SYRACUSE — For about two-and-a-half hours Monday afternoon, May 13, Wawasee High School students in Mariah Roberts’ natural resources class took part in hands-on learning at the Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation Levinson-LaBrosse Lakes and Wetlands Education Center south of Syracuse.
Through a $1,955 grant obtained from the Arrow Head Country Resource Conservation and Development Area, students learned about wetland plants, soils and macroinvertebrates in addition to analyzing water samples and organisms in the wetlands. The learning activity has been dubbed “Swamp Stomp” and students donned chest waders obtained through the grant.
Students rotated through different stations and were given demonstrations and information by Darci Zolman of the Kosciusko County Soil and Water Conservation District and Pam Schumm, a retired WHS biology teacher and who serves on the board of directors for WACF and is the education committee chair.
For a couple of examples, dragonfly larvae was found in abundance and one student found a scud, or freshwater, shrimp. Nets were used to scoop up water and to examine the various organisms found in the water.
Roberts wrote the grant proposal and in her submission noted WHS students already participate in a one-day rafting trip focusing on human impacts on watersheds and various aspects of the health of the lakes. But a component missing is the importance and benefit of surrounding wetland and marsh areas and that’s where Swamp Stomp fills in the gap.
A goal is to have students draw conclusions to predict the impact on local and national waters if these wetlands would disappear due to some type of development such as housing.
Also in the grant proposal, it was noted students learn and retain 20% percent of the information they read and hear, but 80% of what they experience personally. Before the Swamp Stomp activity, students learned background information in the classroom.
Natural resources is typically a class for sophomores and juniors, with exceptions, but Roberts said she would like to see the activity expanded to include freshman students. A total of 25 chest waders were purchased with the grant — 20 for students and five for volunteers.
Swamp Stomp will be a yearly activity for at least several years, she noted.