As part of the Downeast Lakes Land Trust’s expanding school education program, twelve ecology students from Woodland High School braved a soggy and cool day for three outdoor lessons in Grand Lake Stream. They learned map and compass skills and basic techniques to evaluate the health of forests and streams.
The day began with compass work on the ball field. Education and Communications Manager, Tanya Rucosky, taught the basics of how to use a compass, and gave the students practice challenges that increased in difficulty. By the end, assisted by volunteer Laura Schaefer, students tested their new skills on a course that wove them through fences, around trees, and over logs. The understanding and confidence students gained by working with their compasses should help them enjoy the outdoors with more confidence, knowing they have the skills to navigate safely through the woods.
After a rain soaked morning, the students walked into the forest along Middle Walk and learned some forest health monitoring techniques, including looking at tree size, prevalence of disease, biodiversity and regeneration. “We are pleased to report that piece of woods is in pretty good shape,” said one student after running the numbers on a forty-five square foot plot.
Finally, the students addressed themselves to evaluating the health of Grand Lake Stream. In the river, students identified stoneflies, mayflies, caddis flies and water pennies. “It’s a good stream, because we found a lot of animals that are sensitive to pollution, but diversity wasn’t quite as high as we expected,” reported a student.
“Maybe there was just a hatch, maybe our nets let too many animals get through, maybe the high flows that happened last week washed bugs away,” another student hypothesized.
“I think it’s great that the kids are seeing research like this generates as many questions as it does answers,” said Rucosky, “There is this idea out there that ‘Science’ has all the answers. Putting kids in on the ground level of scientific inquiry gives them a much better understanding of the complexities associated with dynamic systems.”