Blue Heron eighth-grader Olivia Mattern documents the finding of her group’s phosphate test on the waters running along the south side of Indian Island. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

Blue Heron eighth-grader Olivia Mattern documents the finding of her group’s phosphate test on the waters running along the south side of Indian Island. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Townsend eighth-graders collect data for water study

PORT HADLOCK — Eighth-graders from Blue Heron Middle School combed the beaches of Indian Island on Thursday collecting water samples and counting marine life for a study of the health of the waters around Indian and Marrowstone islands.

The data will go to the U.S. Geological Survey and the North Olympic Salmon Coalition.

This is the third consecutive year the middle school has worked on the project.

“I think it’s great since we’re applying things we’ve learned in the classroom to our environment,” said eighth-grader Olivia Mattern.

“It’s important to know this stuff since right now, we’re testing water that is really all around us where we live,” she said.

The students will rotate through different stations during the two-day project, which will continue today.

The roughly 20 students, led by USGS biologist Jake Gregg, hauled in a net that had collected a sample of the marine life found just off the southwest coast of Indian Island.

“We didn’t have too many fish,” said Odin Smith, one of the students who assisted Gregg. “It was mostly shrimp and crab.”

That was very different from last year’s haul, which was dominated by surf smelt, shiner perch and staghorn sculpin, according to a news release from Naval Magazine Indian Island.

Throughout the day, groups of roughly 20 students collected water samples along the Portage Beach under the bridge connecting Indian Island to the mainland, studied clams along the south shore of Indian Island and examined the culverts under the land bridge connecting Indian and Marrowstone islands that is slated to be removed in the future for a restoration project spearheaded by the North Olympic Salmon Coalition.

The stations all combine science and math skills the students have been learning in their classes.

Science teacher Jennifer Manning said Gregg had visited classrooms several times to teach students the skills they needed to help in the data collection.

“It’s basically a real simplistic look at standard deviation,” Manning said. “Students get an idea of how scientists gather data.”

The students also were taught how to test the water for phosphates, salinity and pH balance, which combines chemistry and ecology.

As an added bonus, language arts teacher Melinda Schroeder added a language component by assigning students reading assignments about the local environment and restoration projects.

“It’s definitely in line with the Maritime Discovery Initiative,” Manning said. “It really combines a lot of disciplines.”

The Maritime Discovery Initiative was implemented roughly three years ago by advocates for place-based and project-based learning so students can connect with the area around them.

“Since we’re working with partners in the area, they [the students] know what they’re doing matters,” Manning said. “I think they’re all for it since it’s a step outside the classroom, so it’s definitely more engaging for them.”

The students seemed to agreed.

“With this, I feel like we’ll actually be making a difference,” said eighth-grader Lexi Sharp. “It’s also more fun than sitting at school taking a test.”

The students will continue to rotate through their stations today so every group gets to experience each station. This is just one of a few trips the students will take outside of the classroom this year.

This eighth-grade class will test the water quality in Discovery Bay near Snow Creek later this month and will visit Salt Creek, the Port Townsend wastewater treatment plant and Sol Duc River later this year.

“There’s a big overarching emphasis on how we can protect water in our area,” Manning said.

________

Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at [email protected].

Blue Heron eighth-graders Andru Goodlin, left, and Odin Smith study water samples they collected from the south side of Indian Island. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

Blue Heron eighth-graders Andru Goodlin, left, and Odin Smith study water samples they collected from the south side of Indian Island. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

Blue Heron eighth-grader Gracie Hoffman studies a water sample taken from the south side of Indian Island for a two-day class project to collect data from the water in the area. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

Blue Heron eighth-grader Gracie Hoffman studies a water sample taken from the south side of Indian Island for a two-day class project to collect data from the water in the area. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

Cydney McFarland (2)/Peninsula Daily News                                 Blue Heron eighth-graders Odin Smith, Andru Goodlin and Gracie Hoffman study water samples taken from the south end of Indian Island for a class project Thursday. Below, Olivia Mattern documents the finding of her group’s phosphate test on the water.

Cydney McFarland (2)/Peninsula Daily News Blue Heron eighth-graders Odin Smith, Andru Goodlin and Gracie Hoffman study water samples taken from the south end of Indian Island for a class project Thursday. Below, Olivia Mattern documents the finding of her group’s phosphate test on the water.

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