Students at Einstein Academy ditched their sneakers for wading boots Tuesday as they explored Tyler Creek to learn about the health of the Fox River tributary which flows near their Elgin campus.
An annual tradition on Earth Day, kindergarten through 12th-grade students participate in biological, physical and chemical water studies in the creek to gauge the health of the water, and to provide a learning experience for each age group. The collection of data such as water temperature, flow of the creek and aquatic life sustained within it is used to enhance the science curriculum of the middle school and high school students. The younger students get the exposure to the basics of ecological study, as well as forming bonds with the older students who study in the same building with them every day.
In partnership with the Friends of the Fox River network, the school provides the data to the state of Illinois to help update records on state streams and water quality. The students have collected data in the creek the last five years, only missing last year because of flood conditions.
"We have comparisons from other years, so we can compare the changes in the river," said Sally Hover, assistant principal and third-grade educator at the school. "The levels, the velocity, the erosion, the type of foliage that's here, the students are able to apply it."
She said that beyond building science skills, the teachers get to stress the importance of how daily life on land impacts the health of things such as streams and rivers.
"We're trying to get them to realize that Earth Day is every day," Hover said. "And (we) build family. We've got the high school students helping the kindergarten students and everywhere in between, which is a wonderful experience for the kids."
Third-grader Annabel Ehreth of Elgin already had a sense for how the creek was doing after spending some time studying it with her classmates.
"It's almost getting there to fully healthy," she said "If it's not really healthy there would be gunk and smog and there would be oil and brown moss on the rocks."
Perhaps the biggest draw for the students were the creatures pulled from the water.
"There are these little tiny bugs, they're called crayfish, they only live in the water," Annabel said. "Their shell is almost like see-through. You can almost see like inside of their body."