Vermont students dive into biodiversity lessons

Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 4:25 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ROCHESTER, Vt. (WCAX) - Students in central Vermont got a soggy science lesson Wednesday afternoon as part of a hands-on program teaching the importance of biodiversity.

It’s not often you put on a wet suit for grade school science class. But in order to get out of the classroom and go underwater -- they’re necessary.

“We’re all used to seeing the top of the river but we rarely get to look underneath. So, we get to take them on like a trail hike underneath the river,” said Jeremy Mears, a biologist with the U.S. Forest Service. He oversees the Nature Watch Snorkeling Program, which began in 2017.

Set up in the White River in Rochester, this area was restored following a bad hit from Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. But Mears says it’s a perfect spot for collaborative learning.

The program is free for area fourth-through sixth graders and is designed to teach kids the importance of biodiversity early on, setting the building blocks of environmental education while these students are still young.

“The importance of forests, the importance of clean water, how important aquatic organisms are. You know, basically that this is all theirs. It belongs to all of us. It’s public land and we all need to be stewards of it,” Mears said.

Since mid-September, classes from 15 school districts in central Vermont have been heading out to the river to check out two activities -- snorkeling for fish and digging for bugs. “They could see anywhere from 5 to 11 species {of fish} here. And what it teaches them about is diversity. It also teaches them the importance of cool, deep water pools and how they’re important to Vermont rivers,” Mears said.

The bug section is also a big hit with the South Royalton students. “It’s fun to learn about bugs and it’s fun to learn about bugs with all your friends,” said 4th graders Paisley Laurette and Audrayln Clark.

While learning with friends is fun, the students and teachers say the real benefit here is getting out into the river to learn hands-on. Mears says this program is something all Vermont schools could benefit from. “It’s amazing to watch them get so excited. When they first got in, they were more worried about the cold. But as soon as they zoom on what’s going on underneath the water, you can really see them focus on and they’re really absorbing what they’re seeing. And they’re really going to take these lessons to heart,” he said.

The program wraps up for the year on Friday and Forest Service officials say they hope to expand it to more areas of Vermont in the future.