WCHS Students Learn About their Local Watershed

Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 1:08pm

 

Last week, over 600 Warsaw High School freshmen traded their books and pencils for life vests and paddles to venture through Grassy Creek as part of the eighth annual “Water Drop.”

The program, which is made possible by the Kosciusko County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), the Tippecanoe Watershed Foundation, Warsaw Community High School, and many other partners aims to educate students about their watershed, and foster a relationship between them and nature. Many of the students had never been on a boat, and hardly any had ever been though a wetland like Grassy Creek.

As each bright blue raft navigated through the meandering creek, boat captains/instructors identified both native and exotic-invasive plants, wildlife, and mussels that lived in the fragile ecosystem surrounding them. 

The rafts made a pit stop for water-quality experiments halfway through the adventure. The students took scientific samples, and discussed factors such as phosphorus levels, dissolved oxygen and the temperature of the water. Combined, these three factors provide a good indication of the creek’s ability to sustain good aquatic life.  There was also a lesson on teamwork, as the students quickly discovered the importance of paddling as a team in order to reach the end. 

Tired and wet students made their way to Pie-Eyed Petey’s Marina, where an armada of pontoon boats captained by Lake Tippecanoe Property Owner’s Association members met them. On the ride over, the students also took a Secchi Disk reading to better understand water clarity and the effects of sedimentation on aquatic life.

Eager volunteers greeted the students upon their arrival at the YMCA Camp Crosley Teen Village on James Lake (or Little Tippy) for lunch and additional lessons in teamwork and water quality.

The day culminated with a watershed activity that demonstrated how small pollutants on land had the potential for impacting water quality. The students built their own community on a tarp and watched as the water picked up pollutants on the land and collected in dirty puddles.  As the student’s day ended, each should have left knowing that they live on a very fragile watershed.  The environmental decisions that they and their generation make will impact the many Grassy Creeks in this country. 

“This was another great year for the Water Drop program,” said Darci Zolman, Program Director for the SWCD. “This program is such an effective way to educate tomorrow’s decision makers about the resources in our community and the feedback we get is very positive.  The Kosciusko County Soil and Water Conservation District is so appreciative of all of the partners this project brings together to make this such a successful program.”

 More than 70 volunteers and 15 sponsoring organizations came together to support this week-long innovative educational expedition.