Wintergreen Brook is a body of water about five miles long which flows on the east side of West Rock from a point near the north end of Mountain Road in Hamden south through Lake Wintergreen and joins the West River north of Whalley Avenue between Blake and Fitch Streets in New Haven. Just after it goes under the Wilbur Cross Parkway, Wintergreen Brook comes into contact with the West Rock Nature Center near the entrance. The brook falls quickly at first and then levels out as it flows near the south boundary of the Nature Center.
This unit will focus on Wintergreen Brook with emphasis on its association with the Nature Center where High School in the Community teaches an Ecology course each spring. This unit will use a combination of map and field studies to provide a basic understanding of the concepts of watershed and the water cycle, stream flow and the effects of water on the earth’s surface.
The primary objective of this unit is to have students understand geological and hydrological processes and evolution through a combination of map and field studies relating specifically to Wintergreen Brook and the surrounding land. This includes the historic events which shaped this area and the ongoing effects of the water on the area. Other objectives are to have students understand basic concepts dealing with water quantity including rainfall, stream flow and urban water use. Students will also calculate the power generation potential of the brook and be exposed to and experience the natural world as they carry on these activities and work together to make measurements and drawings.
The Ecology course begins with a study of major living and nonliving components of the ecosystem, the biosphere, the atmosphere, the hydrosphere and the lithosphere. The first objective provides a local, relevant, in depth learning experience relating to the last two components. It also provides an illustration of two other concepts which are important in the Ecology course. The first is the concept of geological time and the changes which have occurred in all of the earth’s components. Another important concept is the difference between the movement of energy and the movement of materials in an ecosystem. It is important for students to understand that energy moves in a one way flow, from more useful to less useful, while materials are always recycled.
This is clearly illustrated as we see how the stuff the earth is made of moves around and takes different forms, but is always the same atoms and elements, whereas the energy that is given to water molecules as they are lifted up by the sun is expended, transferred into nonusable forms, as gravity pulls the water from the sky down over the land, through the brook to the sea.
As the students study the origins and topography of West Rock and Wintergreen Brook as well as their inseparable relationship, they will also be exposed to basic geological and hydrological processes.
Study will begin with a visit to the site to explore as much of the topography as possible. With the brook as the focus, students will learn that in any area the brook occupies the lowest point and the ground rises to either side from there. They will also see that the land rises much higher on the west, up to the top of West Rock. This kind of cross sectional view should be done in several places which will also provide information about the direction of the flow of the brook and the lay of the land.
(Although this type of site visit is quite possible with the Ecology course, and would be useful with other classes, a slide set has been developed which illustrates the major points needed to follow along with the other learning experiences in this unit.)
With first hand experience of how this area looks, students are ready to look at maps as the first step in the more abstract process of understanding the evolution of this area.