Diving into the Apalachicola River with 6th Grade Science Students

By Cameron Barton, Maclay School 6th Grade Science Teacher and RiverTrek participant

As an avid supporter of Apalachicola Riverkeeper, I am raising both awareness and funds to help protect and restore the Apalachicola River and Bay. Our RiverTrek 2020 team is paddling over 100 miles via kayak down the Apalachicola River from Chattahoochee to Apalachicola Bay.  Education and advocacy are central to my mission. Understanding the environment of this unique ecosystem and the river’s health is critical, and this fits in perfectly with my passion for connecting today’s youth to the magic of North Florida’s unique natural riches.

After diving into the Apalachicola River with my 6th grade science students to open their minds to its issues and importance, students followed their hearts and had the freedom to create an information board on the topic that most interested them. Our educational and scientific classroom lessons included a wide array of topics and resources. 

Some of the valuable scientific information came from a PowerPoint by Harley Means on the river’s geology, along with the Florida Geological Survey resources, WFSU ecology videos, a Helen Light presentation about the thinning of the floodplain forest, the Apalachicola Riverkeeper website and blog resources, Slough Restoration Research, and the Priceless Florida ecosystems resource book.  In addition, students researched FSU Coastal and Marine Lab’s Apalachicola Bay System Initiative, Apalachicola Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve monitoring studies, USGS real-time river level monitoring databases, National Hurricane Center’s website for tracking effects of Hurricane Sally, Austin DuFresne’s 2019 RiverTrek videos, and so much more!

Students used their discussion notes/sketches and their research to help select which topics/facts/drawings to include. Instructions were to be as detailed and creative as they wished, but it needed to be “handmade,” not digitally created, and scientifically accurate.  Overall quality was important since we intended to share these with Apalachicola Riverkeeper and local schools to help raise awareness.  This was their chance to share their enthusiasm and sense of connectedness for this American Treasure, the Apalachicola River and Bay.

The river flowed through my classroom during the project implementation phase. It made my heart proud to see the level of effort and care put into these boards. The final projects are diverse and inspiring!  Students are providing solid evidence of a hopeful future, with their greater understanding and awareness of our complex ecosystems.  This experience will forever be a connection with my students and it will shape their understanding of the importance of the Apalachicola River and Bay. I am proud of our new crop of river ambassadors!

Please support the 2020 RiverTrek Team!



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