The cool water flowed under their feet and wound through the landscape as a group of students made their way down Crystal Creek.

It was wet, hot and smelly at times, and teacher Kat Griffith remembers some students getting a bit cranky.

But she’s convinced it was good for them.

“Most of them don’t spend much time in nature,” Griffith said. “They’re not very accustomed to it; they’re not very familiar with it; they’re not very observant about it.”

So, as part of a recent study on the Green Lake watershed, Griffith’s Lumen Charter High School seminar students went where the action is that day on Crystal Creek. It’s a trickling, little-known tributary that starts in South Woods and then joins Silver Creek near Family Video in Ripon, from which Silver Creek heads on to the Green Lake inlet.

“I think it’s really important for them to interact with nature more and understand what we’ve got around us, and I don’t think they really get passionate about it until they’ve literally messed around in it and gotten their feet wet,” Griffith said. “So I look for excuses to get them out there.”

The spring seminar — which included field trips, discussions with experts, water monitoring and more — ended with students writing a “report card” on the state of Green Lake’s watershed and efforts to protect it.

The grade: a C.

It’s based on management of the watershed — an area of land that water flows across as it moves toward a common body of water. Green Lake’s is around 100 square miles, and includes the city of Ripon.

“We calculated [the grade] by assigning each issue we looked at a ranking of 1, 2 or 3 for importance, and then assigning each issue a grade for how well we were managing it,” Griffith said. “So the grade for a very important issue received three times the weight of the grade for a minor issue. The weighted average calculated out to exactly a two on a four-point scale — corresponding to a C.”

Though not outstanding, this grade reflects a well-documented reality about Big Green Lake — that is, the multiple challenges facing it ... Continue reading the full article in the July 2 issue of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.

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