Friday- What we're up to and your final assignment

Submitted by mpengilly on Fri, 2017-06-23 00:00

Happy Friday, digi-adventurers!

Today we’ll be staying in Coeur d’Alene covering urban water issues. We’ll start the morning talking about stormwater and stenciling storm drains. (Have you tried incorporating any service learning projects in your classrooms? Do you think it increases student engagement?)

Next, Barb Mueller of Gizmo Coeur d’Alene will show us some remote-operated underwater vehicles. Gizmo CDA is using these vehicles to monitor water quality in local lakes and they are looking for ways to involve students! We’ll kayak along the Spokane River and around Blackwell Island, then eat lunch at the Gathering Gardens. We’ll spend the afternoon catching up on blogging (so be sure to check back!) and debriefing on the week.

Here is your final assignment for the week (this is required)- please answer the following questions, either in a blog post, a flipgrid video, or an email to me. This can be brief and should be submitted by Friday, June 30 at the latest... (but why wait?!)

  • What were some new things you learned this week?
  • Based on the lessons throughout the workshop, how would you teach your students about social ecological systems?
  • Which theme(s) of the week were the most applicable to your classroom? (Habitat restoration, mining, timber, fire management, cutthroat trout, water quality, indigenous knowledge, stormwater, etc.)
  • How can you incorporate more place-based lessons into your curriculum?

Thanks for following along this week!



cknigge's picture

I've enjoyed doing the digi-learning the past couple of years. I like the hands-on learning more, but my schedule has not allowed me to get out into the field...grrrr. I have enjoyed reading all of the posts and doing some beginning research on logging in the Spirit Lake area (checked out a book from the Spirit Lake library). 

1. Some new things I learned this week include that cutthroat are used to help us determine the quality of water within a stream. They are so sensitive to changes in their environment, that even a couple degrees changing in the water can lead to death. I have also learned that there are major conservation efforts going on along our North Idaho streams to get them back to their natural meandering state before the logging industry dredged them in a straight line to allow the logs to flow faster.

2. In my opinion, the best way to teach students about social ecological systems is to get them out into the field and have them think about things that would happen if their environment changed. We are doing this is Timberlake High over the past few years, but I would like to further this part of our project by having them write a proposal that would incorporate some aspect of asking a "city council: to change current logging practices around Spirit Lake. If you can't get them out in the field, I think we need to bring more experts into our classrooms that deal with these issues on a daily basis.

3. Honestly the most applicable themes for me were the water quality (since we are doing that at Timberlake), cutthroat trout, and fire management.

4. Getting kids up and active in the classroom, getting them outside, and not always grading them on everything, in my opinion, would really help adding more place-based lessons into your curriculum. Let's say you teach PE. I think you could incorporate a lesson that involves you being outside on a favorite local walking/biking trail that has lots of vegetation and wildlife. Then tell the students that the city has decided to get rid of the trail to put in a parking lot or some sort of building. You should get students that are upset about it. I have found that getting them riled up about things really gets them involved with their community/surroundings. As the PE teacher, you could them tell them to attend a city council meeting, write a letter to a local representative explaining why the trail should not be destroyed. They are being citizens scientists and identiying a problem and trying to figure out a way to fix the problem. It doesn't all have to be graded like I said before, just more of an informal process can get results from your students that you may not expect. 

Katie Mosman's picture

I am always interested to learn the intricacies of the different components of the natural world, especially when the human factor is thrown into the mix. We rely on ecosystem services for everything in our lives, whether directly or indirectly. And everyone has an opinion on the best way to use and manage them. The answer is never easy, because the web is so complex it’s nearly impossible to account for every step in the butterfly effect and we’re learning more every day. But the more we study and learn, the better we can evolve our use and management practices so we can continue to enjoy our ecosystem services in the years to come.

To teach my students about SES, I’m excited to engage them as much as possible and make purposeful observations of the interactions. One project I’m planning this year is a habitat restoration project on a spring-fed pond near the school football field. Currently, it’s over-run by weeds. Our goal is to make it a suitable habitat to stock some fish, create educational signs, and encourage public awareness of SES.

Timber, habitat restoration, and fire management are extremely relevant themes in my community. I try to bring the local, real world as much as possible and excited to bring some of the lessons covered this week into my classroom.

