Thursday, August 7, 2014

Stream Safari Spring and Summer 2014

The Stream Safari program is part of “Ecosystems and Society”, an outreach project funded through NH EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research - established by the National Science Foundation-NSF).  The Stream Safari program is designed to reach youth, their adult mentors, teachers and their families, particularly from underrepresented audiences, primarily through informal education settings such as afterschool and summer and youth group programs.  Engaging populations underrepresented in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), in particular is a critical contribution towards developing a science literate citizenry and eventually, a workforce needed for the advancement a technologically advanced economy  in NH. Stream Safari investigations include hands-on learning experiences in the field and the afterschool site/classroom, with activities used with permitted use by Project WET/WILD and Monitoring the White River. These will provide opportunities for participants to learn about stream ecology as well as to practice observing, collecting data and analyzing data, while introducing youth to individuals who work in STEM careers.

Stream Safari kicked off the spring season with a very motivated 3rd grade teacher Sara Cantrell from Maple St. Magnet School in Rochester.  Cantrell's class of 20 had been studying water this school year and she wanted to culminate the study with the Stream Safari program.

For the final assessment, Mrs. Cantrell wanted her class to design letterboxes based on research questions they were interested in.  Letterboxing combines navigational skills and scrap-booking into a treasure hunt quest.  Basically it is Geo-Caching without the technology.  The letter-boxes would include the information that students would  learn during Stream Safari.
We integrated the Stream Safari program into the final unit of the year, Mrs. Cantrell would teach some of the lessons in her class and I would visit once a week to do stream field work.

We visited the Cocheco River in Rochester several times to take abiotic and biotic samples, the students created maps of the Hanson Pines park, they conducted research and combined all of their knowledge into neat little letter-boxes that they then hide around the park for people to find.

Our sampling lead us to find an abundance of macro-invertebrates, of which came out of both the intolerant, moderatly tolerant and tolerant groupings and our abiotic tests showed that the Cocheco river stands in "fair" condition.

If you happen to be into letterboxing and would like to check out the 12 or so boxes hidden in Hanson Pines Park and to learn more about water, rivers, watersheds and the Cocheco River, please contact Sara Cantrell, at  

As soon as the Maple St. Magnet School Stream Safari program was wrapped up, I began working with the Nashua Boys and Girls club.  I started with a training of 17 interested after-school professionals who wanted to learn about  Stream Safari, environmental education and how to get involved. 
Final activity on how human development impacts a river, "Sum of the Parts", Project WET.
The training was new to our outreach efforts and was purposeful in making sure we prepared our partner teachers in helping us make Stream Safari more sustainable.  
A group of students receive their 4-H Stream Safari certificates.
The Nashua Boys and Girls Club is hosting Stream Safari at both their club and their camp, Camp Duocet this summer.  At Camp Doucet, the program is run every two weeks engaging all the campers by the end of August.  At the club, one educator is teaching the program this summer and will continue into the fall with a new group. Overall, approximately 50 students will have experiences mucking around in local Nashua streams!

Therese Mehrmann teaching about macro-invertebrates.
Derek Burkhardt teaching a game on adaptations.

Derek Burkhardt, a recent UNH Manchester graduate and Therese Mehrmann, entering her senior year, have joined me this summer as Stream Safari program assistants.  Both have taken biology classes and are seeking to further their careers into STEM education.  I am thrilled to have them part of the program and working with the kids.  It is also a wonderful opportunity for partnerships to build within the UNH student community.    

At first glance, the Salmon Brook, which runs through Nashua, seemed lifeless.  There is a small current, lots of shade, but there was so much mud!  I can't tell you how many times we have lost boots, sneakers, nets and sometimes even have gone for an unexpected dip into the water. 

Students shaking their test tubes for abiotic testing.

But through this we have found many living things lurking on the banks.  Frogs, crayfish, scuds, dragonfly nymphs, mayflies, whirligigs, snails, worms, and even some fish!  The kids, who have little experience mucking about in the water, are enjoying learning about the stream and are beginning to love the smell of stream water on their hands.  

As we continue our program through August, we are fine-tuning the lessons and activities for the variety of learners we are encountering.  The rest of the summer should bring excitement and hopefully more critters to be found!

Brainstorm of what a watershed is.

The Boys and Girls Club, Charlie Collinson is having a thrilling experience bringing his group of 15 kids to the Mines Falls Canal, where again we were very unsure of what we would find.  We trekked through the fields with our equipment only to find a wonderful array of macros and fish.  
Attempting a crossing without losing a shoe!

We conducted our physical testing and found the water to be very low in dissolved oxygen, average pH, and high in nitrates and phosphates.  Which lead us to believe that the water was not as clean as we hoped.  But still, we found many living things lurking among our feet.  The group is looking forward to their next trip to the river next week!
Camp Director, Sam Goodspeed helping students identify macroinvertebrates.

As you can see, we are very busy in Nashua, but with a little planning, collaborative partners and enthusiastic group of kids, we have already learned so much about the streams and waterways in Nashua.  

Posted by Sarah Grosvenor, UNH Cooperative Extension STEM Field Specialist