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Cool Schools: Washington STEM Academy students study lakes and streams

WARSAW, Ind. -

Sitting, writing and staring at words on the wall all day every day during the school year is not the most important part of the curriculum at Warsaw’s Washington STEM Academy.

These students aren’t confined by walls. Instead, they break them down and take learning into the outdoors.
Washington prides themselves on a unique hands-on program where kids explore Kosciusko County’s lakes and streams.

They look for macro invertebrates like mussels, larva and crayfish. Each of them are pieces to a puzzle that come together to help determine the overall health of the water they live in.

“All of this builds together when they’re learning about how they contribute as citizens and impacting the health of the streams and lakes,” said David Burden, a STEM Instructional Coach.

The city of Warsaw is looking to remove a few damns along the Tippecanoe River this October.

“One of the things that they wanted to do was evaluate the health of the streams before they remove the dam,” Burden said.

Instead of bringing in an expert who could cost thousands of dollars to complete an evaluation, the city turned to Washington’s sixth graders.

“Our students went there and had a chance to actually plug-in, get into the water, do all of the evaluations that the DNR needed and then that data will be helpful to them when they go back out next fall,” Burden said.

Students are required to complete a stream site map which lays out all of their findings.

“It helps because it shows me the story of the stream and everything that goes with it,” said Ellie Hepler, a 3rd grader at Washington.

It’s not just a learning experience that they can take into the real world, but an opportunity for them to bond with their peers.

Burden says the structure of Washington’s classes makes the school stand out.

“Washington is probably the coolest school just because of what it provides for these students,” Burden said.

The school has a few more lakes and streams trips planned in May.

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