SUB’s WELL (Water and Electricity Learning Lab) Project helps train new scientists every day. This award-winning grant program provides a comprehensive, hands-on curriculum that teaches water quality and electricity principles to grade school and high school students throughout Springfield. It also provides funding necessary to help purchase supplies and materials for the administration of the curriculum.
Programs include water science curriculum materials, electric circuit kits, solar energy kits, a community water testing lab and activities and materials aimed at instilling a love of science in the next generation.
For more information, contact SUB at 541-744-3794 or view this video on the WELL Project:
Eugene Register-Guard article “Field Work”
Springfield students engage in hands-on research to evaluate the health of the Camp Creek watershed
By Shelby Martin
Published: Dec 6, 2008
CAMP CREEK – Thurston High School students on a quest for bugs splashed between mossy rocks and waterlogged tree stumps in a shallow creek east of Springfield Friday morning.
Two girls wearing chest waders and watertight neoprene gloves scrubbed river rocks with dishwashing brushes while, downstream, 15-year-old Jackson Stramler held a fine net to catch any insects displaced by the activity.
Meanwhile, teacher Stuart Perlmeter snatched a wriggling larva and held it up for the students’ inspection.
“This is a mayfly right here,” he said. “Do you remember how we tell it’s a mayfly?”
“Gills on the abdomen,” Stramler answered.
Perlmeter explained that the presence of mayflies tells about the stream: the larvae only live in cold water that is free of pollution. After he and his students have gathered enough insects, they’ll head back to the classroom to identify and count their specimens. Later, they’ll repeat the experiment at various sites in the Camp Creek watershed and use their findings to make conclusions about the creek’s health at different locations.
The project is part of Springfield Utility Board’s Water and Energy Learning Lab (WELL), which aims to enhance water and energy science education in Springfield schools. With additional grants from the Eugene Water & Electric Board and the National Fish and Wildlife Federation, as well as help from the McKenzie Watershed Council, Perlmeter’s students do a variety of projects.
Some teams measure water quality, assaying things like temperature, dissolved oxygen, nitrates, phosphates and ammonia. Perlmeter also leads up a habitat assessment team, which analyzes the suitability of the watershed for native species. For salmon, Perlmeter explained, the team might check for things like shade and woody debris, since healthy salmon need cool water and spawning adults need the deep, still pools afforded by submerged logs.
In addition to assessing animal habitat, Perlmeterís students offer free well water testing for Camp Creek property owners. Polluted wells indicate polluted groundwater, and might spark a search for a leaky septic system or another source of contamination.
The research on the Camp Creek watershed began in 2007, adding to other ongoing student research. Perlmeter described the importance of the project.
“It provides students with the opportunity to do hands-on field research,” he said. “It’s something they wouldn’t usually get to do at this level.”
This year, even middle school students are getting in on the action. Groups from Agnes Stewart Middle School and Springfield Middle School are planting trees and clearing blackberries along Camp Creek.
Perlmeter is a teacher with the Springfield School District, but he traded in his chalkboard for rain boots and a fishing net. He got a master’s in ecology before teaching biology at Thurston, and he used to take high school students out to research bat populations roosting under local bridges.
“I spent a lot of time as a troll under a bridge,” Perlmeter said. “Iím too old now. It’s hard to stay up late for the bats.”
Perlmeter’s schedule was more amenable to river ecology. Ten years ago, he quit teaching biology classes in order to be the full-time coordinator the WELL project. The project attracts a dedicated group of students.
“They start as freshmen and I can’t get rid of them,” he said.
Alexis Rodriguez, 15, said she heard of the opportunity in her freshman science class and was motivated to apply.
Fifteen-year-old Devon Rubio also was intrigued by the project. “I’m really an outdoors person, and when I heard we got to play with water bugs, I was like ‘Sweet!'”
“Last time I counted like 40 mayflies,” Rodriguez added.
“Sometimes we catch crawdads,’ Rubio said. “It’s really fun.”