I have many plans for incorporating place-based lessons! One is the restoration project mentioned above. I also plan on using iNaturalist in my Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife, and Botany classes. We’ll also be doing habitat evaluations on several nearby locations, practicing some forestry management skills, and interacting and collaborating on projects with local stakeholders (silvaculturists, Forest Service/BLM/NRCS employees, agriculturists, etc.). Teaching is the best job in the world!

Bobbi Eby's picture

I am very satisfied that I had the opportunity to be a digital learner. This worked especially well because I have a toddler and a baby, and was not able to leave them for a week. The flexibility to be able to read the blogs and address the assignments when my schedule allowed was especially helpful. I hope to have the freedom in the future to be able to attend the workshop in person! Following via the internet was fun, however, I am sure it would be much more fun and rewarding in person. The projects looked amazing!

This week I learned so much about how actions of people in the past have such a direct effect on our ecological system. I was not aware of the phosphorous levels in the lakes in Northern Idaho and how the were contributing to the algae problem, and that the phosphorous levels were high because of fertilizers and the phosphorous released from the disturbance of the rocks and ground from mining and other things. I also learned the importance of cutthroat trout to Idaho, and that they are an indicator species to water quality. I earned about electrofishing practices, and how it doesn’t damage the fish, as I would have assumed in the past. Also, I was excited to learn about the the efforts of different groups and the tribe to restore streams to their native conditions.

To teach my students about social ecological systems I hope to have the opportunity to bring them into the field so that they can see it first hand and to help excited them to see how everything works in their community. Things mean so much more and are easier to commit to memory when students can connect it to something they are familiar with and care about. The model this project used to teach us is a great model to use in the classroom.

The themes that I would see as being applicable in the community that I was teaching in, as well as the community that I just recently moved to would have to be water quality, because both of these communities rely so heavily on the water ways around them. Also, mining and timber would be important themes, because the economies of these communities are based on those two industries. That would hit very close to home.

I can see that it is so important to have your students actively engaged in their learning, taking them outside into the environment that they are learning about. It is so much more impactful to touch, see, smell, and hear what you are learning about than to just read words out of a text book. This will create students who will become more active and aware members of their community and environment than just passive people who let things happen around them unaware. As a special education teacher, I am able to work with students in guiding them for their post education plans. I can give them opportunities to explore what their social ecological systems offer and needs with job shadowing, guest speakers, and field trips. 

Darcy Hale's picture

Thank you very much for letting me tag along and continue the enthusiasm I felt after my in-person experience in Pocatello.  

