A group of boys wearing heavy rubber boots splashed around a stream at the Carroll County Farm Museum, picking up rocks and leaves while hunting for macroinvertebrates.
The boys were among the sixth-grade students from Shiloh Middle School who are currently attending the Carroll County Outdoor School. The students were at the farm museum Thursday to take part in Earth Day activities and to learn more about the environment.
The kids went to four different stations on the farm museum property. The stream station, where the kids hunted for little creatures, was led by Byron Madigan, a water resources supervisor with the Carroll County government.
Looking for macroinvertebrates helps determine if a stream is healthy. A healthy stream with clean water will have many organisms and a diversity of macroinvertebrates, Madigan said.
As the kids hunted for rocks and leaves, they shouted out when they found something new.
The stream was the favorite part of the day for Nathan Benjamin, 12, and Isaiah Redding, 11.
"I learned that there's a variety of organisms living in a stream everywhere," Nathan said.
It was his favorite part because they got to see the organisms and learn how they leave the stream, he said.
Isaiah said his group caught a fish. To catch the fish, the kids would do what Madigan calls the "bug shuffle." They would plant their nets into the stream and shuffle their feet back and forth to push the macroinvertebrates into the nets.
Madigan said it was good that the children got to come out on a field trip like the one Thursday because it let them see the "natural world."
"Most kids don't realize all that was in the stream. They just see it as running water," Madigan said.
In addition to the stream, the students also planted trees, learned about bioretention buffers and toured stormwater management facilities, said Colleen Ensor, a Carroll County government employee who organized the field trip.
The outdoor school and Carroll County government's Bureau of Resource Management have been partnering for three years to allow the kids to learn about their environment.
"We think it's important to have this annual event for Earth Day so the kids can see what the government is doing to improve our environment," Ensor said.
Joe Stevens, a teacher at the outdoor school, said the Earth Day event helps get the kids out in the community they live in.
"I think the biggest thing we try to do at the outdoor school is try to teach them how to solve an outdoor problem," Stevens said.
Taking care of the environment will ultimately help their family and friends in the long run. At the outdoor school, they are trying to have the kids understand that "the environment gives them what they need," he said.
One way they got to give back Thursday was through planting flowers, shrubs and trees. The planting was J.T. Calhoun's favorite part "because you got to get down and dirty," he said.
"This week I learned that you put trees there [along streams]. It'll make the water cleaner," 12-year-old J.T. said.
Bridget Dever, 12, also liked planting. She helped plant flowers as a way to help bioretention. The roots will help clean the water, and then clean water will go to the Chesapeake Bay instead of dirty water.
She said it was important the class learned about the environment, "'Cause we need to learn how to take better care of the environment so we don't pollute it."