. The students took what they learned to develop solutions for an area with bad water drainage on the MLA campus.  In groups, the students presented their solutions in a science-fair style event with Mr. Lemme and Dr. Anderson as judges.  The class, with the help of Mr. Lemme, then implemented the best ideas into a wetland area and amphibian habitat on campus.

“This STEM project was student led, student designed and built with their own hands. The final result has exceeded my expectations both as a learning experience and as a new habitat here on campus,” said Jen-Osha Buysee, Mountain SOL Director and instructor at Morgantown Learning Academy.

Learn more about the final project here.  Check out the students’ hard work throughout the semester in the galleries below!

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