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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Santee Turns San Diego River into a Classroom

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Santee city staffers pitched in today as guest teachers for a group of Rio Seco Elementary School 4th graders that made a science-oriented field trip along the San Diego River at Mast Park.
Two City Hall workers teamed up with Shannon Quigley of the San Diego River Park Foundation and Rio Seco 4th grade teacher Heather Glanz to offer facts and insights into the river’s ecology.

The students, in turn, took detailed notes that will come in handy for writing stories about their field trip. At one point, a duck unexpectedly blurted out a loud quack that interrupted the lesson, causing the children to bellow with laughter.

City Arborist Annette Saul and Shannon Quigley
“The students really enjoyed the opportunity to step out of the classroom and step into nature, where they could do hands-on learning activities,” said City Arborist Annette Saul, who shared teaching duties with Stormwater Program Manager Helen Davies.
“The kids were engaged and excited about what they were learning, “ Ms. Saul noted. “They also got the chance to observe the ducks and other wildlife along the river.”

Escorted by a half-dozen volunteer parent chaperones, nearly 30 pupils walked about a quarter-mile from their school to the bridge at Mast Park that spans the river adjacent to the Mission Creek community.
Ms. Davies gave a lesson on how trash and pollutants carried by storm drains end up in the river and affect the water quality and wildlife.

“You can be a protector of the river just by being careful,” she said.
She explained how everyone can help safeguard the river by preventing trash, dirt, oil or household waste from getting into storm drain inlets and curb cuts. Storm drains are underground pipes that transport rain or excess irrigation water from city streets.

In her lesson, Ms. Saul focused on the effects that non-native invasive plant , such as the vine-like primrose, have on the river’s ecosystem.  These thick-growing vines crowd out native vegetation, slowing down the river’s flow. The stagnant water becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes and allows algae to bloom, depleting the dissolved oxygen level and making it difficult for fish and other aquatic creatures to survive.
Santee Stormwater Program Manager Helen Davies
Ms. Saul also showed students a tube-like device underneath the bridge that serves as a kind of trap that biologists use to detect the presence of non-native invasive mussel species.

Using water samples gathered from the river and testing kits, Ms. Quigley showed the students how to measure key water-quality indicators such as acidity or PH, dissolved oxygen and turbidity or cloudiness caused by sediment.  The water testing was being done in conjunction with World Water Monitoring Day, she said, a global event to raise awareness about clean water.

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