When students from Amidon Elementary School in southwest DC boarded The Half Shell for a cruise on the Anacostia and Potomac rivers, you could feel the buoyancy—and it wasn’t just coming from the water. These 18 third-graders could barely contain their enthusiasm. Though a few students were a little nervous, life jackets and a thorough safety lesson calmed down any jitters.
One little boy couldn’t stop smiling, his eyes darting from left to right, as if he was afraid he might miss something. He turned to his seat-mate and said, “I’m so excited. I’ve never been on a boat before.”
This is one aspect of the RESET experience that is less tangible but no less valuable. For many students from low-income neighborhoods RESET is not just about getting to do hands-on science with real scientists. Many are having first-time life experiences that expand their world and stay with them forever.
In the fall, Mrs. Dawn Gray’s class at Amidon had been working with a RESET volunteer on various environmental science experiments. Their field trip with Living Classrooms put the finishing touch on topics covered with the children that term during their RESET sessions: the role of nutrients in plant growth, characteristics of water, the hydrological cycle, pollution, water and wastewater treatment, wetlands, and fossils.
Once on board the students were divided into three smaller groups, the self-named “DC Ducks,” “Catfish” and “Clean Water,” who were sent to one of three experiential learning stations. At the bow end of the boat one group extracted a water sample with a Van Dorn tube to measure the pH, temperature, and oxygen level of the water. A second group at the stern took a plankton specimen from the water, made a slide of it and examined it under a video microscope. The third group got to try their hands at being sailors, with each student getting a chance to take the helm under “Captain Dave’s” watchful eye. Every 15 minutes or so the groups switched so that everyone got to do all three activities. When they were done and the boat turned back towards shore, the class “went fishing.” After throwing in a net and hauling their catch onto the deck, the children got to touch and examine baby white perch, snails and clams before returning them to their watery habitats.
The science cruise is just one of the many field trip venues RESET delivers without charge to students or schools. Other field trip destinations include: the National Electronics Museum, DC’s Koshland Science Museum, NASA, and the Glenn L. Martin Wind Tunnel at the University of Maryland.