The Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) held an event for Patuxent Valley Middle School students in cooperation with Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) on April 8, 2015. Three WHC employees and 12 BGE employees participated, along with 24 students, three teachers, and two parents. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Stream Challenge Grant supported the event, and the Izaak Walton League of America generously loaned two stream sampling kits.
Groups of 8 students rotated between three stations during the event: Station A was a planting station, Station B was a water quality testing station, and at Station C students performed a macroinvertebrate study.
At Station A, students planted 30 shrubs along the stream, with the help of BGE foresters and WHC staff. The shrubs planted included native species such as redosier dogwood, serviceberry, winterberry, and sweetspire. These species were carefully selected to have an expected mature height of less than 20 feet so as not to interfere with the power lines overhead. Species were also chosen for their value to wildlife. Students learned the importance of having vegetation along streams to shade and cool the water and help absorb stormwater runoff.
At Station B, students gathered under a tent to learn about ways to test water quality through chemistry. A pair of students gathered two containers of water from the stream, while the remaining students divided into two teams of three and read the instructions for measuring dissolved oxygen and pH. The groups found consistent results, with pH measuring between 7 and 8 and dissolved oxygen measuring between 2 and 4 parts per million. After measuring the temperature of the water, the students used a chart to determine the percent saturation of the dissolved oxygen. The groups discussed what these results indicated and potential impacts on water quality that could affect the results.
The macroinvertebrate study at Station C began with a discussion on how to perform a stream study using D-nets and sieves to collect small amounts of stream substrate and sift through the samples to pull out animals. The students were briefed on a few classes of creatures they might find, after which the group discussed the ethics of handling wild animals and how to minimize disturbance as they walked through the stream and along the banks. The students were paired and asked to collect as many macroinvertebrates as possible within the time allowed. The group reconvened to document their findings using the Izaak Walton League’s “Creek Freaks” monitoring logs and identification sheets. The students identified their findings as being either “tolerant” or “sensitive” to pollution, and made observations about the water based on which macroinvertebrates they discovered. Depending on whether the students had just rotated from the planting station or the water quality monitoring station, the group discussed how improving habitat and creating a vegetative buffer might increase stream quality, or compared the findings of the macroinvertebrate study to the chemical water quality findings.
After students had visited each station, they were treated to a pizza lunch provided by BGE.