“This is just like when I watch Nature Cat on TV!”

By Rachel Patton

Nothing compares to the excitement in this first grader’s voice when she stepped outside for Stream Day at the Academy of Leadership at Millcreek Elementary. As she walked towards the stream, a huge smile spread across her face. Just outside the back doors of her school was a setting just like something from one of her favorite TV shows! Together, we explored the tall grasses, trees, and stream, bringing to life what she had learned from watching “Nature Cat.”

Millcreek holds Stream Days twice a year, giving the students the opportunity to explore the stream behind the school, look for creatures in and around the stream, and test the quality of the water. This year, the students spent the week before Stream Day learning about creatures who live in and around streams. Kindergarten and first graders found the juvenile or adult match to their insect, bird, or fish. Second and third graders solved the mystery of a hurt snapping turtle by researching the diets and habits of animals who share its habitat. Fourth and fifth graders participated in a mock water quality assessment by identifying and sorting macroinvertebrates found at different sites along the fake stream.

By the time Stream Day arrived, the students were well equipped with an understanding of the importance of a healthy stream! Despite the above average rainfall in the days leading up to Stream Day, the stream was clear and within its banks by the time Stream Day arrived. The heavy rains had, however, moved quite a bit of litter around. The students were able to observe and discuss the effects this litter could have on the stream and the creatures who rely on it. We tested the pH and dissolved oxygen levels of the stream water, then put on our boots, grabbed nets, and stepped on into the stream!  It was priceless watching the faces of my “Nature Cat” friend and the other students when they saw ducks, minnows, and macroinvertebrates in the stream. Even some of the kindergarteners caught minnows and freshwater mussels in their nets!

Millcreek has a dedicated and passionate staff who goes above and beyond to help ensure the success of Stream Day. Millcreek’s STEM teacher, Kristen Witt, demonstrated her true dedication to environmental education and to her students as she organized another successful Stream Day. The other special area teachers led students in constructing their own watersheds in order to observe the flow of water on land. Many of the classroom teachers got right in the stream with their students (and not one complained about having to help change 20-some pairs of wet and muddy shoes)! I am already looking forward to the next Stream Day.

Our educators are always excited to spend a day outside. If your school has a stream or outdoor classroom, we would love to lead classes there! Please visit our website for more information. The City of Lexington provided the funding for this wonderful event!