  • What were some new things you learned this week?
  • I learned that rivers in the panhandle are experience health challenges similar to our Portneuf River in SE ID.  I learned that industry in the panhandle, as in SE ID, greatly affects the health of our rivers.  I learned that the historic people of the panhandle, as in SE ID, impacted river ecosystems without much forethought for the future of the river at its ecosystem.  Economics, as they do today, often drive activities and decisions before environmental protections do.  History shows rivers were used and abused and left in states that need attention and improvement.  Unfornuately, environmental policies were too broad/vague or late in coming.  When we floated the Portneuf, there were actual cars in the river, placed there in the 1950s.  People thought cars would help with flood containment. I was most interested in reading about your experiences related to mining and its affects on the local ecosystems in the panhandle.  Mining's impact on river health was not discussed in Pocatello.  The minerals and metals that reach the rivers have tremendous impact.  I loved hearing about the restoration efforts in CdA.
  • Based on the lessons throughout the workshop, how would you teach your students about social ecological systems?
  • I teach PE and Photography.  I am working on lessons now, especially for my walking/trekking class, to incorporate the vocabulary I learned during my in-person and online experience with MILES.  I will start with vocabulary because that gave me a framework within which to learn and disucss my personal role in impacting and interacting with ecosytem services. I think dialogue is a valuable tool.  I want to start a dialogue with my students regarding the world of ecosytem services.  For me, the most valuable approach my Pocatello instructors used was relating ecosystem services personally to each student.  Once I connected on a personal level, I engaged, invested, and got curious about ecosystem services.  I also found that there were real world applications for everything I have learned through the MILES project.  Student engagement increases when they can see real world applications for what is being taught.  My focus will be exploration this year.  I want kids to explore the concept of ecosystem services and explore our campus.  We are fortunate the Portneuf River runs through town and is readily visible and accessible for lessons.   
  • Which theme(s) of the week were the most applicable to your classroom? (Habitat restoration, mining, timber, fire management, cutthroat trout, water quality, indigenous knowledge, stormwater, etc.)
  • I would say habitat restoration, water quality, and historic views of social/cultural services are themes I will most address.  For my photography class I am going to focus on changing landscapes and how that affects ecosystems and their services.  We will also focus on exploring native flora and fauna and how it sustains local ecosystems.  I am excited to introduce my photography class to repeat photograhy and how it helps historians map out the changes in our river, city, and landscape.  I want to introduce my photography class to how repeat photography is used as a tool in our national parks.  I want to introduce my photography and walking/trekking class to iNaturalist and have them experience the role of citizen-scientist documenting the flora and fauna on our campus.
  • How can you incorporate more place-based lessons into your curriculum?
  • I am fortunate that PE and Photography are classes that incorporate outdoor experiences on a regular basis.  Specific places I desire to incorporate:  Grand Teton National Park has a fantastic program based on exploring forest, meadow, and wetland habitats.  I would love to take my walking/trekking and photography kids to Grand Teton for a field trip incorporating iNaturalist.  I will use iNaturalist on our campus which has meadow and forest trails throughout campus.  I have planned a lesson with ISU's resident historian and repeat photographer to do a shoot in town and/or on campus.    I plan to coordinate with our art teacher to practice repeat photography shooting his students' earthworks-based artwork.  I have also reached out to our local zoo and we are working on a potential project were my walking/trekking students help maintain a small organic garden growing vegetation for specific herbivores at the zoo.  Students will research, plant, cultivate, and harvest vegetation and gift it to the zoo for feeding some of their animals. This project may include trips to our natural history museum and the zoo. 
Eric Rude's picture

I am so glad that I got to participate as a digi-learner in the CDA Miles program! It got me thinking about the environment on a much bigger scale, but, at the same time, helped me to think more about our local issues.

1. The one new thing that stood out for me this week was that, on the one hand, the problems faced by the waters in northern Idaho are quite a bit different than the problems we have here in the southeastern part of the state. Mining and timber and forest fires have not had much effect on the Portneuf River; instead it’s been diverting the water away for irrigation, then all the run-off from farms coming back in. Yet, the “problems” really are the same: we try to control the rivers, as if we really have that power. We try to make the rivers do what we want, and we ignore the long-term changes we are making. We tend to be very short-sighted, and we operate with blinders on. Humans tend to ask “what can I use that river for, here and now?”, but we don’t think enough towards the future or what might happen downstream.

2. How to teach about SES? The first step is awareness. Most of my students (most people, in general) don’t think about our environment that way. So, I will have to help my students become aware of our local ecology, and aware of how we interact with it. Then, I can ask them to research some of the issues. I think finding articles about our ecology will help, but having them interview other people (like their families and friends) might be instructive. Finally, we can discuss/debate the issues in class.

3. I will be talking about cutthroat trout in my classroom, based on the research I am helping with this summer. Water quality, leading into habitat restoration, will also lead to some interesting lessons. My students see our river as a sewage canal, and most don’t know that people are seriously trying to improve the Portneuf. 

4. I am already planning a BioBlitz for my biology classes. I would like to take them to a “nature area” about 15 minutes from school. It is a beautiful place full of wildlife, but many of my students have never been there! And I want to encourage them to participate in iNaturalist throughout the school year. Plus, getting them to look at the Portneuf River in different locations (and different times in history) would be a great way to make ecology something they can relate to.

Brian O'Rourke's picture

1. I read up on the water testing kits and procedures used by the adventurers and found the kits are really simple to use.  I think that I will talk to the water resources people and see about getting or making kits for my students to use.  I feel if the students tracked water quality in fall and spring along the river in Post Falls, it might open their thinking about how development along the river is effecting their recreational area. Most students I have,swim, boat, and/or fish in the river. They seem interested in talking about water pollution but they don't understand all the possible causes and politics of pollution. If they recorded the changes in water quality of the river and saw that the quality does change, possibly they might have more buy-in to protecting "their" resource.      As more and more of the Riverstone and old mill area gets developed, I think that it would be interesting to have developers or city planners talk to students   about what went into the decision of building there, how they plan for surface run-off of all the pavement they are putting down, fertilizer and chemicals from landscaping entering the river, public access to the river, and so on.

