Blandy Experimental Farm and Clarke County Public Schools are working in partnership to create interdisciplinary environmental literacy curricula that span all grades, kindergarten through grade 12. Thanks to funding from the NOAA B-WET Program, we were able to provide numerous educator workshops and one-on-one coaching to support teachers as they incorporate locally-relevant environmental issues and outdoor-based teaching into their instructional strategies. Since 2018 Clarke County Public School elementary, middle, and high school students have been learning about their local environment and our regional connection to the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Students engaged in field-based investigations focused on land use and land management, water quality, and how this affects organism health and human use of our waterways, and learned about numerous organisms native to our watershed system. Data collected in science class was analyzed in math class; background research, supplementary reading, and writing summaries occurred in language arts class; and during social studies, students learned about our regional and Chesapeake Bay history, economy, and civic policies that guide environmental management and resource use. Each year, students applied what they learned to take action to improve their schoolyard or a local stream habitat, raising and releasing native trout into a local stream, or writing letters to school officials or county administrators to advocate for a specific environmental action.
Students engaged in activities designed to develop environmental literacy (ELIT) knowledge, skills, and attitudes (KSA); these ELIT KSA’s scaffold in complexity as students move through the grade levels. Students learned about environmental and watershed systems in an interdisciplinary format using knowledge and skills from the four main content areas to investigate, assess, and synthesize environmental and watershed system components, processes, and human impacts. /sites/blandy.virginia.edu/files/Blandy%20Education%20Files/PXL_20220511_173739363.jpg
Grade K-3 Literacy Project:
This portion of the NOAA B-WET project integrates quality nonfiction and fiction books and writing with outdoor discovery activities in the schoolyard to simultaneously develop language arts and environmental literacy skills.
By using environmental literacy as an instructional theme in grades K-3, the foundations for MWEE engagement will be established and the rigor of MWEE engagement in grades 4-12 will increase.
Driving Objective: engagement in authentic, outdoor-based, data-driven field experiences to provide an investigative and systems-thinking foundation in preparation for MWEE in upper elementary, middle, and high school years
Grade 4 Project:
To better understand our Clarke County watersheds, 4th graders are raising Virginia's state fish, the brook trout, from egg to juvenile before releasing them into a healthy trout habitat. But how can we figure out if a habitat meets the needs of our trout at each stage in their life cycle?
Driving Question: What stream habitat in the Clarke County watershed meets our brook trout’s life needs?
Virtual Watershed Investigation: Explore this 3D virtual experience of five water habitats in Clarke County to figure out which trout life needs can be met at each location. Record your findings in the habitat assessment sheet (PDF).
Grade 5 Project:
Clarke County 5th grade students are exploring how erosion and sedimentation caused by surface water run-off can affect the rivers in our local watersheds and sedimentation impacts some of the organisms that live in these waters. Students are applying their learning to reduce run-off at their schools.
Driving Question: How do I along with my family, neighbors, and community impact the Chesapeake Bay watershed? How do sediment and waste get into our waterways? How can we prevent this from occurring?
Grade 6 Project:
Students in sixth grade are learning how to assess water quality by examining physical (temperature), chemical (nitrate, phosphate, dissolved oxygen), and biological (macroinvertebrates) water quality indicators. They also are exploring some of the ways that human activities can decrease the quality of the water in our Chesapeake Bay watershed. While conducting their research, students discovered how plastic waste is dirtying our waters and is causing problems for aquatic animals who eat these plastics or get caught in them. They are taking action to reduce plastic waste by conducting a plastic bag and bottle recycling program at their school. All plastics collected are being sent to the TREX company which will convert this plastic into benches and decking materials.
Driving Question: What are the impacts of watersheds on human & ecosystem health?
Virtual Watershed Investigation: Explore this 6th-grade virtual watershed experience
Grade 7 Project:
Seventh graders are conducting a biodiversity inventory on their school grounds with the intent to develop a landscape plan to increase this biodiversity.
Driving Question: Is the biodiversity of our schoolyard adequate? What can we do to improve it?
Chesapeake Bay watershed projects have been incorporated into the curricula of several Clarke County High School courses.
Biology II: Ecology:
Driving Question: How does water quality affect the abiotic and biotic relationships in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems? How can we improve the diversity of Clarke County macroinvertebrates?
IB Environmental Science:
Driving Questions: How does the health of our waters affect the wellbeing of specific habitats and ecosystems within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed? How are riparian buffers necessary for watershed health?
Driving Question: How do soils impact farming and livestock?
Fisheries and Wildlife Management:
Driving Questions: How does the health of our waters affect the wellbeing of specific habitats and ecosystems within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed?
This project addresses NOAA’s priority area to provide systemic MWEE implementation in a school division not previously served by B-WET and will provide resources to advance the environmental literacy goals in a school division that does not yet provide MWEE for its elementary, middle and high school students. This project will implement comprehensive, systemic ELIT/MWEE curricula that spans grades K-12.
This project was funded by the NOAA B-WET Program, award # NA18NMF4570315
Developing MWEE capacity through systemic, vertically aligned, integrated curricula, grades K-12