Third Quarter ScrapESbook
Field Trip to McClaughry Springs Woods
A few weeks ago, I went on a field trip to McClaughry Springs Woods in Palos Park, Illinois with my Environmental Science class. Here, we tested the levels of different nutrients in the water (including pH and turbidity), used nets to catch macroinvertebrates, and simply enjoyed nature and each other's company. Later in the day, my class and I did a series of reflective activities that really gave us a chance to absorb nature's beauty.
When we arrived at McClaughry, Mrs. Coy split us into groups so we all had an opportunity to try everything. My group's first activity was testing the pH level, turbidity, and the levels of phosphate and nitrate. The pH, phosphate, and nitrate were measured using a small, 10mL test tube with special tablets that indicated the values. The pH measurement and phosphate level were spot on, they were both rated a 4, which is excellent. The nitrate, however, was rated a 2, a.k.a. fair. The turbidity was measured in a completely different way. We filled a large tube, which had a black and white plate attached to a string, with water. We slowly pulled the plate up the tube until we were able to see the plate. Once we could see it, we recorded the place where it became visible. Our measurement came out to 45 cm, which is a 2 (fair). When all of the testing was done, we calculated an overall water quality, which came out to a 3 (good).
Our next activity on the list was catching macroinvertebrates with nets. For this activity, we had to put on thigh-high boots and wade around in the water, moving rocks and stirring up dirt to catch as many things as we could. We found so many things we didn't expect, such as crayfish and different types of fly larva. That's something that really surprised me. I never knew fly larva look like the disgusting bugs you never want to touch. The Cranefly Larva, for example, looked like a large slug. When we started finding the same things over and over, we totaled everything we had and calculated a pollution tolerance index, which came out to a 2.5 (good).
We then rotated to another activity. This one was a hike up a hill overlooking the stream. Here we took pictures with classmates and kind of relaxed while the other groups were testing the water. When we got to the top, I was looking at the landscape and how people have affected the area. I saw beer bottles, cans, and water bottles thrown into the brush instead of in the garbage can just a few feet away. Before seeing the trash on the ground at McClaughry, seeing it never affected me.
Our last activity was finding a quiet area away from everyone else in which we had to close our eyes and also draw what was in front of us. With our eyes closed, we had to listen to the different noises in the area and map out where they were. After completing the activity, we had to pick an area to draw. I chose to stand on the bridge and draw an area where I saw ducks. This activity made me forget about everything going on in my life, including the stress that school causes me to have. Words cannot possibly describe the way this activity made me feel. All I can really tell you is from now on, I'm going make it a point to leave my phone behind and sit outside to simply enjoy nature. It is the best relaxation technique I've tried.
Planting a Tree at Marist
About a week before our fieldtrip to McClaughry, my class and I planted a tree at our school. Before actually planting the tree, we had a presentation in which I learned so many things about trees. One thing I learned is that trees should not have a mound of mulch or dirt around its base. This is because trees use their base, along with their leaves and branches, to soak up sunlight. If the tree is not getting enough light at the base, you will see branches growing out of the base, which is a very bad thing. Another thing I learned is that trees never heal, they only seal. This means that when a tree gets hollowed out by bugs, the tree will fill in the hole, without reconnecting the paths nutrients take up the tree. If this happens, the tree will unfortunately die. Trees can also be damaged by chains, ropes, or anything tied around it. The same thing will happen and unfortunately again, the tree will die.
There are so many things I can do to help trees live better lives. If I ever see a mound of dirt or mulch around the base, I can kick it away. Things tied around the tree? No problem, I can fix that. If it appears to me that a tree is infested with bugs or even has a disease, I can call the tree experts. To help the sustain the tree population, I can plant trees in my community and even get a group together to plant trees in other communities too. For example, there is a tree that needs to be cut down in my backyard. Instead of completely filling the hole, I can plant another tree and have fun watching it grow throughout the years. A more general way I can help trees is by spreading awareness about the different ways trees can be hurt so the people in my community can help me save trees.