Kids wade into learning about creek

Jul. 16, 2014 @ 06:47 AM

The squeals and shouts of children’s voices echoed through the thick trees at the Tuttle Educational State Forest.

“Come here! Give me a bowl!”

“He’s trying to pinch the stick!”

“Chicken!”

A group, led by 14-year-old Bryson Penley, were eagerly trying to capture a crawdad in a Tupperware container. However, the speckled beast refused to be taken without a fight, and the children were too nervous to reach into the creek and pick him up.

The children splashed about in the creek not because they were bored or hot on the humid July day. Instead, they were learning about invertebrates, the water cycle and determining how healthy a stream is as part of the Environmental Stewardship program offered by Caldwell County’s 4-H program. Each day Monday through Thursday, the club members are traveling to different counties to learn about the environment. On Tuesday, they visited Tuttle State Education Forest in southwest Caldwell for Ranger Scott Leatherwood’s water conservation program.

Nine kids sat on wooden benches in the middle of Tuttle and listened to Leatherwood explain the water cycle, the importance of mud puddles and what types of critters they would find in the creek. All around them, the forest hummed with cicadas.

Leatherwood handed out clear plastic Tupperware containers. He explained that salamanders, crawdads, dobsonfly, periwinkle snails and more lived in the shallow creek and that the presence of these animals showed how healthy the creek was. The children were allowed to pick up stones, dig in the mud and overturn sticks to find the creatures.

“This is sort of like fishing,” Leatherwood said. “This is up to y'all.”

Immediately, the young explorers took to the water and almost instantly found periwinkle snails clinging to the tops of the slippery black rocks. Their hard shells were speckled black and brown, and long antennae grew from the sides of their head.

“There are lots of those, aren’t there?” said Lisa Deal, 4-H program assistant. “That’s the sign of a good stream.”

Ten minutes later, Penley found the crawdad. Unfortunately, he and his friends were not able to pin that one down. Less than an hour later Penley did catch two, one smaller than a pointer finger and the other that fit nicely in the palm of a hand.

Trent Ashburn, 13, and Mack Waters, 11, captured a small, brown salamander.

“He was just swimming over there,” Mack said. “I just swooped him up and put him in. At first, I was trying to get him off the rock, and then he slipped off the rock.”

Most of the children took to the water like aquatic creatures themselves, but Raye Stan, 11, took her time to read carefully over the rocks. Still, her large tennis shoes hurt her from making precise, steady steps, and she kept falling off the rocks's smooth surface. Finally, she decided that wearing shoes just was not worth it.

“I’m going to take my shoes off and hope they dry,” Raye said. xxx  she slipped and gave a squeak of a scream. “I hope I don’t fall face-first in the creek!”

Raye said that she enjoys outdoor activities on occasion.

“(It) depends on if there are any spiders,” she said, dropping her voice to a whisper. “I don’t like spiders.”