Brewery Creek is a small stream that originates near Sixth Avenue East in Duluth. For most of its voyage toward Lake Superior, it runs underground, but near Marshall School the small stream runs on the surface. Above-average temperatures encouraged snowmelt last week, swelling the water levels in the small stream. According to the students in Dave Johnson’s 6th grade science class, it was flowing much faster than it was the week before.
Students are monitoring the stream for a handful of physical and chemical traits including:
- dissolved oxygen
“Everything above Brewery Creek eventually flows into it,” said Johnson to his class as he led them down the muddy hillside alongside trickling water toward Brewery Creek. “This is really the first concrete example we’ve had.”
Joel Carr measured the stream turbidity in the creek using a Turbotube, a device that measures the cloudiness of a mixture and is associated with suspended particles in the water.
“Turbidity is not good,” said Carr after he released water from the Turbotube. “It shows that the water is extremely dirty. It’s bad for the fish.”
Nearby, Johnson demonstrated using a digital probe connected to his Mac computer to measure turbidity, and graphed it in real time.
“I think back to my 6th grade science class, where we were just sitting in a lab mixing chemical A and chemical B, and then I never really understood what we were doing or why we were doing it,” Johnson said. “So I always try to think back to what I was like as a 6th grader, what I appreciated, what I learned from and I try to bring that into the classroom.”
“We are so lucky; we have a 40 acre campus, we have easy access to the creek, it’s an interesting creek,” Johnson said. It’s difficult to teach students these subjects without these kinds of resources around.
According to Johnson, only one student has fallen in while monitoring the creek.
Monitoring the creek is a year-round project and part of the St. Louis River Watch project.
Johnson was initially floored when Deanna Erickson at the National Estuarine Research Reserve invited students to talk about the project at the St. Louis River Estuary Science Summit, hosted at UW Superior on March 8 and 9.
“I think what it does for those kids is it boosts their confidence,” Johnson said. “It really shows them they’ve got something they can share with experts, and then learn from those experts.”
Three students, Jessica Jahn, Jake Burt, and Lily Braafladt, spoke at the conference and showed a video.
"I did the video; it took a while,” Braafladt said proudly.
“We were the youngest ones there, so it was a little intimidating,” Jahn said. “I think we did a good job...it was pretty fun too. Very fun actually.”