Camping with an English Language Arts (ELA) Educator

Submitted by Kim Ziegler on Thu, 2017-06-22 00:00


                Good evening to all our blog viewers!  Within the last hour I arrived home from our latest outdoor adventure, floating the North Fork of the Coeur d Alene River and camping at Devil’s Elbow.  I am dirty, smell like sun screen, and super happy about the adventure we had and all we learned. 

                The first thing that I would like to share with all of you is that I am a language arts teacher here in Coeur d Alene and have been learning immense amounts of science terms over the past few days.  So if I get a term wrong, I am sorry!

                I wrote out my notes to share with all of you last night while in my tent so this is from very late last night:

10:00 P.M.

Good evening adventure learners!

Nothing ignites your senses better than the 10:00 hour of night, with a sky full of stars, and the sound of the river rolling by.  I grew up in the Coeur d Alene area and this stretch of the National Forest has served as a playground for my husband, myself, and our three children.  We love the river, we love the forest, and we love the camping. 

Today I learned a little about the habitat of the river, and the importance of the professionals that maintain river life, including the cut-throat trout.  Those specialist work for the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and are known as BURPs (Beneficial Use Reconnaissance Program).  Today we worked with two BURPs, Todd and Katie.  These two have worked together over the last few summers and are a great team.  One of their priorities is to find out what life is living in that section of the Coeur d Alene River.  They use a pump that collects 5 liters of water but more important is the filter that the water runs through.  This filter is sent to a lab and DNA samplings are sent back.  They are looking for certain species so the lab will not send them back the results of any humans in the water or an Elk that might have gone in for a drink.

The next way that they look for fish is through a process called Electrofishing.  They use a machine that goes on their back with a probe in the water.  I could explain the process but I feel that is out of my new science realm, so for your viewing pleasure a video will be linked to this post.

Once we were done learning from Todd and Katie, we had the pleasure of rafting with the University of Idaho’s recreation guides.  Recreation on the river is a huge part of a lot of people’s summer plans.  That recreation includes partaking in playing in the water ways.  As we floated down the river we took the time to test the quality of the water including the Ph balance, the displaced oxygen, the clarity of the water, and the temperature of the water.  All of this is vital to the presence of any fish in any body of water, but should also be important to the recreator, fisherman, and camper.  All of the readings did come back with positive results that show a healthy river. 

As a language arts teacher in a science world I did decide to flip the tables and have some fun.  I challenged the other boat of rafters to come up with their own Haiku’s (a form of poem) if they wanted me to keep testing water.  My new science friends accepted the challenge and I hope they post some of them for you because they were fantastic!


I will bid you adieu with a Haiku for you:

A moose stomped on by

The dark side of the morning

Tent shivered; I shook

(Yes, I had a visitor last night!)


Discussion Questions:

After watching the process of electrofishing, what do you think the risks might be to the fish?  Should the practice be continued?



Write a Haiku!




Eric Rude's picture

The way they tag the fish after electrofishing is really an amazing piece of technology. They inject into the body cavity what is called a PIT tag (passive integrated transponder). Each tag has its own digital code. Then, when you go out electrofishing again, you just have to run a scanner over the outside of the fish, and it can read the tag! I've been helping a grad student at ISU with this, so I attached a couple of pictures, one of the tag itself (you can see how small they are), and one of the student injecting it into the fish. From my experience, the hardest part of electrofishing is scooping up the fish when they come to the surface before they float downstream!

Kim Ziegler's picture

Thank you for adding this information. I found the job of the BURP very intriguing but difficult to explain because I don't know all the science.

Eric Rude's picture

There is a great explanation of the BURP at . You can even download the BURP Field manual at, and I strongly recommend anyone doing stream ecology to take a look at that! The BURP Manual is a FANTASTIC source of information about streams in general, and about how to do a BURP. It has a lot of definitions, great diagrams, and explanations of how to test a stream. I could see someone teaching an ecology class using that as their lab manual or even a class textbook!

Darcy Hale's picture

I had never heard of electrofishing and experienced it for the first time when I participated in-person in Pocatello.  I, too, wondered about the practice.  One species we caught for observation died.  We captured several minnows and all the ones that are called redsided shiners died in our bucket.  I asked the Dr. why the redsided ones were not as tolerant as the gold speckled minnows.  I'm not sure if I got an answer or do not remember his response, but the death of the minnows did give me pause as to the effectiveness of the practice.  

I love using haiku.  My PE students have written haiku as an exit slip at the end of units (when I use haiku we have a mini-lesson and discussion surrounding word choice).  I'll write a haiku about falling into the Portneuf River during our kayak float.  :)

Russian olive trees

grab, tangle, tip our kayak.

Splash!  Time for a swim!


Eric Rude's picture

Love your haiku, Darcy! You have an experience you will never forget!

About electrofishing and fish dying, it does happen sometimes, but not very often. I don't know why all those shiners didn't make it! When I've helped Dr. Keeley with electrofishing, we had very few deaths. Last summer, we shocked over 900 cutthroats, and only 4 died. There were a few others that had a hard time recovering, but Dr. Keeley gives them "CPR" and can usually get them going again! (He actually pushes on their "chest" and forces water through their gills! It really works!)

Darcy Hale's picture

That seems a very acceptable ratio, capture and observe 900 and only lose four.