Elementary watershed project influences adults to become 4-H volunteers

Students at Au Gres-Sims Elementary School in Au Gres, Mich., have studied 320 to 500 feet of rivers, creeks and streams this school year while participating in a river project.

March 26, 2014 - Author: Mariah Montenegro

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Students at Au Gres-Sims Elementary School in Au Gres, Mich., have studied 320 to 500 feet of rivers, creeks and streams this school year while participating in a river project. The Au Gres-Sims Elementary River Project used place-based education to allow fourth and fifth grade students to conduct hands-on science activities in a natural setting.

Science teacher Mike Fields led the project headquartered on the Au Gres River. Using underwater remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), 49 students and 12 adult volunteers studied three sites to collect their research: Vaughn Creek, the intersection of Alabaster Road and the east branch of the Au Gres River, and the mouth of the river.

"Marine biologists go out into the water and extend the metal arms that are hooked to the generator and put the ROVs into the water,” Fields, who attended underwater ROV training and decided these skills would be a great educational tool for his elementary science classes, said. “Then we electrify the water and all the fish float, unharmed, to the top and we count them really fast. This way we can find out how many different kinds of fish there are and what invasive species are here.”

Two of the adults saw the impact the project had on some of the students. They applied to become 4-H volunteers and now lead youth in an after-school 4-H club building their own underwater ROVs. The club plans to compete in the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Regional Competition in June at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

A Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network (WIN) grant provided funding for the Au Gres-Sims Elementary River Project. Other partners who contributed to the project’s success include the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative, Michigan Sea Grant, Huron Pines, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan, Northwoods Wholesale Outlet, Cabela’s and Au Gres Marine.

Adults or youth interested in getting involved with Michigan 4-H Youth Development can visit the 4-H website at http://msue.anr.msu.edu/topic/info/4_h.

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