Most middle schoolers have to be convinced that whatever you are talking about effects them directly.  If drinking water quality or closing water recreational areas doesn't open up discussion about SES, I'm not sure what will!

Christine Sandahl's picture

New Learning

From researching the north and south forks of the Coeur d’Alene River, I learned that the amount of persistent ecosystem damage from mining and human activity is more extensive than I realized.  The long term damage to individuals and to the wildlife that depend on the water of the Coeur d’Alene River is a story that needs to be shared with our students.  Learning about the sensitivity of the cutthroat trout and how it population size indicates important information about the health of the ecosystem also stands out for me.

How I would teach about social ecological systems?

Showing the video “The Health of Our Lakes” will be a good starting point for the Timberlake High School Water Quality Project in the fall.  I will also be able to incorporate information from the USDA publication “The Coeur d’Alene River Corridor Management Plan” with regard to how recreation and travel plans are used to manage ecosystem sustainability with regard to increasing recreation activities.  In addition to that publication I will refer to several of the readings recommended in the references provided, for Example: David Sobel's "Place Based Education - Connecting Classroom and Community", Medin and Bang's "The Cultural Side of Science Communication", and Marie Pengilly’s - WQ Field Experience Planning and Instruction)

Most Applicable Themes from the Week

I found the information about the digital story telling shared by participants of the Pocatello adventure learning class to be most applicable.  Being able to make an emotional connection between my students and the concepts included in the water quality/ecosystems unit will be an important teaching tool. 

Place-based & ecosystem services lessons

Since Timberlake High School biology teachers have an ongoing water quality data collection project at Spirit Lake, the next step in improving the project is in increasing the long term impact of the project by emphasizing each student’s recognition of ecosystem services that are important to them and what they can do to improve or sustain those services.  I plan to develop my own background piece (digital storytelling) about human impact on the Spirit Lake watershed to help students find relevance in the project.  I am planning to do further research about the way the city of Spirit Lake disposed of waste prior to the present water treatment system as part of the story.   My place-based digital storytelling will introduce the Water Quality Project.  As students complete the project, they will be collecting data and logging information to will use in their own digital story of the project.


Nola Shanley's picture

Hello! Thank you for an interesting week of new concepts for this Social Science (Social Studies) teacher!

Some new things I learned were specific to the health of our lakes, the impact of mining (I worked in Priest River for several years....and while logging was the main industry and impacts of logging were discussed, I never thought much about mining.) I also was very fascinated with the electrofishing. I am intrigued with the idea of people working in a lab versus out in the field.

I will teach students in my Contemporary World Issues enrichment class about our social ecological systems through YouTube and articles that will compliment those visual clips. I also liked the YouTube clip about what are ecosystems. I will definitely show them how the CDA tribe is impacted through the health of our lakes. I would also like to have some guest speakers come to my class to speak to them about such topics. I also currently look at the pursuit of taming the world/conquering the wild in my Social Studies classes, and this will fit in very easily.

The themes that are most applicable to my classroom would be water quality and indigenous knowledge. I examine indigenous knowledge and making inferences with students throughout the year, so it makes sense to add this with local resources and cultural impacts.

Being in Social Science, some of the best outcomes for students have been cross-curricular and place-based learning. I have already been in contact with Kim and Leisa, and we are planning to all create a cross-curricular lesson based on what they learned in the field. Perhaps my role would be to give the historical narrative of that subject. I would be interested in doing a debate or pros and cons examination of mining or logging. Again, coming from Priest River, I saw first hand the way that the economy absolutely depended on that type of work, it was in many ways the heart of that community.  I also would think about all of the ramifications of that....cultural, social, economic, environmental, etc. Getting the students out in the areas that are being impacted would be powerful.  I loved the activity that was showcased in the "Health of Our Lakes" YouTube clip where students went into the mud looking for potatos that are used by the indigenous culture.  How amazing!  Perhaps finding the resources to take the students to an area where mining and or logging is occurring or has occurred and the impact on the ecosystem would be amazing.  Even going to the nearby museum in North Idaho where these professions are showcased could be a great start.  

Thank you for a professionally established digital experience. I thoroughly enjoyed the thoughtful way topics were examined.