Teachers as Watershed Students

With the help of a kick net, teachers Gerhard Behrens and Susan Reeves sampled Wells Creek for aquatic invertebrates as part of a 4 day “Watershed Teacher Workshop,” put on by Institute for Applied Ecology (IAE) and Marys River Watershed Council with funding by Gray Family Foundation.

“I felt like a student and an honored teacher during the week.  We were challenged to learn new things, just as we challenge our own students,” said Mr. Behrens. 

16 teaches from the Corvallis School District and nearby rural schools, conducted macro invertebrate and stream health sampling from small order, Wells Creek on up to larger streams such as Greasy Creek, Marys River and culminating with a kayak trip on the Willamette. 

A special session was held at Bald Hill Farm Conservation Area (BHFCA) where Elizabeth Records, Greenbelt Land Trust Stewardship Specialist, talked about the history of the area and current conservation management practices.  Mike Ridling, owner of Seven Oaks Native Nursery, led teachers through steps of sowing native seeds and potting up plant cuttings.  “Many schools have small greenhouses on site and teachers have an interest in growing their own native plants,” commented Larkin Gunther, IAE Ecological Education Coordinator. 

Teachers trooped through Mulkey Creek as Renee O’Neill, OSU StreamWebs coordinator, had participants stretch out a 100 meter tape as they collected riparian data on plant species near the stream.  Later teachers input their data into a StreamWebs data platform that they can then share with their schools. 

A highlight of the workshop was kayaking the Willamette River led by Cascadia Expeditions.  Many people had never kayaked before and were a bit nervous at first.  Soon all river goers were smoothly paddling the river observing both natural and man influenced features of the Willamette.  Retired teacher, Jeff Mitchell met the flotilla down river where he had teachers locate freshwater muscles.  “Many freshwater muscle populations are declining and students can collect data to help scientist find out what is going on,” said Mr. Mitchell. 

Stacy Moore, IAE Ecological Education Program Director, said the goal of the workshop was to help participants develop skills and confidence in teaching outdoor learning with their classes.  Stacey Zaback, 4th grade teacher, loved getting her feet wet over the 4 days. “Maxfield Creek is located next to Kings Valley Charter School and now I feel more comfortable taking my students into the water to conduct regular stream studies. I hope to instill a sense of awe and respect for the natural world around them.”