The Willow Creek Watershed Restoration and Education Project
and the National Science Education Standards
Prepared by Peter Ridder
SOS Teacher Idaho 1996
This paper is a part of the follow up to attending, along with a team of students from Camas County High School, a National Science Foundation's Young Scholars Program focusing on the use of Long-Term Ecological Study Sites to improve science education. The Summer of Science 1996 Program, held at Northern Arizona University under the direction of Dr. Diane Ebert-May, led to our school becoming involved in a local project funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
This paper presents a brief history of that project and gives the current status of the school's involvement. The main focus of the paper is a discussion of how involvement in Willow Creek Watershed Restoration and Education Project can facilitate the achievement of many of the National Science Education Standards. After an overview of the science program and a general plan, the Willow Creek Project's ability to provide opportunities to achieve each Content Standard (9-12) is assessed. It is suggested that several of the Content Standards hardest to achieve when students are confined to the classroom, will become much more attainable to students involved in long term ecological studies related to a larger project within their community.
All page references in this paper refer to the document titled National Science Education Standards, 1996, National Research Council. The National Science Education Standards is available from the National Academy Press, 2101 Constitution Avenue, NW, Box 285, Washington,DC 20055.
History of the Willow Creek Watershed Restoration and Education Project
This project originated through the efforts of Mr. Hal McNee, a local landowner with property through which Willow Creek flows. Mr. McNee intended to use his property for recreation and as a private fishing reserve. He has invested, over a period of several years, time and money into fencing and several habitat restoration projects. It became clear however, that efforts to improve the fishing on his ground alone would not produce the desired outcomes. His property was being negatively impacted by what was going on further upstream on Forest Service and BLM ground. At this point, working with John Madden, retired USDA-FS Ranger, Mr. McNee approached the Pacific Rivers Council for help and was encouraged to think in terms of an entire watershed approach to restoration.
To make a long story short, the end result of Mr. McNee's, Mr. Madden's and the Pacific River Council's efforts is a significant grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's "Bring Back the Natives Program." The focus of this grant is the restoration of Willow Creek to the point where it is again suitable and productive habitat for the native and rare Red-Band Trout. Money from this grant will go to the Forest Service and BLM to help complete already identified, but unfunded, projects; and to private landowners for restoration work on their properties. Some money will also be made available to area schools for the educational component of this project.
In September of 1996, a meeting was held of the interested parties. One outcome of this gathering was a commitment by Pete Ridder of Camas County High School to involve his science students in the long-term monitoring of several ecological study sites in the Willow Creek drainage. The goal of this monitoring is to ascertain the long-term impact of upcoming restoration efforts and to provide Camas County students an opportunity to do science that is relevant to their community.
School Involvement: A Brief Overview
Camas County High School is committed to doing the long-term scientific monitoring for the Willow Creek Project. In October, 1996 fortyeight high school students participated in three full days of field work in an effort to gather baseline data before any restoration work is begun.
Ten different study sites were established at critical points in the drainage. Students were organized into five different specialist teams. These teams corresponded to the different categories of information sought and included: Water Chemistry, Channel Condition, Riparian Condition, Fish Population and an Invertebrate Population team. Students were trained and assisted by numerous science professionals representing a variety of different agencies and groups. A complete list of project participants can be found in Appendix A. After a training day, where all the students were exposed to each specialty area, the students spent two more days collecting data with their chosen specialty team.
Students then spent a number of days at school compiling, organizing, summarizing and inputting the data into spreadsheet programs. A significant amount of time was also spent keying out invertebrates in the science lab. An initial draft of this work can be found in Appendix C.
In April of 1997, Cindy Deacon Williams, Aquatic Ecologist with the Pacific Rivers Council and Jack Williams,Ph.D., Senior Aquatic Biologist with the BLM, spent a half day with our students discussing what all the data might mean, and sharing several possible ways to analyze and report the data gathered.
