Since Plaster Creek Stewards emerged out of Calvin College, it is natural to take the plunge into research. We need to ask questions, investigate, listen, and learn more.
With increased emphasis on undergraduate research experience nationally, Calvin redesigned its biology core curriculum in 2011 to include a Sophomore level ‘Research Methods’ class, a course that uses the Plaster Creek Watershed as its living laboratory. Students learn how to do research in small groups by designing and carrying out a research project focused on the health of Plaster Creek. The students present the findings of their project at a public forum at the end of each spring semester.
While these student research projects yield helpful information and new findings, we began a summer program where student research assistants would continue to collect data and effectively extended the duration of several key projects. For example, one grant funded 4 additional students during both the school year and summer to identify the main sources of Plaster Creek’s bacterial contamination. In addition to biological research, we continue to work on a social research oral history project, collecting stories and memories from people who have lived, worked, gone to school or church within the Plaster Creek watershed over the past 80 years. These stories have become a great way to engage the public in caring for the watershed.