Students take hands on approach to learning at Raccoon Creek
By Paul McManis
Commoner Journal staff writer
The school’s chemistry teacher, Troy Weaver, said the schools received funding last year through an NEA grant that allowed the school to purchase materials needed to take the students out to study in a natural environment. He said he was able to work through various other funding sources to help maintain enough funds to return to the creek again this year.
This year, the students visited Raccoon Creek, off King Hollow Road, to conduct more studies.
The students were accompanied by Weaver, first year Biology I teacher Amanda Dunlap and Biology II teacher Keith Palmer. Also available to answer student’s questions and to teach them about the environmental aspects were Raccoon Creek Watershed Coordinator Amy Mackey and Raccoon Creek Water Quality Specialist Sarah Landers, along with AmeriCorps members Kim Brewster, Lisa Prince and Kristin Kindler.
At the creek, the students were able to find various species and gather specimens to bring back to the school to study in the weeks to come. Students were also able to perform tests and sampling of the water in the creek and the species that live there.
After the students finished conducting their studies, they got out of the water, stood on the bank and watched the professionals do their job in the creek. Mackey, Landers and the group from AmeriCorps then performed electroshock fish sampling while the students looked on. When they were finished conducting their sampling, students were able to observe their findings.
Palmer said he was glad to see the students get involved in an outdoor project such as the one they had in the creek. He said it was also good to see women involved in such a project because he believed it would help the young female students to consider a career in a similar field.
“These are great students,” Palmer said. “What I like is that all five advisers were ladies. It gives these girls a lot of confidence when they do science. It’s good for them.”
Palmer said he was glad the kids were excited to be a part of the expedition, but the fun won’t stop with the bus pulling away from the creek.
“We’ll have a lot of fun with this stuff when we get back,” Palmer said. He explained the various tests that are yet to be conducted with the samples when the students are back in the classroom.
Dunlap said her class was unable to participate, but she enjoyed the experience and will have stories to take back to her class to help motivate them to do well and pass her class so they can participate in the coming years.
For Weaver, the project was about offering the students an experience they won’t soon forget and they will take with them as they continue on in life.
“There are three main things I like to see,” Weaver said about class projects like the one at Raccoon Creek. “If the students have a positive learning experience, if that experience involves science and if that experience can lead to a career. That is the trifecta.”
Weaver said he has enjoyed being a part of the experience both years, but was sure to point out this project was not for him to keep to himself. He said the students are what projects like these are all about.
“This is not just Troy Weaver water quality. This is Vinton County water quality. It’s about the kids,” Weaver said.