Abington Friends School BioBlitzed!

Emilie Wetzel
Oct 8, 2018

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Guest blog by Rasheeda Murphy from Abington Friends School

The week of September 15th, TTF and members of both the upstream and downstream communities of our watershed came together to participate in a week long BioBlitz.

A BioBlitz is an event during which a group of people get together to document as many species as possible (animals, plants, insects, and more!) in a certain area, usually in the course of 24 hours. There were six events hosted across the watershed throughout the week by staff and community members, as well as many others making observations on their own time.

Two events were held upstream in Montgomery County at Abington Friends School and Curtis Arboretum. Four events also took place in Philadelphia, at Ramona Gateway, Whitaker Gateway, Fisher Park and Frankford Creek. During our Fall BioBlitz, we had close to 1,000 observations of nearly 300 species by a total of 81 different people and organizations.

2018 Fall Bioblitz
Events like this are critical in helping monitor the health of the watershed, identifying species that indicate good health as well as harmful species. Many of the groups and people who participated enjoyed the event very much. Here is one story connecting our schools within the watershed to nature using technology, told by Lower School teacher Rasheeda Murphy from Abington Friends School.

 “This summer, an email from the Tookany-Tacony/Frankford Watershed Partnership announced the launch of the TTF Fall 2018 BioBlitz and requested volunteers to host Mini BioBlitzes in locations that are part of the Tookany-Tacony/Frankford Watershed. I knew this would be a wonderful opportunity to get our students and their families outside to fellowship with one another while continuing to encourage exploration, research, environmental stewardship, and most importantly fun while spending time at the headwaters of the Jenkintown Creek which happens to run through our school campus. One of the main components I as a science teacher looked forward to was the incorporation of technology into the project. Before this opportunity, I had never used the iNaturalist app and had been searching for an easy to use application to help identify things in nature that I was unfamiliar with, especially while taking nature walks with my students and my own family.

As I gathered recruits from the lower, middle, and upper schools to invite their classes to participate in the Mini BioBlitz, Ryan Neuman from TTF was very hands on helping us configure our event and held a professional development to train our faculty to use the iNaturalist application. During the training we reviewed how to view and become a part of different nature based projects that are going on around the world and also how to create our own. We also went outside and learned how to take pictures within the application and how to upload pictures from our device cameras into the application. Finally, we learned how to identify species on our own and also how to allow suggestions from others to help name species we found. After the training I felt confident that I could also encourage my youngest early childhood classes to become a part of the Mini BioBlitz and that they even could utilize the iNaturalist application to learn more about nature.

Of course there was torrential rainfall on the day we were scheduled to host our Mini BioBlitz. That did not stop us from moving forward. Because of the rain we had to complete the project during our regularly scheduled class times which hindered most families’ ability to join in the event. Instead, the regular classroom teachers, classroom cooperating teachers, science teachers, and sometimes even TTF’s Ryan Neuman went out and helped guide the students through using the application and documenting the different species of plants and animals living within our part of the watershed.

Our students absolutely loved the experience of the Mini BioBlitz because they knew they were a part of something larger than our normal nature walk explorations and that the larger thing they were doing was helping the world know more about where we live. The other part they loved was their ability to use Ipads as they explored. It is not often during our science classes that thoughts of the organic natural world and technology intersect in ways that allow physical exploration and research to take place at the same time.

 Since completing our portion of the BioBlitz my students have been so excited to follow up on the application. For each grade level in the lower school, I have dedicated a day of science class to review the content they added to the TTF Fall 2018 BioBlitz page. They were overjoyed to find that they contributed the most photo entries and also to see that there are actually real people who are helping to identify all of the different species of plants and animals they had taken pictures of and that they could read to learn more about the things they saw and didn’t know much about. During our day of review the students also took time to reflect upon our school year theme of “witness” and completed an entry in their nature journals about how they thought the experience applied to them.

Our AFS school community is more than looking forward to being a part of TTF’s next BioBlitz, working with the TTF team and utilizing the iNaturalist application more often as an integrated part of our regular science curriculum. We are so very grateful for the community partnership and all of the work TTF continues to do to help keep our waterways and environment safe.”

Looking to get more involved in nature in our watershed? Interested in leading a group? Email us at info@ttfwatershed.org.


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