| Amy Porter
WESTFIELD – Since the fall, Westfield State University science professors and students have been collaborating with Franklin Avenue Elementary School teachers and students to explore the Westfield River for an Adopt-a-Classroom project.
In November, Assistant Professor of Biology Dave Christensen and his college students collected river samples so elementary students could examine organisms under the microscope, categorize them using the Beck's Index Scale, and determine if the river is healthy.
“By most accounts, it was,” said Franklin Avenue Principal Christine Tolpa.
This month, Associate Professor of Chemistry & Physical Sciences Tarin Weiss and one of her students assisted the fourth graders in making a landscape to determine the effects weather has on a landform's erosion.
Students in Jean Turgeon's and Annalise Eak's classrooms built models using various materials, then observed the change that light and heavy rain caused on the landscape. They observed and took notes as their houses felt the effects of a landslide and as trees fell down their hills.
“This project gave students a better understanding of how new rivers form. Fourth graders also began to understand how pollution at the top of the river will flow down to the bottom of the river, ultimately affecting its health,” Tolpa said. She said the school is hoping to have a culminating field trip to the Watershed in the spring to observe the differences between that part of the river and downtown, depending upon time and funding.
“All participants enjoyed this relevant learning and students have gained a greater appreciation for what the Westfield River has to offer our community,” Tolpa said.
Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski, who visited the class, agreed.
“Not only were all of the students engaged in this project, they were also able to fully explain the models they had built and how erosion occurs. We are extremely appreciative to staff and students at Westfield State University for their continued collaboration in developing and implementing more authentic learning experiences for our students,” Czaporowski said.