Welcome back to the show. This latest episode on #FullSTEAMahead is all about our innovative 4th graders and their study of detritus feeders. These students have discovered there are benefits and drawbacks to any given environment. This week fourth graders focused their attention to our nearest estuary, the Bogue Sound, with particular interest on a specific marine critter that generates millions of dollars ($5.5 million in 2017 to be exact) for the state of North Carolina a year. Take’em raw or let’em boil. You can shuck’em. You can suck’em. Just be careful where you get’em. Yes faithful readers we are learning about those detritus feeders known as oysters, Mother Nature’s natural Brita system.
On Monday we engaged in an estuary card game provided by the North Carolina Coastal Reserve in which every player begins with ten goldfish crackers to represent their estuary. There is also a pot representing a “larger estuary” to pull from if needed. Students take turns drawing and reading the information on the cards to one another. If lucky you might draw a card that reads something like, “Sea grass has been planted around the perimeter of the estuary, preventing erosion to creep into the water. Add three fish from the pot.” OR sadly one might draw a card reading, “Farmer Fred’s hog farm lagoon overflowed and the waste created an algal bloom sucking all the oxygen out of the water. This caused a fish kill, lose all your fish.” At this point, students would have a full belly eating all of the crackers they accumulated.
On Tuesday we were visited by a good friend and neighbor Rachel from the North Carolina Coastal Federation. She brought her storm water runoff table to demonstrate how pollutants enter our waterways.
On Wednesday, the class took a stroll out to the rain garden. We identified the various plants established, discussed the rain garden’s purpose, looked for physical debris the plants have caught, and noticed the huge pile up of asphalt caked around the first line of defense (the river rock). We will revisit the rain garden to weed out invasive plants sprouting through, trim back the Muhly Grass once the purple feathering fades, pull back the river rock to lay out more newspaper and landscape fabric, and shovel the asphalt out. We returned to the STEAM lab to be welcomed by oysters (on loan from the Carteret County Community College’s Aquaculture Center). Watch them clean the tank in lapsed time.
Our detritus friends stopped by to demo how they filtrated water, keeping the Bogue Sound clean. While these critters filtered phytoplankton, our students began to brainstorm items they could use to create their own filtration system. They sketched their model and labeled the materials they planned on using for the build day.
Finally, on Thursday the students began selecting the materials from their blueprints to begin construction. They pulled from previous ideas from the week. Rocks were selected much like the ones that act as a defense line around the perimeter of the rain garden. In addition to the pebbles, sand, marbles, and bottle caps were at their use. They recommended cotton balls, shredded paper, and coffee filters to absorb pollutants.
The end results were Vantaztic.