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Students Get Wet While Learning About Their Environment

August 05, 2013

Students in the fourth through eighth grades can experience streams and watersheds during hands-on field trips at Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park near Birmingham. The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF) “Creek Kids” program is available as a school field trip on Thursdays and Fridays in September and October and from April through June. During the Creek Kids program, students learn about the water cycle, watersheds and water quality, and how to be good stewards of their environment. 
 
Students begin their activities by using an interactive watershed model called an EnviroScape. Spray bottles of water, Kool-Aid, and cocoa are used to show how fertilizer and mud enter the aquatic environment. Once familiar with the watershed model, students explore the watershed within Tannehill via a train ride.
 
At the Tannehill Mill Creek dam, WFF staff members lead students in a discussion about the effects dams have on animal populations. While students feel the cool water of Bubbling Springs, a WFF staff member talks about groundwater as part of the water cycle.
 
Students learn that the quality and quantity of water affect the diversity of aquatic insects and fish living in a given area. Creek Kids catch fish by using a technique called seining. Students then evaluate the creek by looking at the insects and other organisms found in the creek.
 
The Creek Kids program has been acclaimed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in its publication 75th Anniversary of Conservation and Partnership Success. The publication recognized the most successful and innovative Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Grants, including Alabama’s Creek Kids program. 
 
“Creek Kids not only teaches several concepts and skills, it also gives them that hands-on experience,” said Shari Brewer, southeast regional representative for the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “I consider this one of the best aquatic education programs I’ve seen with the aquatic education grants I manage.”
 
The Creek Kids program costs $5 per student and adult, which includes talks by the WFF Aquatic Education staff, a train ride, entrance fees to the park and museum, and rental of a pavilion for lunch. Fees for public school students may be waived if 40 percent or more of the students are eligible for free or reduced lunches. Assistance may include some transportation costs. Funding comes from the sale of “Take a Kid Fishing” car tags, which are being replaced by the “Freshwater Fishing” car tags; learn how to pre-commit to buying one at www.outdooralabama.com/fishing/freshwater/fishtag/. Summer camps can book the Creek Kids program during the month of June 2014 for the entrance fee of $5.
 
Field trip sizes may not exceed 50 students and are being booked now for both fall and spring field trips. To make Creek Kids reservations, call 205-477-6301 or email Brenda Morrison at Brenda.Morrison@dcnr.alabama.gov. More Creek Kids information is available at www.outdooralabama.com.
 
Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park (www.tannehill.org) is part of the Alabama Historic Ironworks Commission (www.alaironworks.com). The park is open to a wide variety of activities including hiking and camping. The Steel and Iron Museum of Alabama is housed in the park. Tannehill is well-known for its trade days, which are held on the third Saturday and following Sunday of each month, March through November.
 
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Parks, State Lands, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com. 
 
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Photo: “Creek Kids” examine different types of aquatic life harvested with a fishing net called a seine. 
 
Watch a video about the Creek Kids program by clicking here.


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