Tri County sophomores get out of class for biology adventure

By Meghan Nelson • Last Updated 12:14 pm on Monday, May 01, 2017

Tri Countysophomore Kasie Gonzalez, on the shore, holds out a tray for her classmates to put samples from the Tamarack Creek they’ve collected on a Thursday field trip to Minnie Farmer Park in Howard City. — Daily News/Meghan Nelson

HOWARD CITY — After spending two hours at the park,Tri County High School sophomores went back to school wet and muddy, but with smiles on their faces.

“This is what teaching is all about,”  biology teacher Laura Readle said.

Readle accompanied her 85 sophomore biology students to Minnie Farmer Park on Thursday as part of the partnership Tri County Area Schools has with the Muskegon River Watershed Assembly (MRWA).

“When we wrote the (Great Lakes Restoration Initiative) grant, we wrote is as an explorational learning opportunity for students,” said MWRA Project Manager Dixie Ward. “We already worked with Laura Readle … so we asked when we wrote the grant if they would help, and now they’re following through.”

SearrahHerendeen, a sophomore at Tri County High School, didn’t bother to put waders before exploring Tamarack Creek during a biology field trip to Minnie Farmer Park on Thursday.

Two years ago, MRWA received $257,000 in grant funding from the Environmental Protection Agency for the total $440,500 project.

Thursday’s portion of the project included planting red maple, dogwood, tamarack and red pine trees along the bank of Tamarack Creek with Montcalm Conservation Officer Nick Sanchez to help stabilize the bank, help filter runoff from flowing into the creek and beautify the park.

“It was awesome,” Sanchez said. “They worked really well together and they understood the need for restoration.”

The tree planting activity was 16-year-old Chelsea VanderLaan’s second favorite of the four different stations she and her classmates rotated through. She had the opportunity to learn about invasive species at a boat washing station, soil and filtration information, and waded in Tamarack Creek to catch and examine macroinvertebrates.

“I liked the (macroinvertebrate station) the best,” VanderLaan said. “This one has been the fun.”

Garrett Keaveny, 16, agreed that wading in the creek was his favorite part of the trip, even though he ended up falling in the water.

“It feels so weird when you first go in. This is my first I’ve waded in water,” Keaveny said. “This was much more hands on than what we’re doing in class.”


Tri County High School sophomore MalachiFankhauser,left, helps Montcalm Conservation Officer Nick Sanchez plant a red pine tree along Tamarack Creek at Minnie Farmer Park.

Readle, who could be found bouncing around the different stations or commenting on a unique macroinvertebrate, said the field trip was perfectly set up.


“We just spent two weeks talking about doing labs about soil and filtration,” she said. “Next, we’re going to learn about ecosystems and create our own. We’re taking the macroinvertebrate we collect today and going to be using them in those.”

The class has another field trip planned for May 12, but this time they’ll be going to Artman Park with fourth-graders.

“They (the 10th-grade students) really got to experience some of the stations they’re going to teach to the fourth-graders in a couple week,” Ward said.

Students were able to plant all the trees along Tamarack Creek during their field trip, and Ward hopes the next trip in two weeks will be just as successful.

For more information about the Montcalm Conservation District, visit online.

For more information about the Muskegon River Watershed Assembly, visit online.

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