The Thomas Hardye School

Year 9 Biologists immerse themselves in freshwater ecology

Riverlab Visit

30 students studying triple science in Year 9 took part in an inspirational ‘Discovering River Ecology Day’ at the Freshwater Biological Association’s River Laboratory just before half term. The fieldwork and laboratory activities were led by Professor Genoveva Esteban from Bournemouth University and Dr Jeremy Rowe, Head of Biology at THS. The students were delighted to be awarded CREST Discovery Awards by Bournemouth University for their achievements.

Penny Campbell writes:

“On Thursday 26th May I had the pleasure of accompanying Year 9 Triple Science Biologists who had taken up the fantastic opportunity to spend a day with Professor Esteban and her team from Bournemouth University at the East Stoke River Laboratory (one of only two sites in the UK run by the Freshwater Biological Association). Focusing on pollution indicators, taxonomy and species adaptations, the trip was designed to complement curriculum studies perfectly as well as giving the lucky students the chance to earn a nationally recognised CREST Discovery Award courtesy of Bournemouth University. What I hadn’t anticipated however, was how much I would discover about the way students learn and the pleasure I would experience seeing them inspired and wanting to learn more.

I should mention at this point that my role on the trip was in the capacity of one of two student teachers. The visit started by watching scientists employed at the laboratory taking a pontoon out of the stretch of river which was to become our study site and witnessing their enjoyment of professional ecology. When our turn came to carry out freshwater invertebrate sampling, we worked alongside the professionals, picking up tips, (including how to measure the rate of flow using an orange!) and relishing the chance to be guided by their expert eyes to see such wonders as a freshly emerged mayfly drying its wings and flying for the first time.

After a very brief lunch we set to work in the lab; identifying, classifying and recording the astoundingly diverse range of species we had collected. The students’ boundless enthusiasm and attention to detail was infectious and very quickly they, the teachers and our professional hosts were happily working side by side identifying and recording indicator species from our freshwater samples as well as samples of stagnant water collected from a nearby drainage ditch. The school had recently been bequeathed a special high power microscope which was taken along to be tried and tested and made looking at samples even more exciting. Time flew by (almost as if we were having fun!) and all too soon it was time for each group to present their evidence and for the students to be rewarded with their well-deserved Crest Discovery Awards.

On the coach back to school, the students were asked to reflect on “Why was the trip beneficial?” and “What new thing did you learn?” and it is evident from their responses (appended below) that they had gained a lot from their day out studying on the River Frome.

I really couldn’t have asked for a better or more inspirational introduction to school field work and would like to extend my thanks to Dr. Rowe for inviting me along, Professor Esteban and her team, Bournemouth University and The Freshwater Biological Association.”

Prof Genoveva Esteban said: “We were all impressed with the students’ commitment, enthusiasm and good behaviour.  This type of learning opportunity unlocks students’ imagination and gives them the chance to interact with scientists, which we hope encourages them to follow a science career. The students and teachers were a joy to work with and I hope we can repeat this workshop in the near future.”

Why was the trip beneficial?

  • You understand more about animals if you can see them move instead of looking at pictures
  • You could have fun and learn at the same time
  • This experience gives us the chance to observe animal behaviour and appreciate wildlife
  • Being immerse in the environment is beneficial to retention and teaches skills a classroom can’t
  • I learn better in practicals
  • It’s great speaking to people who have PhDs in the subject
  • I’ve learnt how to use high tech equipment I wouldn’t normally be allowed to use at school
  • Learning hands on is faster and easier
  • We should learn on trips and not in class because we are more likely to remember
  • We can see how and where professionals work
  • When you are in the classroom you are just being told things, but when you get out there with creatures, you can learn it for yourself, and it is more memorable and fun

What new thing did you learn?

  • I learnt how different amounts of pollution can affect how many animals live in polluted areas
  • You can use diversity of species to measure pollution in water
  • Some Mayfly larvae have gills on their back
  • You get different species in slow and fast moving rivers
  • Fast flowing water is more diverse
  • Amount of oxygen effects the creatures in water
  • Learnt about different species of Mayfly
  • Snails lay eggs
  • Saucer beetles are native to this country

See our gallery of photos - click on a thumbnail to see the full size photo.

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June 2016