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In the Classroom: Northwest High chemistry class collects Pawnee Creek research samples

Posted at 4:16 PM, Oct 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-25 17:57:55-04

Students at Northwest High got down and dirty this morning at the Wildlife Safari Park in Ashland

It was no field trip for the chemistry class. Instead, they were researchers for the day. Going into Pawnee Creek and collecting water samples, as well as macroinvertebrates, or water bugs.

"They ran right into the tents, grabbed boots, into the water, they were mucking around, they were grabbing samples and turning over stones and we're really getting to know what those macroinvertebrates are," Pam Eby, education manager at Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo’s Wildlife Safari Park.

Students conducted field tests and will send samples to UNO to determine how clean the water is. 

"There's just a lot of chemicals that come off from the roads and a lot of the nearby places, golf balls from a golf course near here can harm the animals if they get near it," said Aramas Elias, a sophomore at Northwest High. 

Instructors also reminded kids they can do this at home. 

"We want to teach kids how easy it is, to go into your local streams and local rivers — or maybe in a creek in their backyard — turn over a stone and look at the macroinvertebrates that are there, and they can determine themselves how clean that water is," Eby said.

While some may do it as a hobby, students like junior Austin Hampshire are looking into studying biochemistry in college and hope to take lessons learned today into a future science career.

"This is all about the ecosystem and how soil quality, water quality, PH levels, how it all affects the ecosystem, the plants and animals that live here."

Once UNO tests the samples, they won't go to waste. The zoo will then use the results gathered by the high schoolers, as a baseline for future studies. 

"You can read in a book and might not understand but when you go and actually do it for yourself, it gives you a better understanding of what's going on," said Loriane Gunubu, a junior at Northwest.