One of my favorite 'Learning For Life' classes to teach is the Creek Stomp, where middle schooler's learn to appreciate the building blocks of clean water. Spring is a great time to get kids outside into natures classroom where they can splash in the water, learn to gently uncover rocks & leaves, then dip their nets for the creepy crawlers that make their home in this watery world.
Yes, we call the class a creek stomp but it's important first to lay the framework for fostering a reverence for the delicate creek life before setting the kids loose to explore on their own. Therefore, about a 20 minute discussion is integral to forming that relationship with the creek and I try to use several props to maintain their swaying attention and for keeping the class interesting.I might start out with some trivia questions to see what they already know and to make the experience participatory and hands-on from the very beginning. During last week's classes I showed them the skulls of a whitetail deer and a beaver then asked which of these animals depends on water for their very lives. Sort of a trick question because even though the beaver spends most of its time in the water, they both depend on the water for life, but a few of the kids always got the answer right.
Watersheds are also important to clean water so I use the 3,200 acre Camp Raven Knob as my prop. Here we are surrounded by mountains and own the entire watershed so the life of our lake for swimming, boating, and fishing is safe. I put my hands together with fists' to demonstrate how a watershed works, with my knuckles representing the surrounding mountains and my fingers the valleys below. I then ask them to tell me exactly where they think that the water flows when it rains in their immediate area and they get it right as they observe the contours of the wooded terrain.
The discussion continues with the ecology of the area surrounding the creek and the effects of pollution. We talk about the uses of water and sometimes the discussion even leads to the Saura Indian tribe, the first people to live here in our valley many centuries ago which leads to other great discussions. Sometimes our talk becomes so interesting that I have to pinch myself to stop so that the kids can get into the water and practice what they've learned before our precious time is gone.
The group is paired into teams of two and they're assigned a small minnow net and a cup for collecting what they find. On shore I have three trays with a little creek water in them for the 0-1 legs, 2-4 legs, and for 6-8 legs. After a short demonstration about how to gently lift the rocks and leaves in the stream and how to move around gently with a reverence for the creatures living there, I then set them off on their own creek ramble to see what they can find.