Teachers usually don’t encounter bloodworms or crane fly larvae in their classrooms, but some local educators got up close and personal with the creepy crawlies this week.
A few of the more daring teachers donned rain boots and waded through Mingo Creek to find them.
About 30 teachers from four area school districts participated in a professional development program called HQ-TEEMS: Highly Qualified Teachers in Exceptional Education, Math and Science. The program, led by California University of Pennsylvania professors, was made possible by a five-year, $500,000 grant from the federal Department of Education.
The goal of the program, and its hands-on lesson about stream ecology and the food chain, is to help special education teachers in all grade levels enhance their teaching skills in the math and science fields. Participating teachers came from Washington School District, Connellsville Area School District, Mon Valley School and California Area School District.
At Mingo Creek County Park Tuesday, teachers huddled around a picnic table and shouted out the names of each worm and fly that had been placed in a petri dish.
Teachers collected the insects by “kick netting,” or kicking their feet in the creek to dislodge organisms from the streambed, sending them into a net. Participants caught stone flies, mayflies, damsel flies, bloodworms, rainbow darters, crayfish, water pennies and crane fly larvae, to name a few.
Geri Karinchak, a first-grade teacher in Connellsville Area School District, said she didn’t realize streams contained such a diverse array of life.
“I mean, really, there’s so many different things in there,” she said. “You know, you think fish, crayfish, but (there’s also) all these little tiny insects.”
Jason Kight, a Cal U. special education professor who helped lead the stream activity, said the program could easily be replicated at any school with a pond or stream nearby. He said any student would enjoy getting out of the classroom and learning outdoors.
“It makes you think about how many times you walk in a stream or sit down in a stream, and all those things are crawling around you,” Kight said. “It’s wild how much life is in there.”