DREAMS Students wowed by water and wetlands

What are kidneys?  Why are they important?  What happens when we change natural rivers and streams by making them deeper and narrower?  Should we allow tap water to run continuously while we brush our teeth?  These were just a few questions asked of the K-4th graders at Fair and Louisville Elementary Schools on Friday June 6, 2014.  Dr. Brian Davis of the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Aquaculture, College of Forest Resources, Mississippi State University (MSU) is cooperating with faculty in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education, at MSU. Together this team of instructors is working on interactive science activities for students in the DREAMS summer program.
CFR Friday - Dr. Davis & studentsDr. Davis and doctoral student, Justyn Foth, visited Fair Elementary School and came equipped with a flatbed trailer to demonstrate the importance of water to natural resources and human health.  The trailer serves as a traveling mini-wetland used to educate people of all ages, including university students.  The trailer contained a several inch layer of what appeared to be “white sand,” when in fact the material was recycled soft drink bottles, which served as another teachable moment (i.e., recycling) for the DREAMS students.  The students literally gathered around the trailer and observed as Foth manipulated the fake sand into a river channel.  Plastic toys of cows, pigs, horses, farm machinery, a farm house, and other items were placed up on “dry ground” above the river channel.  A mock bridge with pipes beneath it was also constructed across the river, and a toy farm tractor was placed atop it, which represented real-life machinery or a vehicle on a bridge-road.  Small tree branches were also placed alongside the river channel, and on flat ground away from the channel and near the farm house, to demonstrate how trees function in this model natural system.  The “oohs and aahhs” eventually came from the students as Foth used a hose to demonstrate water traveling downstream at different velocities.  Ultimately, Foth created flood conditions and parts of the riverbank and bridge collapsed, animals and farm machinery washed downstream, and the house was nearly flooded and lost.  Trees planted on levees near the stream bank actually collapsed, too, causing further damage to the river channel.  Foth also created a dam, which are constructed all over Mississippi to control floodwater and provide recreation.  However, Foth demonstrated a dam collapse when volume and water velocity are too great.  Davis and Foth also discussed how wetland plants are important in helping water quality.  As if all of this wasn’t enough, the students also got to view a variety of aquatic insects in an aquarium.  Foth explained how “big bugs” eat smaller bugs, how some insects decompose plant material, and generally how bugs and plants function to create healthy aquatic and wetland habitat for other animals and humans.  It was a great day and students got to visualize firsthand the effects of water as it moves in our rivers and streams in Mississippi.  Two more natural resource programs are scheduled for these students in June and the instructors can’t wait to create more “oohs and aahhs.”