In the spring of 2021, when we were just able to come back from online COVID education to in-person school (but only outside!) our 12th grade engaged in field chemistry. As the ultimate project in that class, the seniors created a curriculum and field guide for our 9th grade chemistry morning lesson blocks: to measure the water quality in Thornton Creek. The field manual includes an essay about why water quality matters, art related to healthy aquatic ecosystems, step-by-step procedures for measuring eight water quality parameters, and instructions on how to analyze the data.
The legacy of our class of 2021 continues, as our current 8th and 9th graders are about to embark on this water quality journey.
We will start with the natural and indigenous history of the area near our high school campus, particularly the robust salmon spawning that occurred in what is now called Thornton Creek. We will discuss changes to the waterway as urbanization grew and the consequent disappearance of the salmon from the creek. We will also explore several of the restoration projects that have happened in the last two decades on the creek.
As we learn about and measure temperature, pH, turbidity, heavy metals, nitrates, phosphates, chlorine and ammonia levels, we will explore how these properties affect salmon.
This year we will visit and learn about the Knickerbocker restoration project on the creek, a cutting edge experiment in stream bed design that brought attention to the value of the hyporheic zone (You can read more this article in Scientific American). Ultimately, students will measure water quality above and below the restoration site and write a report about the effectiveness of this project in creating a healthy salmon-spawning habitat.
We will end this block with good news: spawning pairs of Chinook salmon have been spotted at Thornton Creek restoration sites in the last few years!
-Amanda Ayling, Math and Science Teacher, HS Pedagogical Co-Chair