Science classes get more hands-on

By Abby Boardman

Olivet’s science classes will become more interactive this year, as Reed has received some new additions.

For instance, the geology department has recently purchased a stream table for hands-on student learning.

The table slopes from one end to the other, taking on the likeness of a miniature stream. Water flows from the higher end of the landscape to the lower. Thirty-five gallons of ground-up plastic act like sand to display the different stream processes on a larger scale.

This table is the first of its kind. Stretching three meters long and one meter wide, it takes 40 gallons of water to operate and is constructed with aluminum materials similar to those used on an airplane.

The geology department has been considering a stream table for several years, and this newly designed table fits the department’s need.

Various geology classes such as Physical and Historical Geology, Earth and Space Sciences, Geomorphology and Earth Hazards, and Hydrogeology will be using the new table to observe groundwater interactions and contaminants, stream processes, and how human modifications affect the way a stream will flow.

Starting this semester, students will get hands-on experience working with the stream table; teaching assistants for these classes will be specially trained to give demonstrations with guidance from professors.

Sophomore Michelle Mitchell is currently taking Physical and Historical Geology and is excited about the new stream table.

“Although I have not seen the new table yet, I’m eager to be able to see entire stream modification processes as well as the different manipulations humans have on stream processes.”

The table has many more possibilities, according to Dr. Kevin Brewer, geology and physical science professor.

“I’m excited to have [the stream table] and see what students can research with it. It’s a great experimental piece of equipment,” he said.

Senior Sam Smidt, a geology and environmental science major, is enthusiastic about the possibilities the new stream table has to offer.

“I’m excited as a hydrogeology T.A. to help demonstrate surface and groundwater interactions to other students,” he said. “The stream table brings a practical realism to geomorphology and hydrogeology in ways we haven’t been able to experience in the science department before.”

The biology department also has a new addition: a 650-gallon freshwater aquarium, filled with 30 fish and a variety of plant life. Located in the stairwell on the first floor of Reed, this new aquarium is modeled after the Kankakee River ecosystem and is designed for students to study the behavior of freshwater fish such as pike, bass and bluegill.

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