Last updated: July 30. 2014 4:10PM - 1596 Views
By Bob Fala

DEP's Ben Lowman shows the “Step by Step” students that a hellgrammite can reflexively bite when its pincers are touched.
DEP's Ben Lowman shows the “Step by Step” students that a hellgrammite can reflexively bite when its pincers are touched.
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Nothing like having a living laboratory right on campus! So it is for Huff Creek, just streamside to Man Central’s K-8 school grounds.
The stream is literally teeming with aquatic life from wolf spiders and water snakes to hellgrammites and bass, oh my. With the help of school staff, AmeriCorps volunteers and WVDEP Mining and Reclamation biologists, some 25 students got their feet wet and did some “live” sampling for a day’s outdoor lab class.
Per site coordinator Tasha Gibson, the students are voluntary within part of the federally granted “After School” and “Step by Step” programs. These kids are there because they want to learn more on their own. The programs have a science, technology, engineering and math angle. Stream ecology was this day’s agenda and there was no shortage of critters to greet them.
The program was led by DEP Biologist Ben Lowman with help from Kevin Seagle and Chris Harvey. They used dip nets, electro-fishing and some plain old-fashioned rock turning to make their varied discoveries. What’s more, the abundance in numbers and types of critters signify that Huff Creek boasts some very good water quality. Good water quality is obviously good for people too.
When Lowman held up a dandy hellgrammite specimen and asked, “Does anybody know what this insect will turn into?” Nine-year old Cortlyn Dean quickly and correctly answered, “Dobsonfly” to his amazement.
AmeriCorps volunteers Montana Adkins and Dana Bartley also helped out and seemed to enjoy the outdoor “biology” class as much as the students. Crawdads, mayflies, caddis-flies, stoneflies, dragonflies and a host of fish species including some nice smallmouth and rock bass were all “caught” and released via some technique.
Lowman wanted to remind the folks that yes, even the water snake and wolf spiders were unharmed. Each of us can help our local streams get even better by not littering, taking proper care of our sanitary sewer systems and be extra careful with our driveways, house seats and other activities that could cause sediment to enter the stream channel unchecked.

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