The tiny insects' presence means Ramsey Creek isn't as unhealthy as it appears to be. Debris lines the banks, and cigarette butts float on the surface.
"It looks nasty, but all the plants and bugs in it mean it's OK," Goodman said.
Goodman was one of 30 seventh- and 12th-graders teetering on rocks in the middle of the creek Thursday with pants rolled up and bug-catching nets in hand.
The students are in a yearlong watershed ecology study spawned by Scott City Middle School teachers Leanne Grant and Vicki Wachter, who hope the project will improve math and communication arts scores on the annual Missouri Assessment Program tests.
The field trips mean much more than that to students. Among other things, they've been given an eye-opening lesson in pollution.
Flash flooding occurs regularly around many of the students' homes, and they're all familiar with Scott City's frequent boil-water orders.
So the large amount of trash in and around the creek, everything from old mattresses and rusty metal to broken glass and a car hood, really hit home.
"I was really caught off guard by how trashy it was," said senior Steve Sanford. "I want to be a conservation agent, so this type of thing is good experience for me."
The teachers will each take one class to the creek every month this year to test the water's temperature, oxygen level, plant and animal inhabitants, and surrounding environment.
Ramsey Creek runs through most of Scott City before flowing into the nearby Diversion Channel.
City administrator Ron Eskew said the creek serves as the city's major watershed, draining all surface water.
"Anywhere in the city, you're not far from Ramsey Creek," Eskew said. "Whatever is loose on the slopes surrounding the creek may be picked up by torrential rains and carried down, which can jam it up and cause flooding."
Thursday's field trip began with a mile-long trek along Route M near the school. Students trampled through a corn field, then skidded down a 15-foot muddy bank to the water's edge.
It brought out the adventurer, if not the ecologist, in most of the students, all happy to be in the great outdoors instead of their usual classroom.
There were a few slips, a few splashes. No one escaped without mud-caked shoes. Official-sounding words such as rusty fungoid and turbidity were popular points of conversation.
"Silt," Grant explained to her students peering into the creek, "is that gooky stuff on the bottom."
Field trips were one of the first things to go when a state funding loss forced Scott City school officials to make cutbacks this year.
Grant and Wachter were allowed to make these trips only by promising to walk, instead of using a bus, and not to disrupt any other classes.
The trip takes 15 minutes both ways, leaving only around 20 minutes of actual field time. Students will eventually write essays on their findings for Grant's English class. Wachter's math students will use the data to calculate the stream's health.
Part of the experience is understanding how such debris enters the city's water table and may end up in their tap water if the local treatment plant doesn't completely purify it. The city is in the process of building a new treatment plant, which is expected to be complete by January.
Several students said they went home after their field trips and poured glass after glass of tap water to examine its cleanliness.
Miller and other members Grant's eighth-grade English class, who visited the creek Sept. 10, wrote proposals to the Scott City School Board for solving the pollution problem.
Despite all the trash in and around Ramsey Creek, students discovered that its water quality is fair.
"The most important thing I learned from this is not to take anything based on appearance," said 13-year-old Ronnie Wright. "The stream looked junky, but when we got in there it was OK."
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