Thursday, November 20, 2014

Email from Emily Miller - White River Partnership

Hi Marcia,

Your river classroom sounds like a fantastic resource!  It's really wonderful that you're making use of the river with your middle school students.  I can point you in a few different directions for sampling for bacteria.

We test water samples for bacteria here in Royalton using the IDEXX Colilert system.  It's a 24hr test recognized by the EPA and used widely in water quality testing.  In short, in the test we add colilert reagent to a 100mL water sample, incubate it for 24hrs in a specially sealed tray and then read the sample using a UV light.  Samples that are positive for E.coli fluoresce under the light and we can quantify how much E.coli is present based on the portion of the tray that is fluorescing.  We have 5 samples worth of reagent left at this point and would be happy to run samples if you can get them to us.  There are pretty tight time limits for the samples to be considered valid (they need to be processed within 6 hrs), which may make that difficult.  

You might consider contacting Jenna Guarino, a watershed education consultant with Ecotone Education here in Vermont, that we've worked with and who has done some water quality work using petri dishes in the past.  She's a great resource and I'd be happy to connect you.  Jenna developed many of the materials that we use with school groups (available at

There may also be some folks at the Agency of Natural Resources, Department of Environmental Conservation who may be good resources.  Jim Kellogg comes to mind, he supervises macroinvertebrate sampling for the state and also is the contact for a program called the LaRosa program, which among other things tests water samples for bacteria.  I'm not sure if the state would be able to help you out by running samples, but I'd be happy to connect you with them if it would be helpful.

Let me know if I can be of help or if you'd like to talk in more detail about any of these options.  Good luck!


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Skyping with Norwich University Students


  We have been working for several weeks now with students from the Norwich University Environmental Studies class.

They have been helping us with our water studies, running water tests for students that we can't do here at school.

We have been Skyping with them...

 and they came to visit us on November 12th, to take a look at our river, show us how to take flow rate measurements, and answer our questions.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Using Digital Probes for Water Tests

 Students have been using digital water test devices at the river.  These Vernier test devices allow us to view, collect, and analyze data from our studies.

This equipment was purchased with a grant from VSAC.  Thank you  VSAC.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Macro-Invertebrate Studies

We have been bringing our classes down to the river once a week for the last 3 or 4 weeks.
The weather has been warm and pleasant, and the water level has been low enough for the students to wade across.
 We recently did a macroinvertebrate study where the students took a tally of all the different macroinvertebrates they found.  It is a way to measure the health of the river.
   Lots of Caddisfly and Mayfly larvae means low pollution levels. We found pretty high numbers.
We will keep this data and compare it to future data at different locations, or different times of the year.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

We have been taking our students to the River. While there, we have been exploring the riverbank to look for evidence of wild life, erosion, pollution, etc.

Click this link to see a short video

Monday, July 28, 2014

Friday, June 27, 2014

Email from Ben Copans, Watershed Coordinator, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation

Hi Marcia,

It was great to meet with you and Allison today and do a little adventuring to the sleepers River.  Hope it was OK to just stop by as I was driving by the school and figured I would give it a shot and the timing seemed to work out well.  I am excited about your idea of getting students down on the river to learn so just let me know if there is any way I can help support you in this effort.  It sounds like you will be working on getting a trail down to the river which is great and then will be having some classes in the fall to get students familiar with the river and then get into discussions about human impacts on the river and a service project.  We discussed a few service projects that might be possible for the students including cleanup, a rain garden on the school somewhere (which could tie in with a discussion of the construction and separation project), as well as the possibility for a buffer planting project if a site could be located.  Again I think macroinvertebrate sampling would be a good project to consider as a part of this.

Finally the link to the ANR atlas I mentioned today is:

This is a great resource to look at things such as topography, watersheds, water quality conditions and includes the parcel boundaries which comes in handy with regards to the school property and planning access to the river.  I attached the map with the school property boundary shown over the aerial photo with some contours shown which provides a bit more context then the map we had today.

Again let me know if there is anything I can do to support this and I look forward to hearing from you in the fall when you get back into planning for this effort.


MAPP HorizLogoEmail
Ben Copans, Watershed Coordinator1229 Portland Street, Suite 201
St Johnsbury, VT  05819

Email from Lawrence Hayes - Fairbanks Museum meteorologist

Lawrence Hayes

Hi Marcia Here are a couple of links for river data online:

You can email Leila Nordmann , our Director of Programs, at

Best,Lawrence---------------------------Lawrence HayesMeteorologistFairbanks Museum802.748.2372 x113

Beginning the Process

In June of 2014, The St. Johnsbury Middle School science program started the long process of trying to integrate the river behind our school into our science explorations.  The history of the river behind our school is that it was the site of the former Fairbanks Factory.

Sleepers River circa the turn of the century

Fairbanks Factory on the banks of the Sleeper's River