Gainesville Teacher of the Year Denise McConnell
The students of the newly formed Wood’s Mill Middle School are already making quite the splash in the inaugural school year.
Friday marked the first day in their participation in an Adopt-a-Stream Program, in which they will take responsibility for monitoring and reporting stream conditions to the Gainesville Public Utilities Department on a monthly basis.
Wood’s Mill teacher Shari Frazier said they had brought the idea to the students at the beginning of the school year, and they were very receptive.
“We’re doing a lot of kinesthetic, hands-on type activities, service-learning projects and project-based learning,” she explained about the school. Housed in Wood’s Mill Academy next to the Gainesville High campus, the middle school is composed of 25 seventh- and eighth-graders.
Prior to walking out to Rock Creek for the first time, students had to take a test to receive certification. Brian Wiley, environmental marketing coordinator with the Gainesville’s Public Utilities Department, went over the results with them.
Wiley is with the Adopt-a-Stream Program for both Hall County and the city.
“That is a state program where folks within the state certify folks at a local level to be able to train volunteers how to inspect state waters to see how healthy or unhealthy those streams are,” he explained.
The Wood’s Mill students have adopted Rock Creek, which flows through the Wilshire Trails area.
“We’re looking for clear, normal flow,” explained Wiley. “We’re looking for fish in the water.” Basically, the students will make note of any abnormal conditions in the health of the river.
They will also conduct tests, checking air and water temperature and checking the pH balance of the stream, among other environmental indicators.
If there are any abnormal results, Wiley will then take the students’ monthly report and send it to the state for further review.
Frazier explained how projects like this help students relate to what’s being taught in the classroom.
“Along with science, we’re also tying in history and language arts into this particular project,” she said. “With the issue of Lake Lanier, and how that influences the culture of Gainesville now. And they’re blogging about these experiences when they come back from these trips.
“It teaches them why they’re learning in the classroom,” she added.
Frazier explained Wood’s Mill Middle is for the students who may need to learn “outside the box.”
“For us, it’s a joy to have students involved (in the program),” Wiley said. “The more that the students realize, and the more that young adults know of the importance of protecting water quality and environmental awareness, the better that our ecosystem will always be because of the work that they’re doing.”