Due to the very short time to prepare for this project ( about 2 weeks between the initial meeting and needing to get the data before it snowed) a rather poor job was done this year integrating the project into the school's science program. Also, many logistical mistakes were made. The most significant of these was composing teams of mixed groups of Juniors, Sophomores and Freshman. This worked good for the field days, with the older students helping keep the younger ones on task. However, this arrangement proved to be a mistake. Back at school, no team could work on their data together as they were all in different classes.
As a science teacher, in a conservative community which is not very fond of "federal" standards nor of the "environmental movement," I am excited about the potential the Willow Creek Project has to help me implement the National Science Education Standards. The focus of the rest of this paper will be a discussion of how I envision integrating many of the Standards into the science program of Camas County High School.
The Willow Creek Project and the National Science Education Content Standards 9-12
The following will be an analysis of how well the Willow Creek Project may help the science program of Camas County High School achieve many of the Content Standards for grades 9-12. At least for now, what is done to incorporate the Standards into the curriculum must be done within the format of a traditional looking program. At Camas County High School Earth Science is required for Freshman, Biology for Sophomores, Advanced Biology is an elective targeted towards the non-college bound student, with Chemistry and Physics being precollege electives taught in alternate years. One teacher is responsible for teaching all the science and is basically responsible for the entire program. While a fully integrated, four year science program is what might be envisioned as an ideal way to achieve the Standards, such a dramatic change from the program described above would not now be possible. Here is the general outline of what is envisioned and planned.
As the Willow Creek Project is a multi-year effort, our students will work on this Project for a minimum of two years and hopefully three or even four. They would be introduced to it as Freshman. The general overview and history of the project would follow teaching units on the "Water Cycle" and on "Rivers and Steams." Their field work responsibility would be the collection of the Stream Channel Condition data. The next year, as Biology students, they would be involved in collecting the Fish Population data and Riparian Condition information. At this point we may lose a few. However, this year several Seniors have expressed a desire to work on the Project who will not be taking any of the regularly offered science courses. This opens the door for some independent study projects.
The Advanced Biology students (11-12) would work in the Invertebrate Population area and the Water Chemistry area. After two years of exposure to the Project it is planned to have these students also generate independent, group research projects. It is anticipated that the questions for these projects may arise from the growing body of data on Willow Creek and require specific research, rather than monitoring, to seek answers. Or, the questions may involve entirely new areas of study that are able to be researched using the established study sites. This course offers the most freedom and flexibility within the current schedule.
It is understood that in order to attain the vision of science education described in the Standards that all of the categories need to be implemented. However, for the purpose of this paper we will deal with exploring only the Content Standards for grades 9 -12. Each of those standards follow, along with a discussion as to how the Willow Creek Project may help students achieve those goals.
Unifying Concepts and Processes
STANDARD: As a result of activities in grades K-12, all students should develop understanding and abilities aligned with the following concepts and processes:
It is in the potential of the Willow Creek Project to help students achieve this standard that the Project may have its most value. This is a very broad and all encompassing standard. Several of my personal objectives for students, such as encouraging them to consider and explore the long term consequences of actions, would fall within this standard. A stated goal is to "think and analyze in terms of systems. (Pg. 116)" What better way to develop this ability than to study the components that contribute to a healthy riparian ecosystem. Each area of student study; Water Chemistry, Channel Condition, Riparian Condition, Fish Population and Invertebrate Population is interrelated to the other and essential in understanding the functioning of the system as a whole. It is the realization that restoration efforts needed to take into account an ecosystem approach, in order to be successful, that led to the conception of this Project to begin with.
The concept of complex systems being made up of subsystems and those being made up of various components, and the concepts of feedback and equilibrium, all can be illustrated and explored examining Willow Creek.
