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October 02. 2012 8:28PM

River water testing puts students on top of it all


Students at Henniker Community School will head out into the Contoocook River on Friday in rafts, like these students did last year, to study the science and nature of water. (Courtesy)

HENNIKER — Fifth grade students from the Henniker Community School are getting their feet wet while studying the history and nature of the Contoocook River with the help of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

For the last five years, Community School science teacher Donna Furlong has taken her 5th grade students onto the Contoocook River in rafts to study the Contoocook, measuring the depth and width of the river, and testing the water for acidity and for compounds like phosphorus and dissolved oxygen.

“Not only does Donna's river study project have kids studying watersheds and land forms, she has them in rubber rafts on the Contoocook taking water samples and studying the chemical properties of the water,” said Principal Katherine McBride. “Now that's lively teaching.”

The students will also be exploring the path a raindrop that lands on Pats Peak, a nearby mountain, takes to get to the river.

“This year we've added a few things to the project,” said Furlong. “We'll be working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers mapping the watershed of the Contoocook, and when we're finished students really will know where that raindrop from the Peak ends up.”

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Park Ranger Karen Hoey will also be coming into Furlong's classroom to talk with students about the Great Flood of 1938 and how it affected businesses and those who lived in Henniker at the time, especially those who lived along the Contoocook River. The flood, caused by a massive hurricane, was part of the impetus behind the creation of the Hopkinton Dam, Hoey said.

“We have a lot of pictures that show what the area looked like before the dam was built and what it looked like after,” said Hoey. “We can also show them what water can look like when it's out of control. It's going to be very eye-opening for them.”

Furlong will also integrate technology into the river study project by collaborating with the school's Technology Integration Specialist, Leanne Chauvette.

“Adding technology to projects whenever you can is a must in teaching today,” said Furlong. “During various stages of the project, my students will be taking still pictures and video with Mrs. Chauvette and creating audio podcasts. All of this information will be placed on a dedicated site to share with others.”

The first phase of the river study project will begin Friday as the students and teachers go on to the Contoocook River to gather water samples and take measurements.

nfoster@newstote.com


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