Crosslake Community School students are incorporating the nearby lake into their science classes.

While her science class already had water testing supplies, middle school science teacher Miranda Graceffa welcomed additional donations that she incorporated into an outdoor, hands-on lesson plan that satisfies state standards.

"Their ultimate goal is to assess the water quality and human impact," Graceffa said," for the Whitefish Chain or watersheds just in general. And their ultimate goal is to design solutions to help reduce their impacts or human impact on water quality."

Jacob Sievert uses a net to search for macroinvertebrates which serve as bioindicators at the Crosslake Campground boat ramp on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. 
Travis Grimler / Echo Journal
Jacob Sievert uses a net to search for macroinvertebrates which serve as bioindicators at the Crosslake Campground boat ramp on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

Graceffa had test supplies that her class was already using; however, the donation of additional materials greatly expanded the range of factors they are able to measure in the nearby bodies of water.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

In addition to a secchi disk for reading water clarity, nets for compiling a survey of living water quality indicators like invertebrates along the shoreline and several other testing items, Graceffa's class now has an electronic conductivity tester and supplies for testing for bacteria, dissolved oxygen, nitrogen, nitrates, phosphates, pH and turbidity.

The testing took place near the dam in Crosslake on Thursday, Oct. 7, and Friday, Oct. 8.

"We went to two sites above and below the dam," Graceffa said. "Below the dam they found a temperature difference and a point of pollution and a huge difference in conductivity. There was also a difference in nitrates, though that was a little harder to read."

Teacher Miranda Graceffa tries to help student Justin Sievert identify a green blob found in the water at the Crosslake Campground boat ramp during a search for macroinvertebrates that serve as bioindicators on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. 
Travis Grimler / Echo Journal
Teacher Miranda Graceffa tries to help student Justin Sievert identify a green blob found in the water at the Crosslake Campground boat ramp during a search for macroinvertebrates that serve as bioindicators on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

The point of pollution students found was a channel that runoff follows down the banks and into the water. The runoff contains pollutants from nearby.

In addition to test materials, the classroom received a physical watershed module that allows students to demonstrate and observe runoff and pollutants on a smaller, more controllable scale.

"We also got a watershed game to help understand the social implications of water quality as well," Graceffa said.

The Whitefish Area Property Owners Association provided the additional supplies. Graceffa is a WAPOA board member.

"The kit came from a partnership with WAPOA to help students better understand their impact on water quality in the Brainerd lakes region," Graceffa said.

Lilija Corbett tests for dissolved oxygen at the Crosslake Campground boat ramp on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. 
Travis Grimler / Echo Journal
Lilija Corbett tests for dissolved oxygen at the Crosslake Campground boat ramp on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

The project isn't limited to Graceffa's class, as some supplies are being shared with Mara Powers and Colin Williams with Crosslake Community School and Deanne Trottier at Eagle View Elementary School in Breezy Point. In addition to testing supplies there are books and learning materials for grades 3-4. Lessons include: Wonderful Watersheds, Incredible Journey, an invasive species wanted poster, student assessment of water use at home, information on common loon water needs and books on indigenous stories.

There is a water pledge at the end of the unit. WAPOA created a "Color the Fish" coloring book about the Whitefish Chain and distributed it to these classes.

Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or travis.grimler@pineandlakes.com.