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Learning outside the classroom

Rocky Anderson, a senior at Klahowya Secondary School, treks out to Anderson Creek once a month to collect data from the creek as part of a science class.  - Photo by Celeste Cornish
Rocky Anderson, a senior at Klahowya Secondary School, treks out to Anderson Creek once a month to collect data from the creek as part of a science class.
— image credit: Photo by Celeste Cornish

As soon as Klahowya Secondary School senior Rocky Alexander got out of school on April 14, he grabbed his wading boots and headed for Anderson Creek. He wasn’t finished learning for the day just quite yet.

Alexander is currently a student in science teacher Bill Wilson’s stream ecology class, which carries a theme that goes well beyond the confines of the classroom walls.

As part of the class, Alexander and his lab partner, junior Tiffany Weir, trek out to Anderson Creek once a month to collect details of how the stream is changing over time, Anderson said.

The two test the stream for fecal coliform, check the stream’s oxygen levels, the amount of waterflow and how cloudy the water is. The data is kept in Klahowya’s databank.

On Thursday, the data collected was part of a bigger scheme. Anderson joined hundreds of students statewide who also were testing other streams in the Hood Canal watershed.

“We’re providing a snapshot on this day of what the water quality of all the streams is,” he said. The information will become part of a statewide database.

Anderson and Weir have been working on the project since October. The information collected this year is establishing a baseline for Anderson Creek, which is part of the Hood Canal watershed.

If there is something unusual about the data, Wilson will forward the information to the appropriate state department. For instance, if there is an extreme amount of fecal coliform — which generally means that septic systems along the watershed are failing — he will send that information to the Kitsap County Health District.

All the students in the class have to do a project that combines book learning with outside lab work.

“The projects are my way of getting students to monitor, and in some cases take care of, the environmnent,” he said.

Wilson added that his stream ecology class is where the students can take what they learn in class and see how book knowledge can be applied to real life. One of the main intents of the class is to monitor the effect of growth and development on the area’s water supply.

For instance, Wilson said that when new parking lots are developed, the rain runoff from the parking lot would have a lot of impervious sediments — or sediments that would block water flow — in it.

“If a lot of impervious sediments are added, like those in parking lots, that can change the flow of water,” he said.

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