In a two day period October 7 and 8, over 350 Botetourt County 4th grade students travel out to the Preece Farm in Buchanan to learn about the Chesapeake Bay. The 3rd annual event held on and hosted by the Preece family on their farm in conservancy, was sponsored by Blue Ridge Land Conservancy in partnership with Clean Valley Council, Western Virginia Water Authority and Camp Bethel’s Outdoor program.
The students learned about how Botetourt County can affect the bay almost 200 miles from here. Dave Perry and Megan Cupka organized the vent for Blue Ridge Land Conservancy. Cupka stated of the event, “They’ll be getting into creeks, forests, and fields, learning about clean water and the Chesapeake Bay.”
The James River which crawls along the state of Virginia from west to east to the Chesapeake Bay has its headwaters in Botetourt County creating a real link between upstream watersheds and the bay.
On Tuesday Oct. 7 students came from Greenfield, Eagle Rock, Troutville and Buchanan Elementary schools. They visited four stations each manned by one of the partnering organizations. The stations included Clean Valley Council doing an analysis of Looney Creek which tested water quality through chemicals for turbidity and oxygen content as well as PH and macro invertebrates in the water. Of course clambering into the creek was part of the activity!
Western Virginia Water Authority used an enviroscape model for watersheds using Robin Bailey and Master Naturalist Donna Haley as instructors. Camp Bethel’s Outdoor classroom in its 8th year of education of area school groups with Beth Weigandt, covered soil and water erosion. She was assisted by volunteer Allison Hegan The Virginia Department of Forestry covered Forests in a watershed and featured Area Forester Denny McCarthy and Virginia Master Naturalist Dennis Woodson.
Eagle Rock students were spot on when asked by Woodson how forests are important in human life as well as ecology. Woodson asked, “How do forests aid the world around them.” Students with hands raised answered listed the importance of forests because they provide food, shelter, energy, economic products like paper and timber, watershed protection, shade, homes for animals and oxygen.
Students from Troutville kept a log of the day’s activities. The education value reaches into the future. First SOL’s in the spring have a section on watersheds, and second, the students learn how watersheds, ecology and biosystems in one area are so crucial to the Chesapeake Bay and the James River.
Tim Miller of Mount Castle’s Soil and Water Conservation helped Buchanan students find animals in Looney Creek, tiny creatures including crayfish, crane fly larvae, Mayfly larvae, water pennies, even a hellgrammite larvae were discovered in the leaves and silt seined from the creek.
Said CVC’s Erin O’Donnell and Dawn Luther who manned the Looney Creek station. “The creek is healthy,” pointing to the cube tray filled with creatures. After bagged lunches in the great field of the Preece Farm, the buses rolled back to school.
By Cathy Benson, Botetourt View