• Lane Davis takes a look at the smoking hot work of Tristan Lambert (vest), Austin Kisselburg (opening smoker), AJ Cook (plaid with back turned), Davis McHan (hidden plaid), and Brian Brooks (not pictured). Photos by BEN KATZ
    Lane Davis takes a look at the smoking hot work of Tristan Lambert (vest), Austin Kisselburg (opening smoker), AJ Cook (plaid with back turned), Davis McHan (hidden plaid), and Brian Brooks (not pictured). Photos by BEN KATZ
  • Samantha Calascione explains how plastics in the water hurt our ecosystems to Heather Owenby, Brianna Mitchell, and Resabella Debty.
    Samantha Calascione explains how plastics in the water hurt our ecosystems to Heather Owenby, Brianna Mitchell, and Resabella Debty.
  • Connor Savugot, Angela DiCicco, Emma Hyatt, and Arryana Pressley listen as Memphis Collins, Derek DiCicco, Gabe Flaws, and Rylee Jerez talk about the importance of riparian buffers on streambanks.
    Connor Savugot, Angela DiCicco, Emma Hyatt, and Arryana Pressley listen as Memphis Collins, Derek DiCicco, Gabe Flaws, and Rylee Jerez talk about the importance of riparian buffers on streambanks.

SCOUTING AROUND: Early College students show off water projects

    Science mixed with math, history, English and art Friday as Tri-County Early College High School students presented their projects for the Water Works Aquatic Adventure Academy.
    Students had to work in teams and create projects that answered how plentiful and clean water impacts and supports natural and human communities. This was the first of three projects students complete each year incorporating work from all their classes.
    “We try to pick topics that we’ll be able to pull all of curriculum into, and be interesting to students,” Principal Alissa Cheek said.
    One attention-grabbing project was a flatboat built by Will Crayton, Allen Chambers, Coy Logan, Ethan Ennis and Bryon Velasquez. Flatboats were primarily used in the Mississippi watershed in the early-mid 1800s and about 45-50 feet in size, Velasquez said.
    Even though their teachers suggested they build only a small model of a flatboat, the boys made a 12-by-6-feet boat that can hold 2,000 pounds. They proved their calculations used in building were correct by taking it out to Hiwassee Lake with teachers and classmates.
    “We floated it on the lake, had fun and they were just blown away,” Chambers said.
    The boys let anyone who stopped by their table Friday test their own boat-building skills by asking participants to fold paper into a boat, float it in water, then test how many pennies it could hold. (Their flatboat could hold 398,000 pennies.)
    Another group used their love of art to help educate children about plastic pollution exiting our region and entering other bodies of water, specifically the Gulf of Mexico. Jade Stiles, Hugo Poole, Natasha Lambert and Haizlee Nifong created a coloring and activity book to educate children, plus held an activity where participants could turn old plastic into useful pieces of art, like a pencil holder.
    “We wanted to do something different,” Nifong said.
    AJ Cook, Austin Kisselburg, Brian Brooks, Davis McHan and Tristan Lambert turned their love of food into their project. They looked at how the health of the water impacted where the Cherokee settled and how they ate.
    They also showed how fish smoking techniques have changed, displaying a Native American-style smoking rack they built and smoking fish in a modern smoker based on the ceramic smokers primitive Native Americans used.
    “The kids always impress me and achieve more than I even imagine they would,” Cheek said. “They’ve all worked so hard. I’m proud of all of them.”
    Students from Murphy Middle, Martins Creek, Ranger and Peachtree schools were welcomed to the early afternoon session of presentations. Chad Brooks, a science teacher at Martins Creek Elementary School, was one of the teachers who brought his students to the event.
    “I’m glad that we came,” he said, adding that a lot of the projects covered topics in his eighth-grade science classes. “It will reinforce what we’ve learned.”
    Brooks thought it was meaningful for his students to learn from high school students. While he thought all the projects were very good, he especially liked the aquaponics, water quality, fog collection and Copper Basin mine projects.
    While the aquatic cleanup project by Jasmine Weaver, Tony Jenson, Landon Brown and Sylvie Vanattia let students test the pH level of local water samples, another project showed how quality can be determined by looking at the macro-invertebrates in the water. Trina Chodes, Taylor Lackey, Hailey Curran and Lane Davis collected the insects from two sections of the McComb Branch Stream. Chodes said different bugs tolerate different levels of pollution.
    “Water quality affects the organisms that are in it,” Chodes said.
    Chase McKnight, Jonah Graves, Sage Sorensen and Valen Hargett were concerned about what they saw while rafting for their project. In an area where cows were seen in the filmy water, there was a hellbender. McKnight said pollution could affect the hellbender population, which was the focus of project by Marley Kelly, Jacob Odell, Cassie Lowrance and Sireen Hargett.
    Cheek said the school tries to have all groups with mixed grade levels – freshmen with sophomores, and juniors with seniors.
    “They learn from each other so well when we mix them up like that,” Cheek said.
    Alyssa Hawkins was the sole sophomore working with freshmen Addisyn Hardin, Davie Closser and Leah Rich.
    “It wasn’t as hard as I thought,” Hawkins said of working with a team that had no experience in project-based learning. She said he helped them with the concept, what they had to incorporate and the presentation.
    “If we had a question regarding what had to done, she could assist us,” Closser said.
    Each of the 37 groups had a community mentor for their project. The Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition and Tennessee Valley Authority were the high school’s partners on the overall project theme.
    Samantha Sinclair is the Scouting Around columnist for the Cherokee Scout. You can reach her by email, scoutingaround@cherokeescout.com; fax, 837-5832; or by leaving a message in the office at 837-5122.