Blue Oak students are regularly off campus engaging in one of our Core Principles of learning by doing. In 7th grade, our students learn about their vital role in preserving Napa Valley’s ecosystem, particularly its salmon habitat in the Napa River and its tributaries. They engage in hands-on learning just blocks away from campus, caring for our local creek and its surroundings. Over the past month 7th-grade students have visited the riparian habitat at Napa Creek and had the chance to collect data on stream flow in mid-March during high flow and this week when flow rate was significantly lower.

Through raising rainbow trout and studying the creek, students monitor water quality, study habitats, and develop a conservation mindset, understanding the impact of human activities on water resources and ecosystems. Students explore the impact of stream flow on habitats, water quality, and wildlife. They learn about historic floods, land use patterns, and watershed dynamics through field trips and map examinations. They also participate in stewardship activities like habitat restoration and cleanup.

During the wet season, students measure stream flow using the float method, comparing their findings with historical and online data. They calculate velocity, cross-sectional area, and stream flow, also studying macrobenthic invertebrates as part of their analysis. Students analyze data, create scaled drawings, and identify potential errors, deepening their understanding of streamflow’s significance. They draft formal lab reports and engage in peer assessments, culminating in a unit test on watershed studies.

This experiential learning fosters a deeper connection to nature, enhances scientific skills, and instills a sense of responsibility as stewards of the ecosystem.

We’re very fortunate that our students have this natural resource nearby, where they can delve into immersive scientific exploration, building knowledge and skills while contributing to the health of our local environment. Next week on Thursday, April 18, we plan to release the rainbow trout we have been raising in the classroom at Lake Hennessey. A special thanks to the volunteer drivers who are helping make this event possible.