Monday, December 16, 2013

Walking by a Winter Watershed

While a visit to our school’s nature trail isn’t exactly “walking in a winter wonderland” yet, our students donned their jackets at our last meeting to take a nice, long and enjoyable walk on our newly-renovated school nature trail with a representative from Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge at our last meeting. Since part of the goal of our program is to allow kids some much-needed time out in nature, this was a welcome outdoor purpose since our garden doesn’t need a lot of maintenance in these colder months.

Erica Locher from Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge came to speak to the students about how we can help protect our watersheds and why that is important, especially in our community. It just so happens that the little stream that runs through our nature trail feeds into the Lynnhaven Bay watershed, so the quality of that water is very important.

Students took a few samples of the water and then we headed back inside for the continuation of our lesson. But before we headed back in, Ms. Locher showed us some interesting features of our trail. She pointed out and identified different sounds we heard, and different interesting plants. She taught us how to spot poison ivy even in the winter when the leaves have fallen off the vine. The vine has a “hairy” appearance, and even touching the vine can affect those of us who are allergic to the plant. Great lesson!

Once back inside we divided up into groups to test the purity and pH levels of our water. We learned terms like “turbidity” which describes how much debris in in the water, or how cloudy it looks. We learned from our experiment that our school’s little stream is good quality!

What, however, could affect its quality? Students made “Pollution Soup”, using common household items to represent strong pollutants that could possibly find their way into a waterway and go on to pollute a watershed; think syrup for car oil, chocolate-covered raisins for dog waste, pennies for harmful metals, soy sauce for industrial chemicals, paint for, well, paint, just to name a few. We learned how washing our cars at a car wash may be better for the environment since chemicals from our car can run off into the storm drains and pollute the waterways. Keeping our communities free of litter and waste can also help. And of course, our marshes need protecting as they serve as a vitally-important buffer to protect our waters. Just look how “turbid” that water looks now!

And as with so many of our lessons for the students, we remember that small changes can make huge impacts.

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