The Potomac Highlands Watershed School 

High School Environmental Forum

General Information and Sign-up

 

This was great!  This was the hardest school work that I have done in my whole life.  
2005 Student Participant
 
The 2013 Stream Cleaner Environmental Forum will occur from March 3 through 
April 11, 2014.
 
The 2012 Oh Deer! Environmental Forum ran from October 8 to November 16, 2012
 
Go there now by clicking on the telephone in the High School classroom.
 
You can see the dialogue from previous eForums exactly as they played out here. 
 

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Real world, hands-on projects by eSchool Students.

 

 

Forum (fo-rum) n. pl. -rums or -ra An assembly, meeting place, program, etc. for the discussion of questions of public interest.

What is the Environmental Forum?

The Potomac Highlands Watershed School's Environmental Forum (the eForum) provides a unique setting for in-depth explorations, by students and their teachers, of both the science and societal challenges posed by regionally important environmental problems.  There is plenty here to interest science, social studies/civics, vocational agriculture, and language arts classes, and links are provided to relevant educational standards (this part is a work in progress).  Students work both as a class and with other students across the internet to understand problems and to seek solutions that are broadly acceptable to their communities.  Any school in the Chesapeake Bay watershed is invited to take part in this no-cost activity (up to a maximum of 30 per eForum).

 

Make it a MWEE! The Potomac Highlands Watershed Schools Environmental Forums are an example of Project Based Learning, where students seek a solution to a complex problem through a collaborative process over an extended period of time.  When the eForum is coupled with hands-on conservation or research projects it provides a Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience (MWEE), an expansive form of project based learning that is a curriculum requirement in MD, VA, PA, and D.C.   CI can help support projects for classes participating in the eForums throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.   Learn more about PBLs and MWEEs.

 

There are two eForums:

Oh Deer! eForum - Students investigate the problem of deer overpopulation, an example of problems caused by ecosystems out of balance that require an effective societal response.  This eForum is scheduled for October 20 through November 26, 2008.  You can enter the active eForum by clicking on the telephone in the High School classroom.  More below.

SCE Forum - Stream Cleaner Environmental Forum - Students investigate the causes of and solutions for non-point source pollution in the context of the regional effort to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.  Participating schools will have a chance to receive support for an on-the-ground project at or near their schools.   The SCE Forum is scheduled for Spring 2009.  More on the SCE Forum below.

Each eForum has two parts:

Part 1, available year round, is lectures, background reading and student investigations guided by the web-based lessons and activities,

Part 2, open for 3-4 weeks each Fall and Spring, facilitates a dialogue between participating students so they can interact with their peers and create a community of learning across the web. 

In the eForums, students:

  • Explore the science and societal dynamics of complicated environmental issues,

  • Roll play to form stakeholder groups (such as farmers, homeowners, fishermen, etc.) and  develop "point of view" (POV) position papers that are posted on the web for other students to investigate,

  • Challenge each other's stakeholder POVs within their class and across the internet by having a Thoughtful Discussion - TD (formerly Thoughtful Questions) facilitated by a moderator and controlled submission process,

  • Regroup as a class to seek socially and environmentally acceptable solutions to the problem by addressing stakeholder concerns and develop a general consensus that respects the needs of all stakeholder groups.

Who can take part:

  • High school teachers of science, civics, vocational agriculture, and English, and their students.  More below

  • The Environmental Forum provides an opportunity for government agencies, Chesapeake Bay tributary teams, watershed groups and environmental "clubs" of all kinds, and even individuals to engage their local schools in the challenge of solving environmental problems that relate to their mission.  More below

Where do I find the Forum?  There is only one way to get into the current forum, by clicking on the telephone in the High School classroom.

 

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Why participate in the "Oh Deer!" eForum?

Dowload a flyer about the Oh Deer! eForum here.

