Fourth grade field trip provides hands-on science lesson

G.T. Norman Elementary fourth-graders gather around a table aboard a ship to study the water samples they took from Muskegon Lake and Lake Michigan during a field trip last week. (Courtesy photos)

REED CITY — When asked about a recent trip to Muskegon, local fourth-graders are excited to talk about their educational excursion.

Through last week, G.T. Norman Elementary School students in each fourth-grade class spent a day learning about water sampling, invasive species and the various organisms living in Muskegon Lake and Lake Michigan.

After the trip out on the lakes, students conducted experiments in a classroom before returning home.

“Last year, in the spring, Cargill partnered with the Muskegon River Watershed Assembly and funded the rain garden to hold soil and keep it from eroding. In turn, they decided to fund this field trip for the fourth grade to Muskegon,” said G.T. Norman teacher Denise Nelson, who leads a science enrichment class at the school.

“We spent the last few weeks getting prepared,” Nelson said. “We talked about the watershed, PH levels and invasive species.”

Nelson said Cargill funded a charter bus to take the fourth-graders, their teachers and chaperones out to a ship on Muskegon Lake. On the lake, students took three water samples that were later compared to three samples student took on Lake Michigan.

“After being on the boat, we went to a classroom and did experiments,” said student Molly Carlson.

Carlson noted one experiment done on the ship involved a secchi disk, a disk mounted on a line or pole and lowered into the water. Once the disk was no longer visible, a measurement was taken of the water’s transparency. Her peers, Marlowe Walcott and Ira Spaugh, said the group also learned about lake organisms.

“I learned about the different creatures that live in the lake and how they affect it,” Spaugh said.

Spaugh said a ponar grab sampler was used to bring organisms, such as blood worms, phantom midges or glassworms, zebra mussels and more, up from the bottom of the lake for observation.

“The trip went well. The kids were super excited,” Nelson said.

Nelson hopes from this trip, her students take away knowledge of what happens with water in the watershed, invasive species and how to help control them and the process of testing scientific experiments.


Posted by Meghan Gunther-Haas

Meghan is the education reporter for the Pioneer and Herald Review. She can be reached at (231) 592-8382 or by email at

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