Students in Mr. Linssen's Environmental Science class at Central High School are learning about the importance of healthy streams. And like most science classes, the students get to practice what they learn during the teacher's lecture through lab experiments.
But this year, the students got to take their lesson a step further. These juniors and seniors were able to suit-up and test the quality of the water in a stream in Coon Valley through a partnership with the DNR.
"The thing that the students are helping with... and it's a great thing because the department is short staffed and we don't often have time to get the extra data," said Jordan Weeks, senior inland fisheries biologist. "And the extra data they're going to be collecting is a lot of water chemistry stuff. And water chemistry data takes some time. It's not that it's that difficult to obtain. It just takes extra time."
The opportunity for these students to be citizen scientists was made possible through a grant from the La Crosse Public Education Foundation. With the grant money, Mr. Linssen bought waders and test kits to take his classroom outdoors.
"With that equipment that the grant provided for us, we can do chemical testing in the water, like alkalinity tests, dissolve oxygen tests, pH tests, nitrate and phosphorus tests," said Linssen. "And all those tests tells us the quality of the water."
This type of hands-on learning is important for seniors like Trent Van Egtern.
"It helps a lot more than just sitting in the classroom and learning about it," said Van Egtern. "To actually come out and do it cause then it's like... okay I understand what this chemical is and what this chemical does, and actually get to see it first-hand. I think that helps a lot."
"It's a learning experience for them. It helps us professionally. It helps the people of Wisconsin," said Weeks.
Mr. Linssen also hopes students learn about the importance of community partnerships.
"I think any student has got to realize that he or she is not alone in this world," said Linssen. "There is always going to be connections that need to be made to make their lives easier. And to make their actions more worth while."