By Bernie Petit
Getting dirty and playing with bugs provided a hands-on ecology lesson for about 50 student campers in the Arts & Science Council’s Digital and Media Literacy Camp.
During a trip to the Hidden Valley Ecological Gardens, located along the headwaters of Little Sugar Creek in north Charlotte, campers ranging from elementary to high school age built a floating wetland that was placed in the middle of the pond to improve water quality and provide food for aquatic life.
On their visit, the campers went on a nature walk to learn about the undisturbed plants and wildlife in the natural area and got up close and personal with wetland insects.
“These creatures look like little centipedes,” Jill Flanders, a 9-year-old student at Torrence Creek Elementary in Huntersville, told The Charlotte Observer as she examined a water sample under a magnifying glass. “And I found a shell in there, too. It surprised me, how much life was in this water.”
The presence of insects in the water signifies a healthy stream, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services representatives explained. Campers saw firsthand why that’s important – the Hidden Valley wetlands are a water source for Little Sugar Creek.
Student learning started before the trip. Environmental specialists visited them at the Irwin Academic Center in Charlotte, where the camp is based, to teach campers about the importance of healthy urban streams.
So by the time campers arrived at the Hidden Valley preserve, they were ready to build a floating wetland. They covered their mesh-bottomed floating device with burlap and dirt. Duck potato plants were used as the topper.
“Playing with the dirt is fun, but my favorite part was the bugs,” Jalisa Earl, a rising second-grader at Charlotte’s Oaklawn Language Academy, told the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools media department. “I found out that when you lift up grass or rocks you can find all different kinds of bugs.”
That’s the kind of stuff kids like. The bigger picture wasn’t lost on them either.
“I really like this field trip because I am learning how to keep my environment clean,” said Benni Amidon, a rising fourth-grader at Irwin Academy Center, “and I am helping the community.”