From touching a “slimy” green frog to measuring water temperature, about 50 students from Trenton Central High School visited The Watershed Institute for the first time as they explored biology in a muddy, hands-on way.
Lindsay Steirer Taylor, PhD, said the outing was a rare adventure outside of Trenton’s city limits for her 11th and 12th grade biology students. So the pond, birds, woods and other aspects of the 950-acre Watershed Reserve were novel experiences for many.
“Living in an urban community, my students rarely have the opportunity to enjoy nature. Our field trip captivated the students’ attention by exposing them to new experiences while communicating knowledge about ecology and the environment,” she said. “The activities involved student observations of real phenomena, provoking curiosity.”
She said this experience wouldn’t have been possible in a classroom.
“Identifying organisms to generate a food web and testing the quality of pond water and observing the frogs inhabitants worked excellently to teach the students. We are incredibly grateful for commitment from the staff for this amazing experience.”
Some students, after venturing with nets to the pond’s edge, touched a captured green frog for the first time with wet fingers and experienced the “slimy” skin before releasing him back to the watery depths.
For others, delving into a world of macro invertebrates with laboratory microscopes opened up new dimensions of learning and wonder.
In other group rotations, the students hiked along meadows and woods, noting their observations about plants, animals and tracks. Later, they created a food web to illustrate the connectedness of nature.
Watershed educators led students in water quality issues, as they took small samples and tested for chemistry, nitrates, pH, turbidity, temperature and salinity.
Several of the students said the field trip was an invaluable experience.
“Visiting the Watershed really made me feel like a true wildlife expert,” said Gabriel Menchu, one of the 11th grade students. “I would definitely recommend going out there to view nature from a different perspective. It really opens your eyes and shows the importance of keeping our environment clean and healthy.”
Another 11th grade student, Bridney Nieves, said, “The Watershed experience changed my perspective on nature. It allowed me to learn more about my surroundings and admire the creative details on the earth. It was one of my favorite school memories.”
The Watershed is offering stipends to qualified students for its summertime Watershed Academy.
“We were pleased these Trenton Central students came to The Watershed Institute and hope some return for this summer’s Watershed Academy,” said Executive Director Jim Waltman. “We will have week-long courses in Clean Water, Green Architecture, Climate Change and Field Science.”