Teachers learned about aquatic ecologies Thursday in the third of the four-day workshop “Natural Dilemmas.”
Teachers learned about black bears Tuesday and about minimizing human impacts on wildlife habitats Wednesday. Friday, they’ll learn about fire’s positive and negative impacts on forest habitats.
“I teach a lot of biology and life science, and anytime you can get kids to learn about animals and how they interact with the ecosystems they know locally, it piques their interest,” said Tori Queen, who teaches seventh grade science at Escalante Middle School.
The workshop was financed by a $6,800 grant from Great Outdoors Colorado. The grant will also pay for outdoor field trips next school year for K-12 students across Southwest Colorado.
Catherine Brons, CPW’s southwest education coordinator, said the four-day seminar will help hone teachers’ skills and prepare them for outdoor field trips that, for instance, might inform students about threats to native cutthroat trout habitat in the San Juan Mountains, right in their own backyard.
Brons provided teachers with a book that included lesson plans they could use in class to learn about wildlife, wildlife habitats and threats to habitats.
“We do a unit on ecosystems, and this will fit well into that,” said Erin Van Winkle, who teaches fifth grade science at Bayfield Intermediate School.
Teachers accompanied Jim White, a CPW aquatics biologist, on Thursday to the confluence of Junction Creek and the Animas River along the river trail. He gave teachers a lesson about electro-fishing, a method biologists use to get accurate samples of fish populations in streams, rivers and lakes.
White told teachers the fish are slightly negatively charged, as are humans. The fish are attracted to a positively charged probe biologists place in the water. The unit briefly stuns the fish, providing biologists time to get an accurate count. By taking enough samples, biologists can obtain accurate estimates of a fish population in a body of water.
Unfortunately, the fishing – even with the electro-fishing unit – wasn’t good Thursday.
White told teachers the drought of 2018, compounded by debris runoff from the 416 Fire, severely reduced this fish populations in the Animas River.
But the fish should bounce back, White said.
“If you came here in March, you would have seen a pair of spawning rainbows. Their eggs will still be here, and all these little feeder streams will help restock the river,” he said.