Butler Lake gives extra education for Libertyville high schoolers

The inaugural Libertyville High School Lake Day at Butler Lake showed great promise in collaboration with the Lake County Health Department.

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Gerry Urbanozo oversees Lucas Murphy weighing a largemouth bass during the inaugural Libertyville High School Lake Day at Butler Lake.

Gerry Urbanozo oversees Lucas Murphy weighing a largemouth bass during the inaugural Libertyville High School Lake Day at Butler Lake.

Dale Bowman

As Gerry Urbanozo reached into a white tub of water, he said, “ Be careful when you put your hand in there. This is a bullhead. It has spines.”

That pulled 15 high schoolers closer to the brown table on the edge of Butler Lake as the inaugural Libertyville High School Lake Day began May 11 in a collaboration with the Lake County Department of Health.

It was a good-sized brown bullhead, measuring 282 millimeters (11.1 inches) and weighing .92 pounds.

“We’ll learn things this year and refine it,” said Jennifer Kahn, who teaches AP environmental science. “Karen and I are going to learn as much as the students.”

She and Karen Kym, who teaches honors biology, started the idea, which exploded organically.

As a great idea should.

Early morning, Urbanozo, senior water quality specialist for LCHD, invited me to help him and James Fitzgerald, water quality specialist for LCHD, collect fish that they electroshocked for the students to identify and measure.

Most prevalent were bluegill, largemouth bass and gizzard shad. Beside bullhead, there were also white sucker, yellow perch, common carp, pumpkinseed, golden shiner and black crappie. Surprisingly, we didn’t see or catch any northern pike.

Kahn and Kym suggested arranging three stations along the shoreline. Urbanozo ran the table for identifying and documenting fish. Fitzgerald led a table focused on minnows seined from Butler with a side of crayfish while Alana Bartolai, ecological services coordinator for LCHD, focused on invertebrates, including mussels, and plants.

Imose Osayimwen weighs a largemouth bass after measuring it during the inaugural Libertyville High School Lake Day at Butler Lake. Credit: Dale Bowman

Imose Osayimwen weighs a largemouth bass after measuring it during the inaugural Libertyville High School Lake Day at Butler Lake.

Dale Bowman

Urbanozo gave a brief introduction, then showed Ethan Trowbridge how to record weights and lengths and Lucas Murphy how to measure and weigh. Soon other students switched in. As they finished the first fish, Kym said, “We need a line over here to carry fish back to the lake.”

That proved very popular, as Charlie Tomlinson said, “I like the slimy stuff. Definitely was excited to grab the fish. But I didn’t expect the scales.”

ISofia Nunez releases a bluegill during the inaugural Libertyville High School Lake Day at Butler Lake. Credit: Dale Bowman

ISofia Nunez releases a bluegill during the inaugural Libertyville High School Lake Day at Butler Lake.

Dale Bowman

Kahn called it “hands-on, real-world science” at Butler, an “outdoor living laboratory”

Groups switched every 10-15 minutes between the tables.

Bartolai explained mussels at her table and said curly-leaf pondweed is the most common plant in Butler. At his table, Fitzgerald had starhead topminnow, golden shiner and blackstripe topminnow to go with crayfish, which no one could positively ID.

After lunch, Fitzgerald had volunteers pull on chest waders and taught them how to work a 20-foot seine with its float line and lead line.

Cole Danner, who had waded before, was first to wade in, saying, “That is pretty awesome. I think it is pretty cool that you take them on shore and study the fish. That is pretty informative.”

Ashley Bell, who brought her honors biology class, said, “They definitely were most excited to put on waders and go out in the lake.”

James Fitzgerald shows Cole Danner how to seine for nearshore minnows during the inaugural Libertyville High School Lake Day at Butler Lake. Credit: Dale Bowman

James Fitzgerald shows Cole Danner how to seine for nearshore minnows during the inaugural Libertyville High School Lake Day at Butler Lake.

Dale Bowman

The day was a magnet for curious community members and other staff.

Grant Magnuson, who teaches the outdoor education class, changed plans on the fly, saying, “We were going to be fishing today, then I saw this. You don’t get to do this every day.”

Pete Olszewski, a biology teacher who assisted on many levels as “the resident fisherman,” said, “We need to know how to write a curriculum for next year. Every kid needs to experience this and get their hands dirty. This is the real education that kids are interested in. `Come on and get your hands dirty.’ “

“This is the beginning,” Kahn said. “Freshman are going to be the students of this lake for three more years. ... I’m not afraid any more.”

Students cluster around as Alana Bartolai talks about macroinvertebrates, including mussesls, and plants during the inaugural Libertyville High School Lake Day at Butler Lake. Credit: Dale Bowman

Students cluster around as Alana Bartolai talks about macroinvertebrates, including mussesls, and plants during the inaugural Libertyville High School Lake Day at Butler Lake.

Dale Bowman

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