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FHS students collaborate at Camp Cullom

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NATURAL CLASSROOM: Frankfort High School students listen to a Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources staff member on Monday at Camp Cullom.
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COLLECTING: Frankfort High School students, from left, David Mendoza and Logan Hundley collect samples of benthic macroinvertebrates, which are insects that live part of their life cycle on the bottom of bodies of water.

By AARON KENNEDY - akennedy@ftimes.com

Frankfort High School students got knee-deep into their studies Monday at Camp Cullom thanks to the Teachers and Researchers Advancing Integrated Lessons in STEM (TRAILS) program.

“It is a national science foundation grant that pairs science teachers with engineering teachers to do cooperative lessons,” said FHS biology teacher Shelbi Fortner. “They have been at it for a while. Todd Kelley is the associate professor from Purdue Polytechnic who has been our direct contact at Purdue. Aaron Blount (a FHS technology and engineering teacher) and I started (participating) last summer.”

On Monday, the students came to the creek at Camp Cullom to observe benthic macroinvertebrates while FHS science teacher Isaac Field's students participated in water quality testing with the assistance of Leah Harden, the district administrator for the Clinton County Soil and Water Conservation District.

“We were having students observe insects that live at the bottom of the waterway,” Fortner said. “They are an important part of the food chain in that fish eat them. They are also water quality indicators. Our students were observing what they look like and how they move.”

Fortner says her students, paired with Blount's engineering students, will make their observations and then engineer and 3-D print fishing lures designed to move like benthic macroinvertebrates.

“So, they will be back at Camp Cullom on April 26 to test the lures,” she said. “That is the engineering aspect. That is the cool, collaborative part between the engineering students and science students. They will watch movements in the pool in the high school and then redesign the lure and make adjustments. Once they have done that, we will take them back to Camp Cullom and try them out in the creek. The engineering process is a whole thing. Lots of work goes into it and collaborative tests.”

Fortner was appreciative of the extensive amount of information that Harden was able to provide her students.

“It was so cool listening to her talk to kids about crazy things about these insects,” Fortner said. “She is a wealth of knowledge that I will definitely be tapping into in the future. Leah set up Camp Cullom and brought out the tools that we need. She made it all super easy.”

And she says her students had a great time at Camp Cullom.

“They learned a lot of stuff and had experiences they don't get to have all the time,” Fortner said. “They got to spend time in the sunshine, which you don't always get to do this time of year. They have not gotten into the collaborative part yet. But it we are excited to see what they come up with.”