Clad in a pair of knee-high water boots, Grayson Breaux began digging for bugs, adding to a collection started by Sophia Griffith and Sadie Floyd.
Huddled with her fellow classmates, Bella Stanley tried to catch the slippery creatures with her hands.
“It’s really fun to be able to get in the creek and see how healthy it is and see how people are taking care of it and to really get in there and do what you’ve been writing about,” said Stanley, a Chestatee Elementary fifth-grader. “It’s really fun and interesting to be able to come out here and do this.”
The students were among two groups of about 40 gifted students from Chestatee and nearby Coal Mountain Elementary participating in a special field trip to explore watersheds, test water quality and learn more about the environment.
The groups first traveled to Six Mile Creek to test the water there before arriving at Central Park for more water testing and digging through a creek for bugs, which show whether water is healthy enough to sustain life.
“It just makes everything real life,” said Abby Keyser, event organizer and fifth-grade Chestatee Horizons teacher. “We’ve been talking about our watershed and talking about going in your backyard to do these tests, but a lot of these kids don’t live near a water source.
“So to bring them out here and have them get into the water and see what’s actually in there and determine the PH of our real water ... it’s a great experience for them.”
The field trip began with a class unit on watersheds. Keyser and Amanda Wickman, the fifth-grade gifted teacher at Coal Mountain, both signed their classes up for RiverXchange, a high-tech pen pal system connecting students from across the globe while exploring water resources topics.
Through the system, students learned why water is such a valuable resource and how to monitor watersheds and track water quality.
Chestatee students recently claimed the RiverXchange writing contest, thanks to the class’ three top winners, Alex Gravitt, Jenna Ruth Hester and Stanley.
“I really didn’t think I would win because it’s an international thing,” Stanley said of her accomplishment.
With the students’ progress and activity, Keyser and Wickman rewarded the students with the field trip, guided by Kevin Smith, program coordinator with Keep Forsyth County Beautiful.
Smith took the kids through the creek, teaching them about the different organisms in the water, how to catch them with nets and more about what turbidity and other terms look like in real life application.
“I don’t think it could be overstated how important the actual opportunity for them to do hands-on field work is, because it brings the whole message back to home,” Smith said.
“They get a complete understanding other than looking at a book, PowerPoint or Web sites. As soon as they see the first bug, the light comes on.”