NOAA- Frederick County Public Schools BWET Project

Students study watershed health as they conduct a site analysis at Lake Georgette

I-ASC: Investigate, Analyze, Synthesize, Communicate 

Advancing Environmental and Geographic Literacy through Problem-based Learning in the Middle School Grades



Investigative Question: Where should Blandy Experimental Farm build a proposed education center?

Project Design

At the beginning of this project, all 6th-grade students conducted investigations in the field and classroom examining and evaluating potential effects that a building site could have on existing environmental and cultural resources at Blandy. At the end of the school year, teacher-selected groups of students presented their proposals before the Foundation of the State Arboretum Board.  After our first year, students at three of the four middle schools examined land management and human activity impacts at their schools.

Strategies and Logistics 

Blandy and Frederick County Public Schools educators used a multi-disciplinary, problem-based learning (PBL) approach to guide 1000 6th-grade students through the problem-solving process.  

Students visited Blandy twice each school year (fall and spring) to assess environmental and historic/cultural resources and the potential effects that the development of a building site could have on these resources. Each field investigation day was preceded and followed by work in core content classes. Three of the middle schools applied the skills learned at Blandy to examine human activity impacts at their schools.

To learn more about this project, visit the Bay Backpack program, explore the tabs below, or view our lessons featured in the NOAA Chesapeake Exploration: Facilitator's Guide to MWEE Training.

On-Site Blandy Investigations:

Watershed Models

Learners are given a physiographic region of Virginia to model using scrap paper and a plastic tablecloth. They then predict the direction of water flow, and make it "rain" over their model with a spray bottle, observing how the water flows. 

Hydrogeology Investigation

Students explored how water moved over (and into) models of different ground cover: native plants, concrete, soil, and grass. They moved the models to replicate a scenario, and poured 1000mL of water into the system in an attempt to get the most clean recharge and runoff. 

Chimney Historical Scene Investigation

Water Quality Investigation (Water Chemistry)

Testing water for the pH, temperature, load of nitrates and phosphates, clarity (turbidity), and quantity of dissolved oxygen gives students a "snapshot" of the health of the body of water at the precise moment in time. 

Water Quality Investigation (Aquatic Macroinvertebrate Survey)

Collecting, identifying and counting aquatic macroinvertebrates in a water sample allows students to analyze the quality of water over a longer period of time. 

Quarters Historical Scene Investigation

Site Investigation





This project was funded by the NOAA B-WET Program, Award # NA14NMF4570265