Monday, August 21 , 2017, 1:39 am | Overcast 63º

 
 
 
 

Young Scientists at Goleta Family School Science Camp Experiment on Santa Cruz Island

Students gather dragonfly larvae for a mercury analysis and explore other scientific questions during their trip

A group of fourth, fifth and sixth-grade students at Goleta Family School took a science trip to the UC Santa Barbara Research Field Station on Santa Cruz Island in late May. Click to view larger
A group of fourth, fifth and sixth-grade students at Goleta Family School took a science trip to the UC Santa Barbara Research Field Station on Santa Cruz Island in late May.  (Goleta Family School photo)

Young scientists explored and experimented during a trip to Santa Cruz Island during Goleta Family School’s science camp for fourth-through sixth-graders.

More than 20 students had the opportunity of experiential learning by collecting dragonfly larvae samples for mercury analysis in late May at the UC Santa Barbara research field station on Santa Cruz Island.

The two-day trip focused on the Dragonfly Mercury Project, which engages citizen scientists in gathering dragonfly larvae from specific National Park testing sites. 

The samples are then sent to Dartmouth College, the University of Maine or the United States Geological Survey laboratories for mercury analysis. The study aims to provide baseline data to better understand the spatial distribution of mercury contamination in the National Parks.

Teri Briggs, a Goleta Family School fourth-through-sixth-grade teacher, said the project was an ideal addition to the science camp studies of aquatic macro invertebrates, or water bugs. 

The Cañada Del Puerto Creek— the area of focus of the camp research projects — empties into the restored wetland area in Prisoners Harbor, on Santa Cruz Island's north coast. The river is where the group collected the dragonfly larvae.

Upon arriving on the island, the students selected teams, decided on research topics and created scientific questions. On the island, the teams tested their hypothesis and jotted notes in journals with data sheets.

“I believe that taking kids out of the classroom and into the real world makes learning meaningful and they care about what they are studying about because they have ownership,” said Briggs, who has been teaching at Goleta Family School since 1994.

Goleta Family School students head to Santa Cruz Island to help with the Dragonfly Mercury Project, which analyzes mercury levels from dragonflies at specific National Parks sites. Click to view larger
Goleta Family School students head to Santa Cruz Island to help with the Dragonfly Mercury Project, which analyzes mercury levels from dragonflies at specific National Parks sites.  (Goleta Family School photo)

In one group, students studied predators — the dragonfly larva and dragonflies. Another group observed plants and algae. Some students examined birds nest construction.

“They were finding answers to their questions and coming up with more questions,” Briggs said. “The value of the trip is to have children contribute to studies they care about.”

A handful of student scientists measured the size of stones across the length of the creek using a caliper. They also calculated the temperature of the creek water in different areas and took dissolved oxygen in water samples.

“The students were real scientists working in the field,” Briggs said. “They used tools, asked questions, made hypothesis and think. It brought out critical thinking skills in the children to examine what they were learning.”

Briggs explained the importance of the work helps guide further restoration efforts on Santa Cruz Island.

In addition to the camp, the students will create a website, and the findings are eventually posted online comparing the mercury found in National Parks across the country, Briggs said.

She said another benefit of the trip is that it keeps students aware of the environment they live. The teacher has noticed some of her students helping maintain the habitat clean outside of the classroom by picking up litter.

Goleta Family School students conducted experiments and scientific observations during a trip to Santa Cruz Island in May. Click to view larger
Goleta Family School students conducted experiments and scientific observations during a trip to Santa Cruz Island in May.  (Goleta Family School photo)

Briggs is passionate about having kids experience the outdoors with an emphasis on stewardship and community awareness outside the classroom.

“Another value is that students learn to appreciate the outdoor environment,” Briggs said. “They become stewards of the environment and care about their community when having the opportunity to go outside.” 

When asked about his science camp experience, Matthew, one of Briggs’ student, said the value of learning outside of the classroom is “life changing” because it gives hands-on learning opportunities he wouldn't otherwise have when reading a book.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.



Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >