PALs program links learning levels

Mountain Meadow Elementary students Alexandra Hatley and Chase Koala were hunched over a petri dish on a desk peering through a magnifying glass answering questions from a White River High school student.

Using a dichotomous key, a key for identifying organisms through a series of choices or alternatives, White River high school students helped students in Cheryl Hillyer and Korin Webster’s classes figure out what was under the glass.

It’s a midge larvae, they concluded. Another group announced they were looking at a mayfly larvae.

Pairing up the elementary and high school students is what WRHS teacher Todd Miller calls Partners in Active Learning or PALs.

White River High fisheries science students were sharing what they’ve learned in class about macro-invertibrates, water sheds and stream health with Mountain Meadow fifth-grade students who recently finished up a unit on ecosystems and studying the results of acid rain.

Two or three times a year, Miller said, the high school students send out an e-mail to elementary school teachers letting them know the area they’ve studied and inviting them to open their classrooms.

In his hip waders, Ryan Bently stood before the elementary students and explained how he and classmates used a D-net to scoop water samples from South Prairie Creek looking for bugs or macro-invertibrates - an animal without a backbone. Most freshwater macroinvertebrates are small but can be seen with the naked eye.

Bugs, he said, are a fairly good indicator of stream health.

On the particular day White River took its samples, the stream was middle of the road, but he said they’d go back again and again to get a better survey.

South Prairie Creek, they determined, was fair.

“It’s fun teaching kids about streams,” said WRHS senior Seth Worthen, who along with Shane Sams were explaining the water shed and water cycle to students.

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