On April 17, Eve Stark's combined fourth and fifth grade students from Tzouanakis Intermediate School went to Little Walnut Creek to conduct one of their four yearly monitoring sessions. Each year they monitor the site by doing a stream survey, a chemical analysis of the water and monitoring the benthic macro invertebrates that are in the water.
"We started doing this with Greg Coverdale from DePauw in 1997," Stark said. "We make this part of the Spring cleanup for Greencastle. It is our way to give back to the community."
The children learn to do a sight survey that includes the velocity of the water flow, the turbidity, channel changes and insect larvae.
"We don't want to find rat-tail maggots because they are tolerant to pollution," Stark explained. "Really it is about the variety of species found though. If there are more rat-tail maggots than the non-pollutant resistant kind, it signifies the water may be polluted."
Every April the American River Organization provides support for a National River Clean-Up including plastic bags for the students to collect trash with along rivers. This year, the students filled 10 bags as well as removing a dehumidifier, metal saucer sled and a gum ball machine.
"The kids acted like they were finding Easter eggs collecting the trash, but it amazed me how they carried that gumball machine. It had to weigh around 50-pounds," Stark exclaimed.
Stark also reported that there were six tires that they could not bring back.
Generally a chemical analysis is conducted when the trips to the creek are made. However, this time around Stark remarked that she had run out of chemicals so they will have to test the water when they return in early May.
"Safety is our first concern," Stark stated. "We chose Little Walnut Creek [just west of the Madison Township Fire Department on CR 550] because the water level is not as deep."
On this trip, the students found inconsistencies in the size of the benthic macro invertebrates. Their hypothesis for this is that the elevated water levels due to the heavy rains we had affected some of the growth patterns.
Overall, the water quality report was good, not excellent. The clean up project has helped the students make a commitment to preserve the natural beauty of rivers.
Stark also commented how some of the students are now very excited about biology type activities. She is quick to point out they will be subjected to even more exciting and interesting ventures of this sort in middle school.