 

An ecosystem out of balance can be a recipe for disaster.  In Oh Deer!, students explore the environmental and societal problems caused by deer overpopulation.  It's not a small problem; deer are one of the biggest threats to forest health in the Northeast, they cause many millions of dollars in damage to agricultural interests every year, and deer-automobile collisions cause many injuries (human and deer) and millions in insurance payouts.  It's not a simple problem to solve either, with competing economic and societal interests on the many "sides" of this issue.  As the students learn from a New York Times editorial excerpted in the Forum, it's also not the deer's fault:

"Deer are simply heeding the biological imperative to go forth and multiply. With no natural predators, and the suburbs a year-round salad bar, they have slipped out of their ecological niche - and it's our fault, not theirs. The deer did not ask human beings to create the kind of predator-free suburban landscapes in which they now thrive. But the mountain lion, gray wolf and bobcat are not about to return, and the houses and highways are staying put. People, therefore, must own up to their place in a compromised food chain, and assume the responsibility for managing it well. "  (New York Times March 30, 2005 )

The student's challenge is to seek solutions that might really fix the problem and that their community could find acceptable.  They learn about:

  • The range of problems that can be caused by overabundance of deer, with a lot of links to information on other websites, but starting with a couple of essays from "native guides" - natural resource professionals.

  • Some methods suggested by state agencies and universities to control the problem,

  • The challenge of seeking solutions, for a highly contentious issue, that might be acceptable to their diverse community.

"Oh Deer!" 2012 ran from October 8 through November 16, 2012.     For more information, email  Frank Rodgers, call Cacapon Institute at 304-856-1385, or sign up here.

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Why participate in the Stream Cleaner eForum?   

Download a flyer (75 KB PDF) about the SCE Forum here.  

The Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure but, after years of pollution, it is in trouble.  Each spring, high school classes across the Chesapeake Bay watershed can participate in a region-wide dialogue about the Chesapeake Bay watershed's problems and propose their solutions to reduce non-point source pollution.  For three weeks students join classmates and students from other schools in exploring one of the most complex environmental problems ever to confront the United States - saving the Chesapeake Bay from decades of pollution.    

Students learn about:

  • The science that is used to understand the problems and monitor changes,

  • The computer models that are used to predict the Bay's current condition and future,

  • The best management practices that are used to reduce the flow of pollution from our lands to local streams, larger rivers and, eventually, the Bay,

  • The politics of seeking solutions acceptable to our diverse community, and

  • The challenge of fostering widespread public acceptance and implementation of the entirely voluntary land use changes needed to protect our local waters and the Bay

  • The challenge of paying for the cleanup. 

If that sounds like a lot of information to digest, it is.  We strongly encourage teachers to incorporate SCE Forum content into their lessons well before Part 2 of the Forum begins in mid-March.  As the SCE Forum fits so well with concepts teachers are required to teach anyway, this is not difficult to do.  Lesson plans and links to relevant educational standards are provided here.

 

Participating schools will have a chance to receive technical and financial support to design and implement their own real-world best management practice projects as demonstrations of watershed stewardship and as long-term living classrooms.

 

Each classes' challenge is to propose a solution that really cleans their waters and that their community would find acceptable.

 

*Sign Up Now For The 2013 Stream Cleaner Environmental Forum!

Beginning on March 13, 2014

Download a flyer (75 KB PDF) about the SCE Forum here.  

 

Current and Archived Forums

There is only one way to get into the current forum, by clicking on the telephone in the High School classroom. 

If you want to take a look at past eForums, go to the forum archives here.    Archived forums for the active eForum topic are hidden beginning one week before Part 2, the multi-school dialogue phase, begins.     

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This was great!  
This was the hardest school work that I have done in my whole life.  
2005 Student Participant

How does it work?

We have done our best to include everything a class will need to make the eForum activity both self contained and self explanatory (please tell us if this is not the case).  All the information required for students to participate is included on the eForum web-pages, and many links and threads of thought are offered to lead students to self discovery.  Additional information helpful for teachers to plan their use of this activity in the classroom is included in the High School lesson plans located in the Teacher's Room and also directly from this link.  We have a teacher suggestion page (follow Teacher's Room link and click on the phone) for your comments on how to enrich the students' experience, accommodate teacher's needs, and better align the eForum with educational content standards. 

Use the High School link (at left) and then click on the phone, to review the current/upcoming eForum, and archived eForums that include past students' work.  The eForum Highlights link offers a few of our favorite moments from past forums (we really enjoy doing this!).  Current and future eForum pages have all the background reading, links, and information required for Part 1 of either forum to take place at your convenience.  However, the student submissions will not be accepted until the current eForum dialogue is officially underway (Part 2).  We encourage classes to become familiar with the content and web site prior to the opening date.  The three or four weeks of web-based dialogue between schools should be the culmination of your program. 

