19 incoming seventh-graders in District 65 schools are ready, with cameras and clipboards, to investigate the quality of the water in the North Shore Channel. In a survey of Evanston and Skokie residents the students found that many said they did not know what the channel was, but one person thought it was a local television station.

Suspicions about the quality of water in the North Shore Channel (“the canal”) have abounded for decades. This
summer, 19 incoming seventh-graders in District 65 schools are investigating that very thing, checking out the flow, turbidity (clarity), temperature, PH balance and the amounts of nitrates, phosphates and dissolved oxygen in Evanston’s second-largest body of water.

On July 16, the youngsters – canoe paddles, digital
cameras and clipboards in hand – descended the stairs behind the Ecology Center and launched into the day’s activities.

 

“We’re going to stalk herons,” said Mike Roche, language arts team leader and teacher at Chute Middle School. “We’ll determine water quality based on the wildlife. We’ve seen a lot of crawfish, and they are sensitive to pollution.
So if we have crawfish in these numbers, [we might find]
that the water isn’t as bad as they say.”

 

The program  called “Students & Science using Technology finding Solutions” (SSTS), offered free to the students, was the brainchild of Hal Jenkins, science curriculum facilitator for District 65 and leader of this project, and Paul Brinson, head of Information Services for the District. The students were chosen on the basis of recommendations from a teacher and the principal of the school, said Mr. Roche. “We wanted solid citizens and team players.”

 

The students are Linh Barnes, Mary Bauer, Esteban Escobar, Sam Evans, Patricia Flores, Miles Godfrey, Demarkus Green-Cox, Chris Hubbard, Jack Lydon, Will McGinley, Otis McInnis, Steven Medina, Stephanie Morales, George Siebold, Jonathan Senecal, Katherine Stein, Gabriela Thoren, Chijioke Williams and Joshua Wilson.

 

District 65 personnel involved in the program are, from District 65: Susan Schultz, assistant superintendent for Middle, Magnet and Special School Curriculum and Operations; Gayl Carpenter, Summer Enrichment Program director; Jason Ewing, Instructional Technology coordinator; Mr. Jenkins; Megan McDermott, science teacher at Nichols Middle School; Sherri Polaniecki, media/technology teacher at Chute Middle School; Jennifer Tobey, science/social studies teacher at King Lab School; Kelly Rooney, science teacher at Nichols Middle School; and Mr. Roche. Karen Taira and Clare Alden from the Ecology Center, and Mary Carroll, education specialist of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago; and Vanessa Villarreal, public affairs specialist of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are also helping with the project.

 

By all appearances, the students are enjoying the program. “We’ve had no behavior problems, and the kids all show up,” said Mr. Roche. He added, “To see the kids with intense grins on their faces when they handle a fox skull, mimicking the actions … to see the level of intensity when they won’t get a grade and no one is looking over their shoulder is really wonderful – it’s worth everything.”

 

Photos of each day’s activities in the SSTS program are posted on the District’s website, district65.net.