Today we had another beautiful day for our outdoor science school ~ blue skies, sunshine, high around 80, but a wonderful breeze! We walked along the South Fork of the Palouse for a day focused on water. Our morning base was under our favorite willow tree. This tree provided us with much needed shade for snack, and our first activity, getting close to something we found in nature ~ a piece of bark, a leaf, a rock, a bug . . . We shared with a friend what we noticed, and what we wondered. “I noticed this piece of bark has some moss growing on it. And I wonder where the bark came from? Did it fall off the willow tree?”
Someone noticed some very strange fungi growing on the tree, and then we all got up close and personal with our favorite tree. We found more fungi, spiders and their webs, ants, holes that might be homes for living things . . .
Next we worked on a water cycle game. We imagined we were a droplet of water, and we followed this water droplet through a journey. There were various stations representing clouds, ocean, rivers, ground water, animals, plants. We spread out around the various stations. At each station there was a bag of colored beads and a dice. We took a bead at our station (e.g. white bead for clouds, blue bead for rivers) and then rolled a dice to tell us where to go next on our water droplet journey. The dice were loaded in favor of the real water cycle, so we found ourselves spending a lot of time at the cloud and the ocean station. That makes sense! There is a lot more water stored in the oceans, than in plants and animals, for example. This was a fun way to explore the water cycle.( Check out https://www.facebook.com/TheMontessoriSchoolofPullman/ to see a video of the journey of a couple of droplets of water. We then spent time building miniature water sheds. We used backpacks, water bottles and rocks, and a black trash sack to build mountains, valleys and lowlands. Then we used spray bottles to represent rain to see how water would gather and flow, as in lakes and rivers. We added ‘stuff’ to represent pollutants, and then let it ‘rain’ some more to see what would happen. The pollutants spread throughout the watershed. We thought about where we might build a house on our watershed, where we might farm, how we would provide space for wildlife . . . We drew our watersheds.
What a special place for lunch! We sat on the riverbank, surrounded by the sound of rushing water, and ‘snow in spring!’ The cottonwoods were releasing their seeds, and it looked like snow!
Our afternoon was spent checking out whether the Palouse River was ideal habitat for salmon. We used tools to measure the temperature of the water, the acidity and the turbidity (How cloudy) of the water. From a song, we learned that salmon like clear, cold water and fast flowing water. We also observed to see if there was food (aquatic macro invertebrates like caddis fly) and shelter, like rocks and snags. Our conclusion was that the habitat would not be ideal – water too warm, for example – but might be possible, but the fish would be stressed.
On our walk home, we noticed that some of our students were really dragging towards the end. Our last stretch was uphill in the heat of the day. However, at the end of a full day like this is a strong sense of, “I did it!”
Roll on tomorrow, and another full day of outdoor science learning!