Kids in the Creek

Since 2011, LJEA has been running this exciting and important educational program. The program reaches over 1100 McDowell and Burke county students each year. Volunteers report real satisfaction from exploring with young folks in a less formal classroom and outdoor setting. Teachers report that the students’ hands-on experience results in some of the best learning and knowledge retention of all the year’s science units. Students? Well, the most amazing thing about the Kids-in-the-Creek program is not that nearly 1200 students participate, but the enthusiasm that they bring to it.

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LJEA developed the program to support and expand on the State’s science curriculum standards related to water and water quality, the hydrologic cycle, aquatic habitats and our roles in protecting and restoring a healthy environment. Each class usually participates in a two-day program. One day in the classroom, another in the creek. Usually the in-school session is held in the school media center and serves several classes throughout the school day. There, the students rotate between three learning centers where they see demonstrations and learn about watersheds, stormwater runoff, water pollution, groundwater, and how surface and ground water interact.

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The models let us talk about things the students see every day: the mountains around us, the creeks and rivers, surface and artesian wells, Lake James, our homes, farms, and forests. Another workstation uses posters, maps, and literature to let students explore multiple topics, develop map reading skills, and discuss, pose and answer questions.

Our “in the creek” sessions are usually held in the Catawba River near the Marion greenway or in the Paddy's Creek section of Lake James State Park. Again, three different workstations allow the students to learn about macroinvertebrates (aquatic bugs) and other aquatic life, how to measure the amount of water flowing in a stream, and to examine water’s physical and chemical properties using instruments and their knowledge of chemistry. The students are in the stream getting wet and having fun. It is often hard to convince them that “the fun” comes when they have to get out of the water and apply the math that they have learned in school to compute and estimate the number of gallons of water per second flowing downstream.

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This program requires a lot of volunteer time. During the 2018-2019 school year, LJEA volunteers put in nearly 100 hours delivering the program, supporting teachers, and developing materials. LJEA purchases and maintains the models, equipment, posters and other supplies needed. For more information, take a look at this slideshow about the program. You can help LJEA sustain and expand it. Anyone with an interest in our water resources and environmental stewardship has a role in our classroom and in-the-creek sessions. Please visit our Volunteer with LJEA page for more information on how you can get involved!