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Students invade Grants Creek for science

Salisbury Academy

In a school that will take more than 100 field trips over the course of the 2015-2016 school year, it makes sense that Salisbury Academy’s science lab extends to riverbeds, caverns and a variety of other natural settings.

Keeping with the academy’s philosophy of connecting with and being a steward of the natural world, last week the school’s seventh-graders and teacher Katie Skalka went to Grant’s Creek as part of their life science study – a unit on ecology with the major topics being energy flow, energy balance and ecosystems.

Students first examined the surroundings of Grant’s Creek, which cuts a path beside a busy street and lies near farms, golf courses, the Greenway and Catawba College. Then, using nets and their bare hands, students assessed the water quality by sampling and cataloging the macroinvertebrates — dragonfly and mayfly nymphs, crayfish and clams — that inhabit the creek.

While some of the students hesitated to take that first muddy step and dig their hands into the silty creek-bottom, the spark of interest and intrigue soon passed from one student to the next. Before long, the entire class was digging and sifting, exclaiming with each discovery and rushing their specimens to the plastic tubs of water where samples were collected.

“It was fun to interact with nature and see it in a different way, all while having fun with our teacher and friends,” said  seventh-grader Charlie Barr.

As the findings were logged, students were surprised by the relatively high quality of the water and the variety of species alive in the creek, Skalka said.

Engaging in activities that allow students to connect with nature and understand the diversity of their own back yards is critical in mentoring students to be environmentally conscious community members, Skalka says.

“I’m a committed experiential and outdoor educator who finds herself more often than not inside of four walls,” said Skalka. “It is always difficult to find time to explore and allow for authentic inquiry, but it is imperative that we nurture questioning and connection with nature.”

Salisbury Academy’s emphasis on environmental awareness will be further demonstrated in the coming months, as the school expands its Project Green Space initiatives and finalizes its master campus plan for achieving North Carolina Green Schools certification.

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