Learning through Real-World Inquiry

Pursuing solutions to real-world challenges can be both an exciting and empowering learning experience. Collecting and examining your own field data in pursuit of those solutions further enhances understanding of how those challenges directly impact you. Being able to then share your data with local scientists and researchers to benefit your community provides the cherry on the cake, as you see your work making a real impact in the world. Our Changing Earth team had the opportunity to work with an inspirational group of students and teachers at the School of Environmental Studies (SES) in Apple Valley, Minnesota, who are doing all this and more.
The eleventh graders at SES have been taking a close look at water this fall, starting with the ponds and rivers in their backyard. We tagged along with them on several field outings as they completed inquiry projects related to the relationship between organisms and water. Their first outing was to collect samples from a pond near their school, another was to visit St. Anthony Falls and explore the Mississippi River near downtown Minneapolis, and the final outing was to collect data from Minnesota’s Vermillion River.
The students were collecting a range of data in three different categories: macro and invertebrates, aquatic and upland vegetation, and chemical and physical data traits of the water. They used a variety of tools to collect their data, from cameras and test tubes, to dip nets, seine nets, and secchi discs. Students took the samples and data they collected from each location they visited back to their school lab to examine firsthand. They then shared their data and findings with local city officials in Eagan, to help assess the health of local waterways and wetlands.

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