The creek in front of Franklin Community High School is teeming with life. It’s the job of Julie Tennell’s and Courtney Burke’s students to find out what kind of life and how healthy the creek (officially known as Powell Ditch) really is.
Students use mesh nets to skim benthic macroinvertebrates from the creek. Mrs. Tennell explains, “Benthic macroinvertebrates are animals that are large enough for us to see (macro), lack backbones (invertebrate) and live in or on a body of water (benthos). The presence of animals such as mayfly nymphs, clams, mussels, leeches and blood midge larva tells us a lot about the health of the creek By counting the number of them in the creek, we can tell how healthy the creek is and if it changes from year to year.”
Some species are more tolerant of pollution than others, so the more intolerant animals that are found, the healthier the creek is. An overabundance of very tolerant animals, the worse it is.
FCHS students have been checking the creek for years. So many years in fact, that the science teacher who started the program has retired and the boots and nets necessary to keep the study going were literally falling apart.
That’s when Mrs. Tennell applied for an Education Foundation grant.
“Boots and nets are pretty simple things, but without them, we couldn’t have our students in the creek, monitoring the stream,” she said. “They could learn the same lesson sitting in the classroom, to a degree. But having the hands-on experience of being in the creek, skimming the water and actually seeing and identifying the animals means they absorb the lesson much more and may begin caring about our environment.”
After a week of netting and counting, the students spend Friday in the classroom going over their paperwork, to see how healthy Powell Ditch is.
The answer for this year – healthier than you might think, given the farm chemicals which are used in the area.