COLORADO SPRINGS — A group of Cheyenne Mountain Junior High School students are getting hands-on experience as the school’s conservation club hit a record year in their annual fish census.
The Cheyenne Creek Conservation Club at CMJHS has been around for 26 years. Every day students in the club watch a 100-foot stretch of Cheyenne Creek to learn more about the environment and why it’s important to protect it.
David Eick, a science teacher at the school and advisor of the club said over the last 23 years, a fish count has been done each Fall to determine the health of the fish population as another way to measure and monitor the overall health of Cheyenne Creek, a suburban waterway on the west side of town.
Usually, they collect 20-30 fish samples, but this is a record year for the students, as 40 fish samples were collected.
“It started with the idea that we had a school here that was sitting on the creek and we felt like it was a resource flowing through the community to be tapped for education,” Eick said.
Under the guidance of Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials, using River Watch approved scientific techniques, students collect fish samples, and then identify, weigh, and measure them. The fish are later returned to the creek.
“It’s neat for the kids to be able to monitor that and feel like they have a part in protecting that and they are doing real science not just some experiment for a paper they are going to turn in at school,” Eick said.
The data they collect is used by CPW officials and local nature organizations to give them data on how the river is doing and how its habitat is changing.
“Seeing the kids get excited about real science doing a real thing it’s in their neighborhood and I always say if you want to learn more about the environment and you want to protect the environment better to start in your backyard,” Eick said.
For the students, it’s a way to get real experiences outside of a textbook.
“This club is incredibly hands-on because we get to go out into the creek almost every meeting and we do our testing and it’s not that Mr. Eick does it it’s that we as the students get to all on our own,” Madison Turner, 8th grader at CMJHS said.
Eick said over the years, samples pulled from the creek have revealed a generally healthy population, with trout of various sizes and ages. In the last decade, however, the species varieties discovered have gone from brookies and rainbow trout down to only brown trout.
“Its people, science, and purpose. Real people doing real science for a real purpose and that’s what really gets the kids excited,” Eick said.