Did they really go fishing, Ms. Still?

Pulling the net across the watery channel at high tide.

Pulling the net across the watery channel at high tide.

Yes.  Grade 3 went fishing on Tuesday.  Really.  They went fishing.  And it was fun.  When it comes to learning, there’s nothing like getting your hands dirty.  In this case, we got our hands dirty on wet rope attached to a net which we pulled across a watery channel in the Palo Alto Baylands during high tide to sample the diversity of life in the water.

Looking closer at their catch with field guides.

Looking closer at their catch with field guides.

But Grade 3 didn’t just go fishing, they caught fish.  Students ran to the beached net with their hands cupped, ready to carry a fish to the tank for further observation.  Melissa, our teacher at the Baylands Nature Preserve, even handed out field guides to help us identify our fish, and gave us rhymes to help us think about their role in their marshy home.

Eyes in the front, need to hunt.  Eyes on the side, need to hide.

IMG_20130122_102341After catching a total of six fish between the two fishing groups, of three different types, students also sampled the diversity of microorganisms- the kind that those fish might be eating.  In the lab students used droppers to add a sample of mud to a slide which they took to a microscope for a closer look.  The find of the day was a “huge!” (huge for a microscope, mind you) polychaete worm that Melissa put in her high powered digital microscope to show students through a television screen.  Looking at the transparent worm’s insides, students wondered where it’s five hearts were and which parts of it’s anatomy they were looking at.  It was quintessential gross/cool science, my favorite.

Can you see the egret on the railing?

Can you see the egret on the railing?

And then there were the birds.  To start, an egret was posted along the route of a plant walk.  It must have assumed that it’s white color (which camouflages the bird to its water bound food) made it invisible to us, and let one group of third graders get unusually close before flying away.  A marsh hawk grazed the low growing plants looking for food, with a tell-tale white stripe dividing its brown body and tail.  All day long ducks were bobbing up and down in the water getting food, and black-necked stilts and avocets grew in number as the tide fell, feeding more easily with their long legs to keep them high and dry.

We went fishing, yes.  And we witnessed the importance of this diverse ecosystem to the many different lives that visit or live in this ever changing habitat.  What a nice day we had.

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