Rate Your River Program
During this program, students rotate through a variety of hands-on activities and labs aboard the Queen City “Princess” riverboat in order to obtain a snap-shot of water quality in the Ohio River. Students assess water quality by performing water testing, and by studying aquatic organisms, including fish, plankton and macroinvertebrates.
Pre-Voyage Classroom Presentation
The Rate Your River curriculum includes a pre-voyage classroom visit titled “What’s the Point?” This interactive presentation uses an EnviroScape® model to teach students about watersheds, non-point pollution and storm water runoff. The presentation is free.
Water Sampling: Students will collect water samples from the top and bottom decks of the boat using VanDorne Samplers, plankton nets and buckets. Students will visually check the clarity, temperature and odor of the samples while discussing their observations at the sampling site.
Ohio River Scavenger Hunt: Students will compete in small teams to spot items on land or in the water. Items will include landmarks such as buildings, parks, and bridges; fish and macroinvertebrate habitat; birds and mammals; and point and non-point sources of pollution.
Water Testing: Students will use colorimetric tests to measure the “Big Three” parameters that are essential for aquatic life: temperature, dissolved oxygen and pH, and will learn how they relate to each other. They will also measure turbidity (water clarity). Middle school students may also measure nutrients and E. coli as time allows in the schedule.
Go Fish!: In this activity, students work with real specimens of fish collected from the sampling site to learn about fish morphology and adaptations that allow fish to thrive in the river environment. Students also learn why fish are used as indicators of water quality.
Planktomania: Students will conduct a plankton tow and study both phytoplankton (algae) and zooplankton from the river. They will also learn how plankton can be used as a water quality indicator.
Lunch: Students bring their own food and drink and will eat lunch on-board.
Counting Critters: This activity will take place on the dock after lunch, when the boat returns to Queen City Riverboats. Students will process and examine macroinvertebrates collected from our sample site. They will work together to identify the macroinvertebrates they find and complete a Stream Quality Index.
River Report Cards Program
The River Report Cards program is designed to help students gain a comprehensive understanding of watersheds and how pollution originating within the watershed can affect water quality and aquatic organisms. During the program, students on-board the Queen City “Princess” riverboat split up into specialized groups to conduct assessments of water chemistry, fish, plankton and Ohio River food webs, using a variety of indexes used by scientists in the field. Student groups then share their results in the classroom after their trip. This program includes an extensive pre- and post-voyage curriculum that helps students better understand the work they perform on-board and the data they collect.
The pre-voyage curriculum is designed to prepare students for the concepts addressed during the riverboat cruise. The lessons included in the curriculum focus on watersheds, non-point pollution and water testing. Teachers new to the program must attend a one-day Curriculum Training Workshop in order to complete pre-voyage activities with their students. The training includes water quality testing at a local stream where all participating teachers become certified through ORSANCO’s Riverwatchers volunteer monitoring program. The training also includes hands-on instruction and materials for teachers to teach pre-voyage activities in the classroom. The workshop will be scheduled at least one month prior to the cruise. Once teachers register for the program, FORE’s director will coordinate training dates that work best for all participants. The training will take place at least one month prior to the start of the cruise season. Pre-voyage instruction will take approximately two weeks in the classroom. Teachers will receive a Watershed Toolkit that contains inquiry-based lessons, materials to complete these lessons, and optional activities.
Students will collect water quality samples from a designated monitoring site and will perform basic water chemistry tests and habitat observations. They will then split up into specialized teams to assess the quality of the monitoring site through more extensive water chemistry experiments and assessments of fish and algae communities (please note that students do not rotate). Students will also conduct habitat assessments, while studying land use and infrastructure in and around the river.
Team Water Quality: Students on this team will be determining the water quality at the monitoring site by using multi-parameter probes and bench equipment to measure dissolved oxygen, temperature, conductivity, pH turbidity, nutrients, and E. coli levels. Students will also calculate a Water Quality Index (WQI) for the monitoring site, investigating how the index is affected by different water quality parameters and the weight of these parameters in determining the water quality value.
Team Fish Assessment: At this station students will learn how fish are used to indicate water quality. Students will work with fish that have been collected from the monitoring site from ORSANCO biologists through a method called electrofishing. Students will look at the morphological characteristics of the fish and discuss adaptations that enable them to survive in the river environment. Students will then use metrics employed by ORSANCO biologists to calculate an Ohio River Fish Index (ORFIn) score, which is a method of measuring the health of fish communities in the Ohio River.
Team Ecological Impacts: Students at this station will construct food webs using insects, algae, and zooplankton collected on the boat and from the water, as well as plants and animals identified in their observations. While constructing their food webs, they will assess communities of algae and zooplankton from the monitoring site and will screen their samples for biological invaders, such as zebra mussels, that have affected ecological processes in the Ohio River.
Lunch: Students bring their own food and drink and eat lunch on-board.
Macroinvertebrate Assessment and Wrap-Up: At the end of the day, all students will gather on the dock at Queen City Riverboats to collect and process macroinvertebrates from Hester-Dendy sampling plates. Students then calculate a Stream Quality Index (SQI) using the taxa they identified.
Before dismissal, students will participate in a brief discussion to summarize the data they collected as a full group, and in their specialized groups.
On-board the floating classroom, students split up into teams, focusing on Water Quality, Ohio River Fish, or Ecological Impacts. Back in the classroom, the teams will convene to synthesize the big picture. Ideally, one member from every on-board station will meet with members from each of the other stations to compile data and discuss their findings. FORE has developed exercises and questions in our classroom curriculum that can be used to guide students through this process.