Magby Creek is a small stream that flows near the Columbus High School (Columbus, MS). The stream has been heavily channelized and managed in some parts; however, the portion of the stream that this project focuses on is relatively unaltered. Aside from commercial and residential architecture near by, the stream has wide meanders, a low gradient, a riparian buffer that is mostly intact, and a good mix of gravel, sand, and silt substrates.
In 2017, Ms. Pounders, a biology teacher at Columbus HS, was interested in building a long-term project that could provide her students (primarily under-represented, urban children) with real hands-on opportunities to apply the scientific knowledge they have learned in the classroom. She wanted something that could provide new experiences for the students and get them excited about biology, possibly showing them another avenue to college and/or a career. So Ms. Pounders and a small group of her students went to a water quality training workshop at the University of Maine to learn the techniques that they could apply to the small stream that flows near their school.
I was contacted by a mutual friend, who is also a Mississippi State University faculty member, to see if I would be willing to help with the project she had in mind. The project was originally going to include monitoring water quality of Magby Creek, including flow rate, dissolved oxygen, pH, and other parameters. During our first field day together, I mentioned also sampling aquatic macroinvertebrates and teaching the students how to use the Pollution Tolerance Index (PTI). This was another opportunity for the students to experience something they had likely never seen (or even thought about)…AQAUTIC BUGS!
Since the beginning of this partnership, student ideas/projects have flourished! Most students use some piece of this research as their science fair projects while others help monitor the stream while focusing on other science topics for their projects. During our first year, the 5 students that worked on the project showed exceptional growth in confidence, critical thinking, and content information retention. In addition, they submitted three Science Fair projects; 2 projects won 1st place in their respective categories and the five students earned 11 special recognition awards!!
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