Park, creek become classroom for MC fourth graders

By on May 18, 2016

Manheim Veteran Memorial Park and the Chiques Creek became an outdoor classroom for nearly 200 Manheim Central fourth grade students on Thursday. Luckily this was the one day of the rainy, cool week that was mostly sunny.

The 14th annual fourth grade Wetland and Watershed Day is a project of the district’s agriculture education department, Manheim FFA and MCFEE (Manheim Central Foundation for Educational Enrichment). Cheryl Burke, MCFEE co-executive director, said that this event is the organization’s longest running grant.

“The initial goal is to help meet science standards for fourth grade students, but it goes beyond that,” explained Heather Anderson, ag-ed department instructor. “There’s a wetlands at the middle school and we’re right by the Chiques Creek at the high school, so students see wetlands every day. After today’s activities we want them to really see them in a different light and understand what’s going on in the environment around them.”

 

Matt Kofroth of the Lancaster County Conservation District discusses characteristics of fish using a model. (Photos by Rochelle Shenk)

Matt Kofroth of the Lancaster County Conservation District discusses characteristics of fish using a model. (Photos by Rochelle Shenk)

 

Keynote speaker Jack Hubley discussed wild animals in the environment, and the setting was fittingly in a pavilion by the creek. Manheim Central fourth grade student Drew Smith said that he was surprised that one of Hubley’s animals was a skunk.

“When you see a skunk you usually go the other way,” Drew said. “But we learned how important the skunk is to the food chain — they eat insects and voles. I never heard of a vole before today, so I learned that, too.”

Anderson said that this year’s event featured an additional keynote speaker, Sara Gibson, representative of the Chiques Creek Watershed Alliance. Hubley illustrated his discussion with some live animals, while Gibson’s discussion on improving water quality was illustrated by a model rain garden that was created by Rapho Township’s public works department.

Other presenters included representatives of the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Lancaster County Conservation District. At the game commission’s station, students were challenged to identify wetlands inhabitants such as a pheasant, great blue heron, Canada goose and raccoon.

 

Fourth grade students look at a crayfish netted from the Chiques Creek

Fourth grade students look at a crayfish netted from the Chiques Creek

 

Matt Kofroth and Rob James from the Lancaster County Conservation District netted blue gills, rock bass, and suckers from the creek, and displayed them in an aquarium filled with creek water for students to observe. Kofroth stressed that the fish would be released back into the stream after the day’s activities.

Activities at two of the stations were led by high school students. FFA students shared information about nature’s cycles, while agroecology students presented information about macroinvertebrates and gave students an opportunity to view examples from the Chiques Creek such as a mayfly, minnow, and crayfish.

“The types of macroinvertebrates you find in a stream tells you about the water quality. What we’ve found means that the Chiques is not too bad, but there are steps that you can take to make it a better habitat,” Cole Shreiner told fourth grade students, “Everyone can help take care of the streams by not littering. It’s a small step, but it will really help.”

During the lunch break a few students reflected on what’ they’d learned.

“It’s important to maintain a habitat for fish and water creatures,” said Jordan Wolf.

 

Manheim Central fourth grade student examines an aquarium filled with fish from the Chiques Creek.

A Manheim Central fourth grade student examines an aquarium filled with fish from the Chiques Creek.

 

Peyton Wilkinson, who goes fishing with his dad, said that it was interesting to see the types of fish that could be found in the Chiques Creek.

“That was pretty neat,” he said. “Since I learned about the importance of wetlands and how they help to clean water that goes into the stream, I’ll be more careful in those areas. I’d like to make sure that the Chiques becomes a better habitat for both fish and animals.”

“We all live downstream, so what you put into the stream is important,” Anderson said.

Students also had some physical “take-aways” including a small workbook that included a wetlands word scramble, wetlands and watersheds-themed coloring pages, and an aquatic insect word search.

Rochelle Shenk is a correspondent for the Lititz Record Express. She welcomes your comments and questions at RAASHENK@aol.com.

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