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Agnes Stewart seventh-graders start the year off with hands-on learning

Agnes Stewart seventh-graders start the year off with hands-on learning
Allison McGowan

Seventh grade science students at Agnes Stewart Middle School (ASMS) took their first field trip just two weeks into the 2023-24 school year.  

Students studied salmon spawning and how the ecology and water quality affect the ability of salmon to produce eggs and spawn. Students rotated through four stations focused on an element of study that helps determine the health of the ecosystem to support salmon spawning: salmon biology, riparian area, water quality and macroinvertebrates.

"The purpose of the field trip," said science and math teacher Carrie Patterson, "is for students to learn how the living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem connect."

Science teachers took one class out each day for six days. Students who attended the first field trip agreed that the hands-on learning helped them make the connection between the Stemscopes classroom curriculum and the natural world around them.

"It's different because we actually get to go out here and experience it," said seventh-grader Lilia Adams. "We see how everything works and do real tests with real water and stuff like that, which I think is just really cool."

"We got to talk and touch stuff and have active conversations about the things that we were doing," said seventh-grader Evelyn Olds. "I like to touch and feel the things we were learning about."

Most years, ASMS science teachers take students to the Carmen Smith Spawning Channel on the McKenzie River to study live salmon spawning.  This year, the Lookout Fire prevented the class from visiting that spot and teachers moved the study to Elijah Bristow State Park. Salmon carcasses were brought in to give students a look at the biology of a salmon.

"We're learning about salmon and how they reproduce and what kind of water qualities and stuff they need to actually, like, have eggs," said Adams. "We're learning about what kind of macroinvertebrates can show the water quality and we're learning about how to tell the difference between male and female salmon."

Students said that the field trip showed them how the environment and living things are connected and inspired them to care for the environment.

"Now I'm a lot more interested in some of these things," said Olds. "Yeah, we've always talked about them, but now I get to actually go out and I know what to look for."