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Sacred Heart students win river study competition (video)

By BY SONNY LONG - SLONG@VICAD.COM
Feb. 8, 2013 at 9:03 p.m.
Updated Feb. 8, 2013 at 8:09 p.m.

Lauren Huser and Robyn Pavlicek collect temperature readings during the river study.

DIA DEL RIO 2012

The river study is conducted by the Rio Grande International Study Center in Laredo to promote watershed unity and public awareness about the importance of good environmental stewardship of the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo watershed basin. For the past two decades, the Rio Grande has been listed among the 10 most endangered rivers in the world by the World Wildlife Fund. What occurs upstream affects millions of users downstream and impacts the fragile Gulf of Mexico estuary.

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Video in this story is the video that the Sacred Heart Catholic School AP Biology class submitted to the Dia del Rio River Watershed Study.

HALLETTSVILLE - Down by the river.

That's where the Sacred Heart Catholic School AP Biology Class excelled late last year.

The class, made up of eight senior girls, not only took part in the third annual Dia del Rio River Watershed Study but also came away with the first-place trophy over 86 other schools from Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and the country of Mexico.

The students collected water samples from the Lavaca River along a three-quarter mile stretch from the U.S. Highway 77 bridge north, testing the water for its temperature, acid level, nitrate level, phosphate level, dissolved oxygen content, turbidity, coliform bacteria level and the biological oxygen demand.

"They had to do an evaluation of the data, a 10-slide power point presentation, write three essays, prepare a one-minute video and submit artwork or a song as part of the competition," said teacher Joe Cash, who is also the school's head track coach and an assistant football coach. "I am very proud of them."

Cash said he received a letter about the project and responded with his interest in the class taking part. The project began in October, and the results were announced in December.

Student Ariane Kubena said it turned out to be a good experience.

"At first I thought it was a cool way to get out of regular class," she said. "But it turned out to be very interesting, especially physically selecting the samples and working as a team to develop all of our findings.

"I am surprised we beat so many other schools."

Classmate Sandra Adams also enjoyed the experience.

"We had a lot of fun," she said. "When we first started, we didn't know what we were getting into. When we went down to the river, it turned out to be more fun than we thought it was going to be. We made a lot of memories."

Part of those memories was experiencing the river itself from a new perspective.

"We got really dirty in the river," said Ariane.

The group spent time in the water collecting samples, walking through brush and then going back to the riverbank when necessary.

Amber Labay laughed at one incident.

"The mud was thick, and my boot got stuck and came off, and I was walking through the mud in my sock," Amber said.

The school received a trophy for its first place finish, but it was the camaraderie with their classmates that the students say was the bigger reward.

"Being all girls made it more fun," said Amber.

Other class members are Kristen Henke, Marianne Herndon, Lauren Huser, Mary Kossa, Robyn Pavlicek and Katelyn Snider.

Their project motto reflected that feeling of camaraderie: Teamwork made the dream work.

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