WOW Workshop at Phinizy Swamp

The article below was published by Ruth Mead on the Phinizy Swamp Education Blog. View it on the Phinizy Swamp site here.

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What happens when you get 7 science teachers from EDS and 2 Phinizy Center educators together for a day? Lots of fun!

On June 4, Aaliyah Ross and Ruth Mead joined 7 Episcopal Day School science teachers at their new Flowing Wells property and conducted a Wow! The Wonders of Wetlands curriculum workshop. Although the property was purchased to fulfill a need for a sporting complex, their dreams for an array of uses continue to expand. Some of these dreams include using the property as an outdoor learning center where the students can experience science live.

That’s where the Phinizy Center education department fits in. Located down the hill on the property are wetlands that border some of the headwaters for Rae’s Creek. As Wow! facilitators, we felt introducing a wetland curriculum would be a perfect start in getting teachers excited about getting students outside.

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The morning started with a quick introduction and few sample activities, then off to the wetlands we headed – soil auger and wetland plant keys in hand. Everyone suited up in chest waders then of course we had to let them try the waders out. We marched right into the wetland below the beaver dam – well – not really marching. It was more like sinking and we did – up to our knees. The soil was so mucky that it would not even stay in the auger. Once we pulled everyone back out, we worked on the edge keying out some herbaceous wetland plants.

We would not give up though, so after a hike around the pond exploring different soils, we went back to the beaver pond but this time above the dam. Success! The soil auger went in and the soil that came out was most impressive – a solid black organic wetland soil. In fact, it was so gooey and jet black that we thought we had hit crude oil. The decomposing organic matter at Phinizy swamp gets washed towards the creek leaving behind mottled and gleyed mineral soils. In the beaver pond, the organics are trapped building up to make a true organic soil yet rich in clay.

Back to the building for lunch and some indoor activities as we cooled off before heading outside for more engaging fun. The teachers formed 3 teams and we challenged each team to build a boat with the wetland plant material we had collected. The challenge was to float the boat across the pond carrying a handful of M & M’s. One team used the leaf from an Arrow Arum as a sail and this boat left all the others in the dust – or I should say at the water’s edge.

The day ended right on schedule. The teachers enjoyed the curriculum and were excited to begin scheduling outdoor learning experiences for their students. Next we hope to get them in Rae’s Creek for some stream ecology and Adopt-A-Stream (AAS) training.

Sounds fun? The Phinizy Center education group would be happy to conduct a teacher workshop for your school. We are facilitators for Wow! The Wonders of Wetlands, Project WET (water education for teachers), Healthy Water Healthy People, and The Urban Watershed, as well as GA AAS trainers.

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