San Marcos River: Classroom for AP Environmental Science Students

Students in Ms. Judy Behrens’ AP Environmental Science (APES) class had the opportunity Jan. 19 to explore the beautiful San Marcos River, which is one of the oldest continually inhabited areas in North America. The class took a field trip to the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, located along Spring Lake, the headwaters of the San Marcos River, which once was the home of Aquarena Springs.  Now part of Texas State University, the Center provides a living laboratory for faculty, staff and students, “to develop and promote programs, research and techniques for ensuring sustainable water resources for human needs, ecosystem health and economic development” (from Meadows Center website).,

San Marcos River Offers Perfect Outdoor Laboratory

The APES class has been working on a unit about water, including water resources and water pollution. The purpose of the field trip was for the students to make the connection between the information that is being presented in the textbook and how those concepts translate to the real world. The Meadows Center is a perfect outdoor laboratory to demonstrate some of the key concepts associated with water resources and water pollution.

During their visit, the APES students participated in a number of activities, including conducting water quality testing, touring Spring Lake on the glass-bottom boats, exploring the Sink Creek wetlands area and visiting the exhibits in the Meadows Center aquarium. Students were able to examine first-hand the differences between groundwater and surface water, as well as learning about the flora and fauna that inhabits this location. They witnessed the hydrologic cycles associated with the Edwards Aquifer, the San Marcos River, and the global water cycle, in addition to acquiring information about the extension history of continual human habitation at this location (approximately 11,500 years). The Meadows Center tour also included a discussion about water pollution, flooding, human impact on the aquatic environment, and non-native, invasive species. This field trip was a great way to reinforce and build upon what these particular students are learning in the classroom, Ms. Behrens said.

Going Beneath the Surface of the San Marcos River

“The Edwards Aquifer is very unique, and we were able to see how special this lake is,” said junior Euvi Eusebio of Angola. “We find all kinds of species that are only unique to this area, such as the Texas Blind Salamander and Texas Wild Rice. We also saw how the water comes naturally from the springs.”

Senior Max Yoo of Korea said he learned more about how we need to work on water preservation. “I thought it was a great experience to actually go figure out the source of our everyday water,” Max said. He noted that it helped him put San Marcos in perspective as part of the “bigger picture” of environmental science.

Tuka Uzor, a junior from McKinney, said the field trip helped bring textbook knowledge to life. “I learned about the importance of clean water and how to test for clean water as well as about aquatic ecosystems and how they live and endangered animals,” Tuka said  “I also learned about the importance of the San Marcos River and the Edwards Aquifer as they relate to our water supply in Texas.”

Junior Abry Saucedo of San Marcos added, “I thought it was interesting that the San Marcos River is one of the oldest inhabited areas in the world. It was fascinating to see the items found in the river that were used by previous settlers. The San Marcos River is an area almost every citizen has treasured; therefore, students should enhance their knowledge about this entertaining and historic site.”

Photos courtesy of Sonja Mlenar, Coordinator of Instructional Programs at The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment