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West Ada teacher immerses students in the science of the Boise River

"They can look at things not just at the surface level, but they can go deeper and look at what's complex."

BOISE, Idaho — "Today we are going to do a program called "Class in the Creek," MK Nature Center Wildlife Educator Sarah Focht tells the group of Andrus Elementary School fifth grade gifted and talented students gathered before her in the center's theater.  

"We're going to be collecting things that don't have backbones, critters, animals," Focht continues. "So we are going to be going into the Boise River."

After getting the basics of what this field trip will entail, it's time for the boys and girls to boot up and slosh into the Boise River.    

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"It's really hard because it's slippery on the algae," fifth-grader Marguerite Chestnut said.

Fifth-grader Anderson Lavoie explains what they are doing.  

"We're putting a net up (in the water) and then we're kicking the sand to try to get the bugs out and land on the net."

Bugs and bigger beings. A couple groups of kids caught small fish.  

"I call it "Slammin' Salmon," Andrus Elementary fifth grade teacher Karla Morton said.

Morton arranged this field trip to the Boise River as part of her larger "Slammin' Salmon" unit for her gifted and talented students. 

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"We're studying salmon, and how that ecosystem, how the salmon impacted Idaho," Morton said. "They used to come up the Boise River, but they don't anymore."

It's a chance to leave no stone unturned in the quest to immerse the kids in the wonders of learning and living.

"So that they can look at things not just at the surface level, but they can go deeper and look at what's complex," Morton said.

In this case six to 12 inches deeper.  

"I think it's good that we're like having interactive stuff so we can figure out what the actual ecosystem here is like," Anderson Lavoie said. 

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Plus, it's just a lot of fun to get into the flow of the lesson.  

"Well, I really like animals," Marguerite Chestnut said, "So I like being able to just get in there and grab one."

Like a snail or a big crayfish. All of the critters caught are released back into the river after the kids study them.  

Even as the students head back on shore and back to school, maybe the river will stay with them simply because they had a chance to get their feet wet in the science of the stream.  

"When a student catches onto something and they have that moment of clarity, you just say 'that's it,'" Morton said. "That's what this is all about."

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Morton says she appreciates the MK Nature Center's "Class in the Creek" program so much, she's lost track of how many of her classes she's taken there for a field trip. 

If you'd like to nominate a teacher as an Innovative Educator, you can email us at innovativeeducator@ktvb.com.

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