Fourth Grade Wetland Investigators

Research Question: How do plants and animals work together to balance an ecosystem?

Fourth grade studies the wetland ecosystem at Lakeshore Park. We work with several partners, including DSC, Dalton Utilities, and DPRD to educate our students about the wetland and why it needs to be cared for and protected. Our students trap turtles to examine their adaptations and observe their behaviors, as well as contribute to DSC’s population survey data. We also collect macro invertebrates to help determine the water quality of the wetland and surrounding lake.

Use of Data:

Turtle Collection Sheet



Our Research Timeline and Accomplishments:

  • 2013 – Began research study.
  • 2014 – Students noticed trash in and around the wetlands and began to push for clean up efforts.
  • May 2015 – Students made posters about cleaning up the wetlands and went to area businesses to educate community members about the importance of keeping Lakeshore clean.
  • Spring 2015 and 2016 – Students created newsletters for the community about our work at Lakeshore and how they can help keep Lakeshore a nice place to play and learn.
  • Spring 2017 – Students made infographics about Lakeshore to post online, as well as to put up in the school to educate others.
  • Spring 2017 – Major renovations began in the wetlands and surrounding park to revitalize the wetlands. New observation decks, pavilions, and native plants were added.
  • Fall 2017 – Noticed a decline in the number of turtles we have been able to capture, as well as more parity in the type. (In the past, the majority of the turtles we have caught have been Sternotherus Odoratus.)

Our Partners: 

  • We have partnered with Dalton State College since the beginning of our research. Dr. John Lugthart, Chris Manis, Amelia Atwell, and several graduate students have been helpful as sources of information and also as partners in teaching our students. Our research fits into theirs, as we record the turtles we catch that they have marked during their ongoing turtle study.
  • We have also partnered with Dalton Utilities to teach students about the water quality at Lakeshore and how to keep the wetland and surrounding areas from being polluted. Keep Dalton/Whitfield Beautiful’s Liz Swafford has also contributed to this effort.
  • We have partnered with Dalton Parks and Recreation Department to give input into what would help to make Lakeshore a better learning environment for our students, as we use the park on a regular basis.

Civic Contributions to our Community:

  • Our students have written newspapers/articles about our work and how to keep the wetland at Lakeshore clean and healthy. We distributed the newspapers at Lakeshore Park.
  • We also created a dual database of the turtles that we recaptured that have been marked by DSC in their ongoing study. We will share the data with DSC.
  • Our students help with picking up trash in and around the wetlands and Lakeshore Park on an ongoing basis. We helped with a trash study through Keep Dalton/Whitfield Beautiful.
  • Our teachers and students participate in the Conasauga River Alliance yearly wetland clean-up.

Integration of Core Curriculum with Research:


Our research leads almost everything we do in 4th grade. We integrate as much as we can by using articles related to our project, writing about our work, using our data in math, and much more! We are welcome to provide more details upon request.

Our Little Stories Of Effect On Students’ Lives:

Due to our partnership with DSC/DPRD, the need for an outdoor learning space was discussed. We have been able to collaborate with both partners to help create a community space that is great for families and also for learning! Each year our students help clean up Lakeshore during our work, so more students and families are being educated about the importance of preserving and protecting the wetlands.

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