Field Trip Critters

I teach middle school, first and foremost, because I love kids that age and love sharing books and writing with them.  Reason #2?  Probably the field trips.  I have never quite gotten over that feeling I used to get in second grade when I’d arrive at school, see the yellow buses waiting outside, and know that we were leaving.  Walking right out of the building to go to an official interesting place.

My seventh graders and I went to one of those places on the Burlington, VT waterfront today.  We took a trip on the University of Vermont’s research vessel, the Melosira.  If you teach and live within striking distance, I highly recommend this trip.  My group started the day with some activities in the lab, then ate lunch and climbed on board for a variety of lake-science activities.

Our guides used this special net to collect plankton samples for examination under the boat’s two dissecting microscopes.

This little filmy-looking guy is from a group of Zooplankton called Cladocerans.

After everyone had a turn at the microscopes, our guides used a special benthic sled to dredge up some creatures from the bottom of the lake.

Just what was he holding that was getting all that attention?  One small crayfish, some snails, and a couple caddisfly larvae.

Of course zebra mussels, an issue in Lake Champlain since the mid-90s made up the majority of our haul. 

The kids loved poking through them, though, to see what else they could find.  We also spotted a leech, several kinds of mayfly larvae, and this tiny, tiny blood worm.


If our boaters looked a little chilly in the photos, it’s because the weather didn’t entirely cooperate.  We finally saw the sun as we headed back into Burlington Harbor, though – a perfect end to a perfectly fascinating afternoon.

11 Replies on “Field Trip Critters

  1. Loved seeing this. Believe it or not, I once used a benthic sledge myself, back in my long-ago college days. It’s amazing what lives in the deeps!

  2. What a great field trip – I’m sure you made the day fun despite the weather!

    The word “benthic sledge” is fun to say and new to me. I think I might have had one during the neolithic age and I used it to pull mastodon carcasses around on the ice. No, that’s not it. Actually, I do believe it is the green stuff that grows all over the bottom of my pond in the back yard. No, that’s not it, either.

    Benthic sledge. I love learning new things. Thanks for sharing, Kate.

  3. They actually called it a benthic sled, though now that I’ve googled it, I see you can use either term. I like sled better – particularly when I picture you with the mastodons.

    Anyway…we had fun.

  4. I had alot of fun on the boat. That was the best part of the trip. When we went it was a rickedy experience. I almost fell over a bunch of times cause the boat was moving so much. Still though all, all of it over all was super.
    I got a bunch of pictures of the Zebra Muscles. I am going to try to take them off of my phone and put them up on my blog. 🙂
    How was the second day on the trip?