“The Kids Are Where They Want To Be”: Hans Smith And Environmental Science, Part 2.

We also have a fish egg project.  We have seventeen aquariums throughout our district that were paid for by the Rogue Valley Fly Fishing Association.  They are ten-gallon tanks with styrofoam around them.  Each tank can hold up to 500 eggs.  We have a group of students that will set up the tanks for the teachers and then take the eggs to all the elementary schools that have tanks.  The kids put together a set of three to four lectures, and, in the classroom, they talk about life cycles of the salmon and what is happening with their eggs.  They play a game called Hooks and Ladders( a take off on the famous children’s game, Chutes and Ladders), which is a salmon game that shows the migration up and back and what obstacles the fish have to go through.

We also do various projects around the valley.  We do things for the stream survey for Boise Cascade Lumber Co.  We have gone up to the fish hatchery(on the Rogue River) when they have spawned fish with the Department of Fish and Wildlife.  We have some kids working with the Bear Creek Greenway people doing some inventories.( The Greenway is a riparian project which starts above Central Point and finishes in Ashland, a distance of some twenty miles!  The Greenway is ideal for bicycles, joggers, or people who just want to enjoy nature’s scenery.)

We got together with North Medford, South Medford and some of the other high schools to start a project along Bear Creek.  Our component will be the natural invertebrates.  Our kids are about to get hip boots on and get into the water and get dirty.  They are going to be studying six spots along Bear Creek collecting the data, compiling it, and then we will trade information.  I think North Medford is doing the water quality testing, so we will get information from them and we will give them our natural invertebrate information.

Are there any questions?

Q:  What is the requirement for students to get into this program?  Can anyone get in?

Yes!  The first time we offered it, we had 190 kids sign up.  So, we drew names of 104.  We do not ask kids to come back if I cannot trust them, because they cannot work independently.  They need to be able to go down and take stream samples.  Our kids range from 4.0 students looking at Ivy League schools to kids taking Fundamental English.

Q:  What does the assessment look like?  What is success and not success for a student?  Are they learning the content that they are supposed to be learning?

Yes.  Every Friday is test day.  We give a lot of homework, because we cannot cover it all at the creek.  When we assess their work with the creek and their projects, we develop individual rubrics.  So, their grade is a total of their homework, written work, tests, quizzes and the project.

Q:  And are the tests over the content they would have gathered by participating in the projects, or do you have a certain amount of lectures or readings that go along with them?

When we get into genetics, we have genetics tests.  I will give tests for each of the content areas in biology.  They will also have written tests on some of the work we do.  This works the same way with health and government.

Q:  Have you seen any difference in the performance on those tests between the group in the Rogue Ecology School versus the others?

The results are better with those who are down at the creek.  It could be that they are a little more motivated and want to stay in the program.  We tell them that they have to keep their grades up, not only with us, but in the other classes.  A lot of kids do not want to be down on the creek.  They are happy doing what they are doing and our kids are happy.  That is one of the reasons our success rate gets up a little higher on pen and pencil tests;  the kids are where they want to be.