Lebanon zoology students learn about life in the South Santiam

Ryan Mayton crouches over, his eyes intent on the tiny pool of water at his feet.

“I’ve got it,” he says, plunging his cupped hands into the waters of Wiley Creek.

Classmate Kory Brown congratulates his friend as other students seated just yards away on the rocky stream bed, are busy with magnifying glasses, identifying the catch.

The students are members of a Lebanon Union High School zoology class taught by Lynden Brown. Its core revolves around the principles of salmon watch, devoted to protecting and enhancing environments for salmonids.

“I love it,” Kory Brown said of the program. “It is neat to come out here. We learn a lot. We see stuff we wouldn’t normally get to see.”

It is Brown’s second year in the program and Mayton’s fourth. They are both class aides as is 2001 graduate Lyndsay Starr, now a freshman at LBCC.

“My job today is showing how to catch invertebrates (bugs),” Starr said. “I’m also showing students the difference between riffles and pools and how different bugs grow in each.”

Students must find at least six bugs, worms, etc., Starr said, and draw a diagram of each. They get extra credit for any over six.

Starr said the program works because the students learn much more effectively when not in the classroom.

“They get to study animals in their natural environment,” Starr said.

Program director Gordon is emphatic about the value of the project in terms of student learning, lifelong commitment to the outdoors and community service.

Last year’s class developed signage for area boat ramps that informs users to be careful in salmon spawning areas.

Some of the stations included in the field project include fish life cycles, the importance of riparian zones, water quality, macro invertebrates (bugs) and other fish food.

Brown’s efforts are bolstered by Todd Bucholtz of the U.S. Forest Service and retired science instructor Tom Johnson. Both men have been instrumental in Sweet Home’s Ames Creek restoration project as well as local outdoor education programs.

“This is real hands-on science that makes a difference,” Brown said. “The kids will gather data and feed it to the South Santiam Watershed Council. You need good data to make good decisions.”

Bucholtz said the data can help the Watershed Council determine the best places to spend restoration funds.

Former educator Johnson said he has watched numerous students gain much more when classroom education is strengthened with hands-on training.

This year’s class numbers 32, Brown said, in grades nine through 12. A second group of students was scheduled to visit the Santiam River site just below Foster Dam on Thursday. They are to return on September 17 and 18 for follow-up.

“We want to be able to see changes over time,” Brown said. “We plan to come back several times over the school year to gather data.”

Last school year, Brown said, a similar project was undertaken at the convergence of Hamilton Creek and Scott Creek.

Bucholtz said that project was successful and yielded some interesting information, such as the find of steelhead smolt in Scotts Creek.

The development of informational signs for the public culminated the project, Brown said.

“The kids had to think about what needed to be said, how to say it, design the graphics, learn about costs and figure out a way to do it all in such a way that vandalized signs can be replaced cost effectively,” Brown said.

This year’s community service project has not been determined.

Tom Johnson said Sweet Home’s Ames Creek success has incubated expansion to the Lebanon program.

“We hope to keep on expanding our program through the South Santiam Watershed Council,” Johnson said.