Stream tables will be used in the Earth Science class to model the behavior of Willow Creek before going to the field to collect Stream Channel data. Students will use their observations and data to make predictions concerning the impact of drought or Spring floods on the Willow Creek channel. A River Tank Ecosystem will be used in classroom teaching units to model various biological and chemical aspects of a river ecosystem.
The use of data collected as evidence to determine what effect restoration work is having on the Willow Creek system is the primary purpose of the student's field work. The long term nature of this project should allow students to experience first hand that "Changes in systems can be quantified." and that "Evidence for interactions and subsequent explanations are often clarified through quantitative distinctions---measurement."
Evolution, equilibrium, form and function are all elements of this standard that can be addressed though the Willow Creek Project. The evolution of the entire watershed as well as the evolution of the species targeted for restoration, the Red Band Trout, can be explored. The long term goal is to reach a dynamic equilibrium in recreating a balanced healthy ecosystem. The various "forms" of the creek will be examined and correlated to their "functions" as habitats.
As students visit the study sites from year to year, collecting and analyzing different categories of data each time, and as they begin to understand more and more of the big picture that the Willow Creek drainage system represents, it is believed that their understanding of the "Unifying Concepts and Processes" embodied in this standard will also grow and mature.
Science as Inquiry
CONTENT STANDARD A: As a result of activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop
In the introduction of this standard the statement is made that "Investigations should derive from questions and issues that have meaning for students." The Willow Creek Project is something that has meaning to our entire community. Many students and their parents know the creek well. They have hunted and fished the area for many years. Several families have also run sheep and cattle in the drainage for several generations. The impact of environmentalism on our area's traditional ranching practices is a hot topic. For the Willow Creek Project to be successful, changes in livestock management in the drainage will have to occur. However, a project that involves the school, and has as its ultimate goal to improve the habitat, and thus the fishing, for Red Band Trout is something which the community can support and the students can be excited about. The project provides the opportunity for students to do science that is relevant to their own community.
The Projects contribution to the achievement of this standard is envisioned at two levels. First is the grand question: Will several hundred thousand dollars, and several years of effort, invested in habitat restoration activities produce the desired
results? As individual projects are completed this question will be broken down to apply to each activity and an analysis of impacts at the applicable sites. Students will begin to appreciate the time,volume of work and evidence needed to come to a conclusion. At this level, students will be trained to use the tools and methods science professionals use to do their jobs. They will learn to analyze the evidence and data they have gathered with the aid of these same scientists. This is one of the strengths of this Project, the high level of interaction the students experience with science professionals from our region.
The second level of contribution to the achievement of this standard involves students in the Advanced Biology class designing and conducting their own investigations. Students in this class will have been involved with the Project for three years. They will have received training, and collected and analyzed data in the five specialty areas. It is expected that a number of questions will arise from the time they have spent working at Willow Creek. Students will be expected to produce a scientific paper, and either a poster or multimedia presentation documenting their work.
CONTENT STANDARD B: As a result of their activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop an understanding of
The Willow Creek Project does not lend itself in a major way to the achievement of this standard. There will be opportunities to deal with some of the topics in a limited way. The properties and chemical reactions that are dealt with by the Water Chemistry group will be studied. The impact of water chemistry on the biological communities of Willow Creek will be of primary concern.
CONTENT STANDARD C: As a result of their activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop understanding of
The Willow Creek Project's contribution towards the achievement of this standard will be mainly in the areas of "Interdependence of Organisms" and "Matter, energy and organization in living systems." The long-term study of a riparian ecosystem is a powerful tool to illustrate interdependence and organization. The riparian plants and their importance in creating habitat and stability for fish and insects; and the relationships between different fish and their sources of food can be examined. The impact of human activities and also grazing needs to be considered.
The "distribution and abundance of organisms and populations" in the ecosystem is the primary type of information being gathered. Students are currently looking at that data from each of the ten study sites trying to understand the glaring differences in populations and diversity from one site to the next. They are beginning to see that the availability of "matter and energy" varies considerably throughout the system.
