Spring - where art thou?

    Guest blog post by Rhonda Tate
    April is the month when my mind turns to green grass, rushing streams, and Vital Signs! While it may seem like Vital Signs investigations are a far off dream, my students and I will be headed out into the field to gather some of our ongoing data just next week.

When I first embarked on Vital Signs investigations I stuck closely to their 10-day curriculum. I thought every Vital Signs activity needed to culminate in posting data. Over the years, I’ve realized that Vital Signs can be the common thread that my class follows throughout the year. This fall my 8th graders asked the big question of whether or not Mill Stream - an inlet of Philips Lake that passes by our school - is healthy. We completed the Field Mission for Vital Signs by looking for macroinvertebrates that indicated healthy (or not so healthy) streams. When the field work was over, we asked more questions. What were other indicators of health? We started collecting monthly data on temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, and salinity. With the help of borrowed equipment from GMRI and the DEP, we were able to gather reliable data. What are we going to do with all this data? I have no idea, but we have had a thread to keep us moving all winter long.

This spring, when we are ready to go looking for more species, we won’t have to re-learn the ways of Vital Signs. We won’t have to review safety precautions around water. This stream has now become “our” stream. We know this stream in all four seasons. Our data collection has become efficient and I’m hopeful our spring observations will follow suit. Perhaps four full class periods have been devoted to this ongoing data collection. A small investment of time with a big pay-off.

Good luck with all your spring observations. And remember - as I tell my students - scientists take observations in all sorts of weather...even knee deep in mud!