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High schoolers get hands wet teaching

Special to the Post Independent/Erin M. CadyThese little guys breathe out of their armpits! Tim OKeefe of the Roaring Fork Conservancy tells these shocked and fascinated fourth-graders about some of the insects living in our local waters. Mr. Wildes River Watch class at Glenwood Springs High School invited Mrs. Strubles fourth-grade class from Sopris Elementary to Grizzly Creek Wednesday to talk about the critters.
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GLENWOOD CANYON – For a few lucky kids Wednesday afternoon, having fun meant skipping physics class to go play in a river all in the name of learning and teaching science. That’s just what Glenwood Springs High School teacher Mike Wilde’s River Watch class did at the confluence of Grizzly Creek and the Colorado River, where groups of wader-clad students could be seen splashing in the creek and looking at squirming bugs in metal pans. The objective for the day, Wilde said, was for his students – all juniors and seniors – to teach what they’ve learned about river ecology to Sopris Elementary School fourth-graders. “You learn it when you teach it,” Wilde said. “These kids will walk away with better knowledge” from their experience teaching in the field than from a lecture in a classroom. The trip to Grizzly Creek was part of the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s River Watch program, which encourages watershed management groups, public schools and residents to monitor water quality in Colorado’s rivers. In the Roaring Fork Valley, the Roaring Fork Conservancy facilitates the program and works with schools to help them monitor rivers in the area.On Wednesday, students set out to measure the volume of water in Grizzly Creek, examine bugs they found in the water and take a close look at whitefish they netted (to be thrown back, of course) in the Colorado River. So beneath the east-bound lanes of Interstate 70, a Glenwood High student tossed an orange into Grizzly Creek while a fourth-grader stood on the shore with a stopwatch to time the orange’s 50 foot journey through the rapids and into the hands of senior Jasmine Neuroth. Neuroth led the group of eight through the exercise: Measure the river’s depth, width and waterflow speed in attempt to calculate the water volume. “Does anyone want to write down the data we collect?” she asked four fourth-graders who worked with her and her classmates. The younger students excitedly scurried about the creek shore, eager to find out what the rapids would do to the orange. They took several measurements, then moved down to the confluence where they used a seine-like net to capture bugs. The river measurements are valuable because they can illustrate the health of a creek ecosystem, Tim O’Keefe, of the Roaring Fork Conservancy, said. The less water, the more concentrated the pollutants. What’s more, he said, it gets “these guys doing basic math to figure out volume.”It also let them have a little fun teaching and leading younger kids – something high school kids don’t do every day. “I like all the stuff I’m teaching,” Neuroth said, adding that she’s able to teach some things she learned in middle school. “I’m teaching it back to younger kids.” She said she doesn’t know if she wants to be a teacher after she graduates. Senior Jason Wilson said teaching a skill helps him to learn it better. “You really have to go through all the details,” he said. “It’s just kind of fun letting fourth-graders come out to the river having high schoolers around.”The field trip was one of two such excursions Wilde conducts each year, one per semester with a different set of students. The fourth-graders not only got a chance to get outside for an afternoon, but they also worked to satisfy state requirements for science and social studies, said Sopris Elementary Principal Howard Jay, who also spent his afternoon getting his hands a little wet. Besides, Jay said, high school students have a positive influence on younger kids, who look up to them. Parent and trip chaperone Kire Rounsefell said her daughter benefited from the trip because elementary kids relate better to the high school students than they do to teachers. “It probably helps them a lot,” she said.


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