After instructing a group of middle school students to form a line in Trammel Creek, environmental biologist James Mullins told them to charge forward and kick up waves and rocks to drive small fish into a large net.
The group managed to catch a small darter after several tries, but other groups had more luck.
“We’ve caught some pretty cool stuff today. My group right before lunch actually got that gar out,” Mullins said, referring to a longnose gar about a foot long that swam in a fish tank on a nearby table. “It was awesome.”
Mullins was one of several biologists representing the Kentucky Division of Water and working with Bowling Green Junior High School students during the school’s fifth annual Streamside Field Day, held at Romanza Johnson Park on Wednesday and Thursday.
For Mullins, it was an opportunity to show students the natural world and the place they have within it. If students see a piece of trash on the creek bank “I basically tell it’s because somebody didn’t do their job.” Kids see everything in a different light compared to adults, Mullins said.
“If you can give them a good impression now, then it will follow them into adulthood,” he said.
Cycling through different stations, students ran water quality tests, learned how to reduce, reuse and recycle and how to avoid polluting local waterways. Several local organizations and state agencies assisted, including BGMU, Lost River Cave, the city of Bowling Green, among others.
For Dakayda Walker, a sixth grader at Bowling Green Junior High School, it was a chance to see what’s she’s protecting when she recycles and reduces waste.
“My favorite part was like wading in the water and it went up to about your knees so you had to pull your pants up a little bit … We got to catch crawdads and like small catfish.”
The day at the creek was educational in a way she wouldn’t normally experience, Dakayda said.
“This is hands-on … We wouldn’t have fish in our classroom,” she said.
Miley Smith, another sixth grader, shared a similar view.
“I think it’s a lot more demonstrative,” she said.
Each year, with grant funding from General Motors, the Warren County Office of Stormwater Management organizes the streamside field days for local schools.
“A lot of kids in our community, they don’t get to get out of the city,” said Andrea Strange, the Warren County Stormwater public outreach coordinator.
“We want to teach kids that our environment’s important. … We can talk about it until we’re blue in the face in a classroom, but being able to get them out here and see it and experience it, kind of gives them a new perspective. It helps them understand why it’s important because they can see what they’re protecting,” Strange said.
Meghan Basham, a sixth grade science teacher, said the experience makes a big impact on students each year.
“The kids love it,” Basham said. “We come every year, and it’s something that they look forward to and they tell they’re younger siblings.”
For Mullins, the biologist, there was the hope of sparking students’ interest in environmental or natural resource conservation careers, but “knowing they can come out here and have fun, that’s the most important thing.”