AP Environmental Classes Embark on First Ecology Trip

Macroinvertebrate testing. Transect sampling. Water quality testing. These are just a few of the scientific processes that AP Environmental Science students conducted on a field trip to the Devil’s Den Preserve in Weston.

The AP class, which has traditionally taken just one field trip late in the year to a local wastewater treatment center, recently altered its curriculum to allow for multiple field trips.

“This year, we wanted to give the kids a real field experience,” AP Environmental Science teacher Michael Aitkenhead said.

“Most of the hands-on things we’ve done for the class have been on campus or in the classroom. We wanted to show students what it is like to be real field ecologists and try out real field techniques.”

The other AP Environmental Science teacher, Heather Morley, agrees: “We talk and talk in the classroom, but we never actually get out to see and experience the things we talk about. It’s great to give students the opportunity to get out there and actually try these things.”

At the preserve, students hiked almost two miles, studied soil chemistry, analyzed river pH and nitrate levels, and played a game that simulated the experience of various roles in the food chain.

Aitkenhead says that doing so many lab activities at the preserve gives both him and Morley more time to move forward with the curriculum in the classroom.

“We honestly had much more planned, but when you’re out here, time seems to go much more quickly,” Aitkenhead added.

Since the AP Environmental Science course has such a high enrollment this year—there are five sections split between Aitkenhead and Morley—students were offered three different dates to take the trip. The first trip took place on September 16, the second trip on September 19, and the final trip will be next Monday, the 26th.

Students have generally responded positively to this trip; some actually pleading for the trip to happen every week.

“I thought the trip was insightful,” Anya Kostenko ’13 said. “I really learned a lot.”

Erica Stein ’13 says that going to the Devil’s Den preserve was not only interesting, but it connected her more closely to the environment.

At this point, Aitkenhead believes that the trip will happen again in years to come, with some improvements to be added.

“I mean, it’s not intense hiking and camping,” Morley said, “so I think it’s a good thing that students get out of their usual comfort zone.”