Youth Community Diversity Science

Creek serves as a fun classroom for kids in Michigan

Students from Parkside Elementary School collect aquatic insects from Rum Creek near the school.

By Jamie Vaughan

Parkside Elementary teacher Tara Dzirbowicz is taking learning from the classroom to the creek this fall as many educators look to the outdoors amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the help of local Trout Unlimited staff, fifth-grade students from the Rockford, Mich., school recently traded in their sneakers for waders and explored Rum Creek, a trout stream in their school’s backyard.

Students learned from Trout Unlimited how stream insects are used to determine water quality based on each insect’s tolerance to pollution.

Trout Unlimited’s Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative in Michigan often connects with schools for stream protection projects and habitat study programs.

Students split into groups carrying D-nets and buckets and collected samples from the stream bottom, undercut banks, overhanging vegetation, and leaf packs.

Students could be heard exclaiming, “This is so much fun!” and, “When can we do this again?”

After going through their samples and pulling out the stream insects to identify, students were shocked by the creatures they found; a plump cranefly larvae, a many-legged dobsonfly larvae, an overactive water boatman, and some sneaky caddisfly larvae disguised by twigs and leaves all turned up in the nets.

Students collected a variety of aquatic insects

The daring students did not shy away from the bugs and mud and worked their way through the samples until they had identified all their insects.

Using what they had learned about sensitive and tolerant insects, students decided that, based on the species, quantities, and diversity of insects found, their study indicated good water quality for Rum Creek.

Parkside Elementary School students study insects collected from Rum Creek near the school.

While happy with their findings, Tara and her fifth-grade class plans to continue to spearhead efforts to protect their local trout stream by taking care of their rain garden on school grounds and cleaning up trash from around the creek.

Trout Unlimited commends Parkside Elementary School and all the teachers across the country working hard to incorporate outdoor, hands-on learning opportunities into curriculum to help students connect with the exciting environment just outside their classroom.