Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Day of Discovery on the Water

I had a chance to join my son's 4th grade class last week on a fabulous field trip. We spent the day on Puget Sound with Pacific Marine Research learning about watersheds, plankton, water sampling (below), marine mammals and the importance of keeping Puget Sound healthy. The scientists did a great job keeping the kids engaged and everyone walked away with a deeper appreciation for all that life teeming in the waters - even if it is too small to see!
This was one of those field trips that was definitely as educational for me as the kids. We learned about the two different kinds of plankton - phytoplankton and zooplankton - and had a chance to see them up close and personal after taking some water samples from the bottom of Puget Sound. Phytoplankton are plants and zooplankton are animals - once you get them under the microscope you can really tell the difference! Many of the phytoplankton (see right) looked like bracelets - no eyes, legs, or claws.

The zooplankton looked much scarier, unless you keep in mind that we were picking them up with an eyedropper. Here is an arrow worm, copepod, and jellyfish.

One of the coolest parts of the trip was when their scuba diver walked on the sea floor with a video camera and showed us his view. It was much brighter down there than I would have expected and we saw sea urchins, sea cucumbers, fish, and starfish. The biggest hit with the kids was when they tried to get some interaction between two starfish - The Death Star and the Sun Star. They cued up the Darth Vader music (this must be a regular occurrence in these waters since they had the music on hand!) and proved that even though the Death Star might eat other starfish, he's usually too slow.

Biggest lesson for the day? It's a beautiful world down there and it's our job to protect it. The kids were told the most important word for the day was "watershed." There are 4 million people living in the Puget Sound watershed, the area between the Cascades and Olympics, and all the water and snow that lands in our midst eventually runs off into Puget Sound. Our actions determine how clean that water is.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a great field trip. I'd love to see this trip taken in more schools. What a great education. I know that I'd sign up as a chaperone for sure. Thanks for sharing. I learned something today too.