On Friday Oct. 19, Central Academy Middle School students had a fun morning up in Arcadia in Northeastern Botetourt. Thanks to a Mathematics grant, measurement tools were in good supply for scientific data collection. The CAMS sixth graders divided into three groups. They studied the Eastern Box Turtle, local Geology and Macro Invertebrates in the Jefferson National Forest’s Jennings Creek.
Three instructors aided the process, Claire Stull of Roanoke City Public Schools taught Geology, Wendy Grimshaw of CAMS, the scientific process in the study of the Eastern Box Turtle and Erica Nicely of Mountain Castles Soil and Water conservation–Macro Invertebrates in Jennings Creek. Three of the teachers involved from CAMS, Tim Miller, Grimshaw and Lisa Moyer were part of Trails to Classroom instruction a couple of years ago. Grimshaw said, “We hooked up bringing the students to the National Forest through the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’s assistance.” Teachers Jill Meacham and Christy Clonch were also involved in the trip.
One thing all observed and were saddened by, was the amount of trash strewn about the area by those who use the National Forest and Creek for recreation. Before the two school buses departed, the students and teachers cleared the area of trash and took the bags back to school for disposal. Said Grimshaw, “We came here last spring and cleaned the area. It looks even worse today.” Moyer was busy collecting the trash into a big black bag as the students visited the three stations.
The Eastern Box Turtle is disappearing from the scene wildlife officials fear. Though the subjects have likely going into the ground for the winter due to recent cold spells, Grimshaw had tools and three decoys for the students to use. In one group a young fellow named Brock recorded data as his classmates performed various scientific data collecting asks. For instance. The temperature was 67 degrees, the wind speed 1 mph, the decoy they found was a 6 year old female and the soil temperature was 59 degrees. By using scientific methods the date recorded gives the students a hands on look at their science and math SOL’s as well as a look at the world around them.
Students in the creek were searching for different types of rocks. Stull had them break some of the smaller rocks and observe the characteristics of rocks and geology in creek gorge like Jennings Creek occupies. They observed that the forces of water and wind can affect geology.
Moore used macro invertebrates like insects and small fresh water crustaceans as a way to identify and to catalog the health of Jennings Creek. She also spoke of watersheds and ecology to the students.
Surrounded by the vibrancy of autumn and the sounds of the creek, the 6th grader’s laughter and happy chatting and yes even shouting, welcome as they learned about Botetourt County, the Jefferson National Forest, Jennings Creek and the earth around them!