Charleston students get hands-on ecological instruction

On September 26, fifth- and sixth-graders from Charleston Elementary School visited Echo Lake to celebrate the conclusion of the hands-on ecological program run by Siskin Ecological Adventure during the 2016-2017 school year. Siskin Ecological Adventures is a division of the Coutts-Moriarty Camp. The project was funded by the Echo Lake Protective Association through a generous anonymous gift from one of its members.

During the project, students were given the opportunity to learn, explore, and make real life connections with the Echo Lake Ecosystem. Siskin instructors made three one-hour classroom visits at the school and conducted full-day field trips in the fall, winter, and spring. Students learned about plants and animals living in and around the lake, the good and bad effects of native and non-native species on the lake, and the health of the ecosystem and how citizens can help. Students used microscopes to examine the natural organisms in Echo Lake’s water. They learned about R‑selected and K-selected species, about how crayfish help keep the water clean, and about Eurasian water milfoil, and more.

Classroom visits built the scientific language necessary to utilize outdoor investigations to instill a deep appreciation of both the ecological and economic importance of Echo Lake. Familiarity with college level “nerd words,” — such as “oligotrophic,” “poikilothermic,” “benthic macro invertebrate,” “zone of hypoxia,” and “biomagnification — fostered an increased sense of academic self-confidence among students.

This fall’s culminating field trip was devoted to enjoying the lake. Students and instructors launched a flotilla of kayaks and canoes from Jean and Bob Wilson’s shoreland property at the north end of the lake and paddled to the Vermont Fish and Wildlife access. They were then bused to the east side of the lake, where they wrapped up their visit by participating in a “learning chain” and hiking the beautiful shore trail of the Lydia Spitzer Demonstration Forest held by the Vermont Land Trust and managed by the NorthWoods Stewardship Center in East Charleston.

Coupled with hands-on investigations, science inspired art, and seasonal trips to Echo Lake itself, the project has instilled a deeper understanding and appreciation of the role Echo Lake plays in the Clyde River water system and in the Charleston community.

To read about the students’ personal experiences in their own words, visit www.echolakeassociation.net/activities/community-outreach/. — submitted by Susan Czerepak.

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