MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

January 22, 2011

Fort Gibson students learn conservation

Eighth graders aren’t typically relied upon to save the world.

Sheryl Cheadle, of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, recently informed a Fort Gibson science class otherwise.

“I think the outdoors calls out to all of us,” she said during her presentation to Tammy Delmedico’s students. “Introduce yourself to the things that are going on.”

Delmedico, in her 21st year teaching at Fort Gibson Middle School, said the presentation was suggested by a student in the Eco-Club.

It was given to all eighth graders throughout the day which, Delmedico said, demonstrated the school’s dedication to ecology.

“I’m glad my kids heard someone saying the same things I do,” she said.

Cheadle, accompanied by the Muskogee County Conservation District’s Trish Kloeckler, began with a discussion of Blue Thumb, an educational program within the OCC’s Water Quality division.

Though early morning students were initially groggy and quiet, Cheadle’s energetic delivery brought them up to speed.

“How many of you want jobs in science?” she asked the class.

No one raised their hand, but students giggled at Cheadle’s dry reaction: “Okay, how many of you like science at all?”

Once she had the class’ attention, Cheadle discussed Blue Thumb’s goal of reducing “nonpoint pollution.”

“Nonpoint pollution is pollution we can’t pinpoint. We can’t tell where it comes from,” Cheadle said.

Run off from lawns and parking lots could contain toxic chemicals which flow through gutters and storm drains. These chemicals end up in the river, damaging local wildlife, she explained.

Cheadle said students as young as 14 could contact Blue Thumb to volunteer as “water monitors,” checking local water sources for chemicals or impurities.

As for every day cleanliness efforts, she stressed frequent lawn mowing, careful application of pesticides, and even caution while fueling a car.

“Though none of you will be driving for a while — or at least I hope,” she said to more giggles, “Make sure you hold the nozzle in the tank.”

Otherwise, gas would run off into the drains, she added.

As the presentation wound down, the lights came back up and students were asked to make a certificate for themselves using a fish stamp and paint.

Delmedico was pleased with the discussion, which was timed with the class studies on ecology.

“It’s a passion I’ve always had,” she said. “If we don’t take care of the planet, the planet won’t take care of us.”

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