Earth and Space Science
CONTENT STANDARD D: As a result of their activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop an understanding of
The two areas of this standard that apply are "Geochemical Cycles" and the "Origin and Evolution of the Earth system." An in depth exploration of the water cycle and introductions to the carbon and nitrogen cycles are planned. As related to the Willow Creek Project, the evolution of the Earth system discussion would be limited to the impact of river's and stream's constructive and destructive forces on forming the landscape.
Science and Technology
CONTENT STANDARD E: As a result of their activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop
The Willow Creek Project does not provide many opportunities for the achievement of this standard. Our students are exposed to some high tech tools such as DEQ's hydrolab and electrofishing equipment. They also make use of computers to record and manipulate their data. They can see how the use of these technologies can aid in gathering accurate data and ease the task of analyzing and reporting it.
Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
CONTENT STANDARD F: As a result of their activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop an understanding of
The Willow Creek Project is well suited to provide opportunities to achieve most of the elements of this standard, excluding the first and last areas listed above. In depth studies of fish populations, macroinvertabrate populations, and of riparian plant communities are a major focus of the Project.
Natural Resources, Environmental Quality, and Natural and Human-Induced Hazards are all areas that students will explore. The primary vehicle for beginning these explorations will be consideration of the two abandoned mining operations within the Willow Creek drainage. Several members of our community used to work at these mines and students are very interested in them.
One is a defunct gold-cyanide operation with a colorful history. It was hastily abandoned after a tailings pile blew out, leaving a mess in one of the tributaries of Willow Creek and a substantial amount of toxic waste at the site. This is one of the major problems the grant funding hopes to address. It provides the perfect opportunity to explore our need for natural resources, the impacts of our activities on environmental quality and the potential of those activities to create hazards in our own backyard. Students will observe the BLM's efforts to restore these mine sites and will be directly monitoring the results of their efforts at downstream study sites.
The other significant issue that allows us to delve into all four of the applicable elements of this standard is livestock grazing. Grazing has had a significant impact on the condition of Willow Creek. As students spend time at each of the ten study sites throughout the drainage, they can easily see the difference between areas that are impacted by grazing and those that are not. It is extremely important that students see for themselves the obvious impacts and also begin to understand the less obvious impacts through long term observations. Student generated evidence and conclusions regarding this issue will be invaluable.
History and Nature of Science
CONTENT STANDARD G: As a result of their activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop an understanding of
The opportunities for the Willow Creek Project to assist in the achievement of this standard are rather limited.
The Willow Creek Watershed Restoration and Education Project is intended as one component of the total science program of Camas County High School. It is seen as a starting point to allow the implementation of many of the National Science Education Standards. The content Standard of "Unifying Concepts and Processes" and Standards A, C, D, and F will all be addressed in significant ways through the Project. It is believed that considerably more progress will be made in achieving these Standards by student involvement in the Willow Creek Project.
Plans are being made for the next trips into the field. Next year's excursions will be preceded by teaching units focusing on each class's areas of involvement. Work is being done now, with Pacific Rivers Council people, on developing a "mini field manual" tailored to this specific project. Next year's students will complete the first scientific report, with all the necessary components, to be sent to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. As the students, and their teacher, become more experienced in doing the science involved with this Project; more and more progress will be made towards achieving the applicable Standards.
This project, even in its infancy, has been an overwhelming success for a number of reasons. Students have had the opportunity to do real field work outside of the classroom. People are counting on them to do good work. They have seen first hand some of the obvious human impacts in the watershed. They have worked, side by side, with some of our region's top science professionals. While many come from homes with strong anti-science and anti-environmentalist sentiments, working on a creek they know... to improve the fishing is something they can get excited about. They are interested in how the BLM will attempt to restore the mine sites and what kinds of other restoration work is planned. They, along with the rest of the community, would like to know if all the time and money spent will actually do any good.
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