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Harpers Ferry students study Elks Run

By Staff | Feb 26, 2010

An NPS ranger shows Owen Rinker, Jeffery Ruffner and Travis Shrewsberry from Harpers Ferry Middle School animal furs from species that live along Elks Run. Submitted photo

Recently, the eighth grade students of Harpers Ferry Middle School took about a two mile walk to Harpers Ferry’s water plant to learn about our watershed and the way it works.

Eighth grade science teacher Dr. Good said of the Nov. 18 and 20 event “the field trip was both fun and educational, and we got to see the real sight of the stream that we’ve been talking about for a month or so.” Every eight grader got a chance to go. On a Wednesday, half of Dr. Good’s classes went on the trip, and on a Friday the other half went.

When students got there, they formed groups to do five activites that the students worked on. The first activity involved testing the Elks Run stream water for pollution. Some of the tests checked pH, how much oxygen was in the water, carbon dioxide level, and temperature of the water.

The next activity was catching macro invertebrates. The students had to put waterproof boots on that went all the way up their legs to protect them from getting soaked when they waded into the stream. They had to trap any kind of fish or insects they could find in the Elks Run stream with a net. Students then used magnifying glasses and little plastic pliers to pick up the little insects and any mini-fish, and sort and identify them.

Next, each group was taken for a tour of the water treatment plant. Inside, they were guided through the place where plant operators actually treat the water and filter it. The workers showed the class where the water enters the building, and where clean water is stored. One of the workers demonstrated how they test the hardness and chemical balance of the water.

For the next activity, students took a trip upon a little wooden bridge and played a game kind of similar to “Who am I?” They had to use clues to guess the name of the animals that live in the watershed.

A ranger from Harpers Ferry National Park Service was only allowed to give students one hint. The class then walked around that area to search for animals that live in the Elks Run watershed, like deer, fox, birds and rabbits. Students found some deer trails and rubbings and fox feces. They leave them on rocks to mark their territory.

After that, students saw some real animal furs like fox, weasel, rabbit and squirrel. Everyone for the most part thought it was very interesting.

The last station was viewing the Elks Run stream itself. At that last station students listed on paper what they saw, heard and smelled.

They estimated the length and width of the stream, which is about eight feet wide and one-and-a-half feet deep. When students looked around they saw many trees, hills, rocks, leaves and big stream right in front of our eyes. They smelled pine trees, grass, mud and wet shoes and heard leaves shuffling, water rushing, birds chirping, people talking and pencils writing down the important information needed.

When every group was finished, the classes thanked every worker at the water treatment plant for giving the tour and doing such a great job of explaining about it. Then they took another 2-mile walk back to Harpers Ferry Middle School to discuss the trip and tell Dr. Good how fascinating their experience was.

On the trip, the class learned a lot of new information about our watershed. The students had a great time and some thought about going again sometime.

– Writers Daija Logut, Jocelyn Franklin, Kato Stillions and Veronica Smith are students in Harper’s Ferry Middle School teacher Robin Good’s 8th grade science class.