Botetourt County fourth graders have a unique opportunity thanks to a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund. The Western Virginia Land Trust, a conservation non-profit based in Roanoke, Virginia with support from the CBRF provided a one-of-a-kind field trip for the the fourth graders on Oct. 16 (and will again next week on the 23rd.) Located on the Preece farm near Lithia, it was termed “Bay Day.”
Approximately 180 4th graders from Breckinridge, Buchanan, Eagle Rock and Greenfield elementary Schools spent the morning at five different stations on watersheds. The topic stations included Watersheds, Water Quality, Soils, Forests and Wetlands. Assistant School Superintendent John Busher was on hand. ” We are all about the test for SOL’s. This is an opportunity for hands on experience and to go out into the environment and see what is in our own backyard.”
Though the stream that flows through the Preece property is polluted by surrounding farms and human populations, the results in water quality for the day turned out to be much better than expected. When tested for turbidity which was good, temperature so-so and oxygen level at a bare 2, the creek was apparently not in good shape.
However as the children waded into the creek with nets and skimmed the bottom, something amazing happened. Macro insect and animal life exceeded expectation. Crane fly larva, Caddis fly larva, Damsel fly larva, water pennies, helgremites and many more insects were discovered. Also the students pulled up minnows and crawfish. Said instructor Dawn Luther and (her co leader Daniel Harrison,) of the Clean Valley Council, ” I am very surprised to find this much aquatic life considering the oxygen levels. Life is existing despite the pollution.”
Diana Hackenburg of the Western Virginia Land Trust was enthusiastic about setting up the project. “Children who might not ever get out to see the land, the wetlands and connect what we do here to the Chesapeake Bay are getting hands on experience with a watershed.”
Indeed the wetlands complete with a Beaver Dam and Beaver chopped down trees, provided much fun for the students as in each group, the 4th graders dressed a classmate as a beaver. Wetlands serve as natures washing machine and due to the Preece restored wetland, the creek is cleaner. They have 30 acres of their 110 acres in land conservation.
Numerous groups sent station leaders which included partner organizations like Camp Bethel, Claytor Nature Center, Clean Valley Council, Mountain Castles Soil and Water Conservation District, Virginia Cooperative Extension Agency, Virginia Department of Forestry, and the Western Virginia Water Authority.
“One of our goals as the land trust is to connect kids to the land around them and with the grant from the CBRF we have that opportunity,” said WVLT executive Director David Perry. Said Emma Johnson a Breckinridge 4th grader, of her experience in the Macro Invertebrate station, ” It was fun to get in the water on a school day and see what we could find!”