Thursday, October 12, 2000

Exploring nature's lab

Courtyard research area to be dedicated

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        WEST CHESTER TWP. — Senior Ryan Bell pushed up his shirt sleeve, peered into the stream, reached in and pulled out a half-dollar-sized rock covered with algae, then dropped it into a beaker held by sophomore Lindsay Clinger.

        The two Lakota West High School biology students were the first to collect samples from the school's recently completed outdoor education lab. They were to collect samples and then examine the pond water and algae under a microscope to find single-celled creatures.

[photo] CLakota West students Ryan Bell, 17, and Lindsay Clinger, 16, take a sample of pond water for biology class from the recently completed outdoor lab at the school.
(Tony Jones photo)
| ZOOM |
        Under the direction of science teachers Linda Noble and Steve Meyer, students turned the courtyard outside the science classroom into a lab over the summer and during the first few weeks of school.

        The man-made stream and pond measure about 25 feet by 30 feet plus the waterfall. It contains nearly 35,000 gallons of water, Mr. Meyer said. Depth on the three shelves ranges from a few inches of water to about 30 inches. Six tons of rock and not quite four truckloads of mulch were used for the project, Ms. Noble said.

        The pond is home to a dozen goldfish, water lilies and soon crawdads and bluegill. In the short time it's been operational, sandy silt has formed on the bottom of the pond's lining. Butterfly-attracting perennials are planted around the pond's perimeter. Benches made by Joe Drennan for an Eagle Scout project can be used for instruction.

        “I think it's going to be better than the classroom which is kind of like prison,” said Krystal-Rose Corcoran, 17. ""We get to be outside in nature. It's more hands-on.”

        Planning for the project began 18 months ago. It was made possible through a grant from the Lakota Foundation, Aquatic & Garden Decor, the parent-teacher group and other donors. Jose Casterjon designed the pond and stream. Altogether about $4,000 in cash and donated labor or materials were used for the outdoor classroom.

        “We wanted to find a way to be creative, to have an interactive lab for the students,” Ms. Noble said.

        “Linda and I had a lot of ideas when we saw the grassy courtyards,” Mr. Meyer said. “It was quite a mammoth undertaking.”

        Eventually, a maintenance shed to store donated tools will be added. Gradually more flowers and fish will be added as donors can be found.

        Those willing to donate plants, fish, supplies or money can contact Ms. Noble at 874-5699.

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