Students learn about aquatic life in Fleshman Creek
Johnathan Hettinger —
Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Enterprise photos by Nate Howard

Sleeping Giant Middle School seventh grade life science students from left, Anna Anderson, Katherine Canner-Bray, Ellie Fenoglio, Leland Peters and at back, far right, Codiak Killorn, all age 12, return their aquatic life to Fleshman Creek during a field trip Wednesday morning.

Ethan Coleman, 11, takes a close look for aquatic life such as blood worms and caddis larvae.

David Pettit’s life science class gathers at the edge of Fleshman Creek to take notes on aquatic life present in the water.

From a block away, you can hear David Pettit’s excitement. “Look for bloodworms,” shouts the Sleeping Giant Middle School seventh grade life science teacher to his class on Wednesday morning.

Bloodworms are red because they have pale skin and you can see the hemoglobin through the thin layer. The hemoglobin is red because of iron, he explains.

The students, mostly 12-year-olds, dig through buckets of water from Fleshman Creek, identifying insects that were netted out of the water.

One student is finding so many caddisflies that he can’t keep track of them on his paper.

“What does that mean about the water?” Mr. Pettit asks. “Is it clean or dirty?”

“It’s pretty clean,” a student answers.

The students are learning about the pollution tolerance index, which measures how much pollution an insect tolerates in the water. Of the insects the students are looking at, caddisflies are among the most sensitive, Pettit explains. If the students were finding lots of leeches or crayfish, that would be a sign it was more polluted.

It’s just the 10th day of classes but the students are already out on a field trip, as a part of a three-pronged project. First, the students check Fleshman Creek, then they check the Yellowstone River, then they check a point in Yellowstone National Park in the Gardner River before it flows into the Yellowstone.

At the end, the students will create lab reports, create pie charts of their findings, and then they will present their results as part of the Montana SMART Schools Challenge, a K-12 public school challenge where students compete to see who can save money and resources by conserving energy, recycling waste and implementing green practices. SMART stands for Save Money and Resources Today.

Pettit’s classes generally enter the challenge and often do well, he said.

This is the 12th year Pettit’s class has conducted the experiment, so the students will have plenty of data to sort through. Overall, Pettit has six classes with 116 students, so there is more than enough manpower to organize the results.

Pettit said he wanted the kids to learn the value in preserving Park County’s water resources, especially in a community that relies so much on water for its livelihood.