At Romanza Johnson Park, Bowling Green Junior High School sixth-graders waded through Trammel Creek, catching crayfish and testing the water's pH levels during an educational field day hosted by the Warren County Office of Stormwater Management and Bowling Green's Environmental Compliance Division.
Matt Powell, manager of the ECD, said that, while this field day has been held before, this was the first year the event has ever accommodated an entire grade level from a school.
“This is the first time we've ever had anything like this many kids or anything like this many different agencies participating,” he said.
Other groups with stations at the event included the Frankfort and Bowling Green offices of the Kentucky Division of Water, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Center for Cave and Karst Studies, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension, Powell said.
The junior high's sixth grade class is composed of roughly 300 students, Powell said, half of which were taken on the field trip Monday, with the other half going to the park Wednesday.
Earlier field days saw between 20 and 40 students participate, he said.
The event offers opportunities the students rarely get, like seeing environmental professionals working with concepts they're learning about in class, he said.
“This gives them a chance to see people who really do this from a career setting," Powell said. "They're not just reading about it. They're seeing it happen. They get to experience it. They get to help.”
He said it's important for kids to learn by actively doing things related to what they're studying. "This is an opportunity for them to get out and do something,” Powell said.
Joanna Ashford of the Division of Water said the students caught crayfish, dragonfly nymphs and mayfly larvae in Trammel Creek at her station. Because these invertebrates are largely immobile in a stream's ecosystem, they are affected by pollution more than other animals, she said.
Several students told her they'd never been to a creek before, she said.
"Any time you can get a kid in a stream and show them there's life other than fish in there, it's cool to see that little light bulb go off," Ashford said.
Throughout the day, students also learned about various native fish and plant species, how water seeps through the region's karst topography and measured aspects of the creek, like temperature, pH level and turbidity, or haziness, which is increased by suspended solids, including pollutants, in the water.
Sixth-grader Annabelle Bellamy said the event was fun and she especially enjoyed looking for invertebrates in the creek. "It was great, even if I didn't catch anything," she said.
Annabelle said all the modules tied in well with what she's been learning in her science class.
Gerrie Hurt, a sixth grade science teacher at the junior, said the field day's curriculum complements what her students have been learning in class. "We're doing the water cycle and weather in class so this kind of fit in with our content," she said.
Hurt said the hands-on exercises at the creek are good for her students and will help them retain what they learn.
"This was a great activity for all of them," she said. "Any time we can get them outside is a great experience."
— Follow Daily News reporter Jackson French on Twitter @Jackson_French or visit bgdailynews.com.