Two Saratoga High School teachers were seeking real world scientific and environmental education for their students, and sought out the experience and assistance of the Lake George Association in November to help develop an applied science component to their curriculums.
“It was a great opportunity to share some of our experience working in and protecting the Lake George watershed, and the students really developed into stewards whose focus is on water quality,” said Lindsey Kenna, Environmental Educator for the Lake George Association.
LGA Water Quality Specialist Dr. Jeremy Farrell assisted Lindsey with the program and with the students from Saratoga Pathways Academy, an interdisciplinary program at Saratoga High School focusing on STEM Education.
Jody Viconti and Chris Conley, math and biology teachers in the program, wanted to create a semester-long project to get students out of the classroom and into the field and expose to them some of the threats affecting Lake George and the surrounding watershed.
In consultation with the teachers and students, the curriculum project began with a focus on measuring salt in Lake George, and how much was being added via the West Brook watershed. Students worked at the West Brook Conservation Initiative site, which includes the natural stormwater treatment process that was installed a few years ago on the site of the old Charley’s Saloon.
West Brook, the focus of the students work, is one of the eight major streams in the watershed, and flows down from near Prospect Mountain and under the Northway, right down to the head of the Lake.
The other major streams are: East Brook, English Brook, Finkle Brook, Indian Brook, Northwest Bay Brook, Hague Brook and Shelving Brook.
Over four visits to the West Brook Environmental Park, students sampled the water from a storm drain to test the salinity and track the water flow rate over the course of winter and spring (the sampling trips took place in December, January, April and May). On the final site visit in May, students were exposed to the stream testing regimen that the LGA uses to test stream conditions throughout the watershed by collecting, identifying and comparing the number and type of pollution-sensitive macroinvertebrate samples were taken from two separate locations in West Brook: A more secluded section and a more urbanized section. These two areas are split by the Northway and distinctly different in regard to vehicle traffic and potential salt runoff.
Interest in the health of Lake George grew quickly, and the class expanded its outlook to include concern about the threat of invasive species, something the Lake George Association has a great deal of experience with. The Lake George Association introduced the voluntary Lake Steward program in 2008 that included voluntary boat and trailer inspections for invasive species, which evolved into the current Mandatory Boat Inspection program.
In 2018 alone, the LGA will invest more than $130,000 to support the Mandatory Boat Inspection Program as well as to remove invasive Eurasian watermilfoil from Lake George.
As part of their curriculum, the students began exploring different terrestrial and aquatic invasive species that already exist in the watershed or are close enough to be considered a threat. For their final projects for the class, students were tasked with researching and attempting to find a potential solution to either an invasive species or stormwater threat in Lake George.
On May 30, students presented their final projects in a symposium style event at Saratoga High School. Teachers and students were invited to walk around and discover the solutions each student or group came up with to combat their chosen issue facing the Lake George Watershed. Students crafted various mock up technologies, tools and recipes to eradicate various invasive species or chemicals from the watershed, all while incorporating their original salt data.
Ideas ranged from using the plant alfalfa in lieu of road salt, alternative benthic barriers for invasive species and even incorporating invasives into desirable cuisine. Each student worked hard and showed dedication over the course of the seven-month project. Their hands-on experience and field work allowed them to better understand the threats to Lake George’s water quality – or the quality of any water body – and allowed them to think outside of the box when it came to experimenting with different solutions for the various threats.