Students at Long Cane Middle School last week got to see how the river and lake they live around affects them, and how they affect it.
Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia sent volunteers and paid for Riverkeeper expenses to have guests in Long Cane Middle School’s seventh-grade life science classes each day last week to show students how the river’s ecosystem works. In addition to Kia and Riverkeeper personnel, representatives from Georgia Power and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were in classes along with local water monitoring volunteers from Long Cane Middle School led by teacher Larry Ninas, and Sierra Club volunteer Joanna Baxter.
Volunteers have monitored various sites on Long Cane Creek over the past few months, and shared some of that data. Some of the hands-on learning for students included mapping exactly where they live in the Chattahoochee River watershed and learning about water monitoring experiments.
Jason Ulseth, technical program director for the Riverkeeper, on Thursday showed students the equipment he uses to test at various parts of the river, streams and areas where he is called because water may have turned a strange color. Many times something like paint may change the color of water, but a sewerage leak may also be the culprit, and his tools can help determine what pollutants are in the water and at what levels.
He showed students how an instrument checks the amount of light reflected from the water, which can determine if clothes detergent is present, a tell-tale sign of a sewerage leak. He also showed how a large test strip reveals the presence of bacteria like e. coli when under black light.
Michael Meyer, watershed protection specialist for the Riverkeeper, on Thursday showed students how to test the turbidity of water samples, or how much dirt or other particles were present. Dirt is the most common pollutant in water, and there are limits to how much is considered acceptable.
Students were able to take samples and use a machine that rated the samples’ turbidity. Students were able to guess how high each sample would be ranked.
“Our goal for the week is to create educated environmental stewards for the river,” said Jill Sistino, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper regional outreach manager. “As the third most endangered river, according to American Rivers list for 2012, it is critical that we educate those living on it the importance of protection. In order to do that, we have to make them understand that it is a finite resource and how we treat it will help determine our future.”
LCMS principal Chip Giles said the school has made a strong effort to expose students to environmental efforts that improve the community, like recycling and beautification projects. Working with the Riverkeeper falls in line with those efforts, and the lesson plans for the week fall within the state performance standards.
“It’s really perfect four our seventh-grade classes,” Giles said. “… Water quality is such a big part of our lives in Troup County.”
The school also received a grant for a water-quality monitoring kit. For the next six months, students known as the Long Cane Creek Crawlers, working under the instruction of Ninas, will conduct monthly bacterial and chemical monitoring tests.
Over the summer, the Riverkeeper hosted a Georgia Adopt-A-Stream training class for volunteers to be certified for the program. Ninas and Kia Public Relations Assistant Manager, Joanne Mabry, both attended and were certified to enter data into the Georgia Adopt-A-Stream database.
To complete their education, students and volunteers will also participate in a Rivers Alive clean-up of the stream in the spring sponsored by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.
“I’m glad our kids will know more about the river and grow up in this community and be more (effective) citizens,” Giles said. “It’s a service of excellence that unfolded; a water-monitoring program and partnership between the corps (of engineers), major corporations, an environmental advocacy group and educational group, and everybody is getting on board with this. It’s been good so far.”