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Clean water watchers

Renée Shadforth
Photo by Josh Miller/Sierra Sun Students from Donner Trail School show off the water testing tools they used to monitor the Yuba River behind their campus on Friday. From the left are Holden Reed, Nathan Black, Maggie Lusser, Lorenzo Vigano, Chole Whatmore (in back), Chelsea Mohun and Eric Holmer.
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When the students at Donner Trail School found out that anyone in the world could see the results of their Yuba River water tests, their eyes lit up.As part of World Water Monitoring Day on Oct. 18, students at Donner Trail and other schools in the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District will monitor bodies of water near their campuses as part of a world-wide project led by America’s Clean Water Foundation. Then they will post the results on the Internet for the world to see.”We’re doing this to make our river better, to clean it up and make it healthy,” said fifth-grader Blaise Bogel from the river’s edge behind Donner Trail. “What I like about it is I’m making the environment better.”Locally, Sierra Watershed Education Partnerships took the initiative to train teachers and parents, who in turn helped train students, how to test the various indicators of healthy water.

“Since you’re at the headwaters [of the Yuba River], everyone downstream is counting on you to take care of the river up here,” SWEP’s project director, Jan Ellis, told the group of first through fifth graders at Donner Trail last week.To determine the health of the waters behind their school, the students tested dissolved oxygen – the more oxygen the better for wildlife; pH levels – how much acidity is in the water; turbidity, which measures the water’s clarity; and the water’s temperature.Perhaps most interesting for the students was collecting bugs. Students identify bugs to be sure the appropriate insects were thriving in the river’s ecosystem. “Oohs” and “ahs” came from the students as they looked through an “observascope” to view the creatures in detail.”We mostly found stone flies, which are an important indicator of a healthy stream,” Ellis said.Ellis will visit a few schools in the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District this month to help students gather data on local watersheds for World Water Monitoring Day. It’s all part of the build up for the ninth Truckee River Day on Oct. 17, which Ellis said will involve more student participation this year.

After all their tests, the students returned to the classroom with what they learned in their backyard.They will write about what they observed, sketch their view of the river, and over the year, they will return to the river to make sure it’s still healthy.”As a teacher, I’d say this ties into the curriculum,” said Donner Trail teacher Kathee Hansen. “As a human being, it gives them a sense of stewardship in the world that they will be leading very soon. And fun’s involved; having fun is definitely part of this.”On the Net

World Water Monitoring Daywww.worldwatermonitoringday.orgTruckee River Daywww.truckeeriverday.org


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