By John Cohen, Director of District Communications
Sequalitchew Creek begins it journey to Puget Sound starting at Sequalitchew Lake located on Joint Base Lewis/McChord. It travels from North Fort Lewis into DuPont across wetlands, under Center Drive and down through a tree-lined canyon into the Sound. It is a living ecosystem mostly contained within the confines of the City of DuPont.
The creek is a great place for a local field trip focusing on scientific exploration.
Seventy-five third graders from Mr. Mr. Bradshaw, Ms. Salgado, and Mrs. Stalder classrooms and an additional group of older students from Pioneers Middle School hosted by Ms. Foyil hike from the trailhead at Center Drive to the base of the ravine that contains Sequalitchew Creek. There they meet up with Ryan Misley.
After introducing himself, Mr. Misley, an environmental educator with Pierce County Public Works, says that young salmon like very cold water. “To them brain freeze is a good thing. When water gets too warm, it is not good for them.” The kids laugh at something they understand having experienced “brain freeze” themselves while eating ice cream.
He continues by showing the group one of the tools of the field biologist’s trade, a “D” or dip net used for collecting aquatic specimens found in streams. The biologist appropriately dressed in hip boots then wades into the creek to collect samples.
The specimens are placed into small plastic dish tubs for student examination. From the tubs, students use turkey blasters to gather small samples for placement into easy-to-use field microscopes. Consulting field guides for the area, they identify small animals that swim around in the water.
More than one student squeals with excitement as they find insects matched to field guide entries. In this lovely location, elementary students are practicing scientific observation. They are doing real, hands-on research.
“We want students to understand the interconnectedness of the waterways, streams, raindrops, storm drains, and ocean. Students understand that their actions at home can affect the water quality of local creeks which can then affect the body of water that it flows into,” says Chloe Clark Elementary third grade teacher, Michelle Salgado.
In other area of the canyon, students conduct water quality measurements that include temperature, turbidity, biochemical oxygen demand, nitrates, pH, dissolved oxygen, and fecal coliform bacteria presence. These results are then sent off to the US Environmental Protection Agency to add to information on the condition of the Nisqually watershed.
“Students learn about the different tests and learn to identify aquatic life that indicates good or poor water quality. These field trips help students make connections between the curriculum, vocabulary and concepts applying their knowledge from the classroom,” continues Ms. Salgado.