Editor’s Note: As the school year ends, Northwest Expedition Academy fourth-graders hike into this summer with a sharper understanding of their environment thanks to a recent field trip to Hayden Lake. Mary Ann Stoll, communication and outreach manager for the lake’s Watershed Improvement District, led the students on the daylong adventure as they learned how they affect the natural world around them. Students explored the lake’s natural habitat, drew and described their observations, tested water temperature and pH balance and cleaned up the shoreline.
“I’ve always wanted to be a geologist,” fourth-grader Dakota Keyes said. “And now I’ve found my first geode.”
The fourth-graders from Northwest Expedition Academy donned scientist gear along the dike at Hayden Lake. They resisted the temptation to jump into the water and launched their investigation. Their goal was to learn how their actions impact the environment, and how the environment impacts them.
The day dawned warm. Students took time to draw and describe what they observed. They connected to their environment through their senses, paying attention to what they saw, heard and smelled. Some tested their balance on the rocks along the shore. They checked the buoyancy of pebbles and twigs in the water. To nobody’s surprise, they confirmed that rocks don’t float. Alarmed by the trash left behind by previous visitors, they conducted a spontaneous trail clean-up.
I was on hand to engage the students in a bit of habitat hunting. This was motivation to look more closely at the diversity of life in this envirnoment. Students quickly identified the essential parts of a habitat: air, water, food and shelter. They brainstormed what evidence they might see to confirm the dike area is a healthy habitat for some critters. They set out on a treasure hunt for such evidence and reported findings of scat, discarded exoskeletons, nests and burrows. One lucky student found a perch well out of the water, which, it appeared, had fallen prey to a predator.
Northwest Expedition Academy students will continue to pursue the investigative question through research, discussion, critical thinking and future field work at the lake. They will communicate their conclusions through an art exhibit and public presentation. I plan to be there to celebrate their awakening passion for — and their commitment to — the Hayden Lake Watershed.