Who can participate?  Any high school in the Chesapeake Bay watershed with an internet connection and enough computers for their students to use can participate.  (This activity is limited to high schools because of the higher level thinking skills required.)  Many educational disciplines could find a solid reason to participate, but those below are a clear match:   

Social Studies/Civics - In Civics classes, teachers help students develop the social studies skills required of citizens: such as the ability to: "create and explain maps, diagrams, tables, charts, graphs, and spreadsheets; . . . review information for accuracy, separating fact from opinion; identify a problem and recommend solutions; select and defend positions in writing, discussion, and debate; . . . and respecting differing opinions in a diverse society." (excerpted from VA Civics and Economics Standards).  In the eForums, social studies students get a first hand opportunity to put their abstract civics lessons to work in tackling hot-button environmental issues that are relevant to their lives.  The exercises in developing stakeholder groups and forming community consensus are fundamental to a democratic society.   One of the advantages of the web-based forum approach is that students have a regional experience.  While deer migration, and water pollution are not restrained by political boundaries, political actions do have an impact on the problem.  We invite students to study the interplay of federal, state, and local governments and the role citizens play in forming policy.

Science -  eForums are rich in science learning for environmental science, biology, and chemistry.  They highlight the use of objective science in the larger societal dialogue required to solve environmental problems that are relevant to their lives and their community.  They also offer a very effective way for teachers to approach the Science in Personal and Social Perspectives educational standards developed by the National Committee on Science Education Standards and Assessment (National Research Council), that are broadly incorporated into state educational standards.  These standards are designed to give science students a framework to understand and act on personal and social issues, develop decision-making skills, and provide a foundation for the decisions they will face as citizens.

Vocational Agriculture - More than any other student group, vo-ag students are likely to be actually living the challenges of both the Oh Deer! and Stream Cleaner Environmental Forums.  Many of the students may have ready applications of the knowledge gained through the eForums in their lives and the lives of their families.  The vo-ag curriculum is rich with courses that would benefit by incorporating the eForums into their curricula.  For example, West Virginia offers Agricultural Environmental Science (WVEIS Code 0153), which is designed to provide students with core skill and competencies needed for pursing careers in environmental science and natural resources management.  Among the many goals, students: Explain concepts in environmental management; Demonstrate parliamentary procedure skills to conduct a meeting; display skill involving computer application in environmental science; Search the Internet to secure environmental science information; Explain impact of agricultural practices on groundwater; Identify best management practices for water quality; Identify best management practices of soil erosion and sedimentation; and Explain the role forests have in the environment. (Excerpted from WVEIS Code 0153)

English  -  Students practicing research skills will find the eForum pages a good starting point:

  • Persuasive writing classes can do background research, make strong "point of view" statements, and then test the strength of their POVs through the Thoughtful Question peer review and the consensus debate;

  • Journalism students can cover the conversations and consensus building exercises of their class and draft press releases for the local paper and articles for or the school's paper. 

The national standards for Language Arts seek to help students: read a wide range and nonprint texts to acquire new information and to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate text; conduct research, using a variety of technological and informational resources, on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems; use spoken, written, and visual language to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes, including persuasion and information exchange. (Condensed from Standards for the English Language Arts. 1996. International Reading Association and the National Council of Teachers of English.)

We would love to see classes within a school from multiple disciplines take part in the eForum at the same time, and can easily imagine the final consensus phase occurring in the school auditorium with hundreds of students in attendance.  We encourage you to think big about how the eForum might be implemented in your school.

Classes are invited to go beyond the web-based boundaries of the Forums to initiate their own science projects in what we call living laboratories.  One example is the Hampshire High Schools experience where participation in the Oh Deer! Forum led to obtain a small grant for a small deer exclosure on the school property.   It is being used as a living laboratory to study the impacts of deer browsing on forest health.  The U.S. Forest Service research team in Parsons, WV happened to be following the 2005 Oh Deer! Forum, and their interest in the students' work led to a $3,800 grant for Hampshire High to establish a larger research area.  The U.S. Forest Service continues to work with the students in a cooperative research project. 

 

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     -What is a POV?

     -What is a TD?

Why "Oh_Deer!"?
Why SCE_Forum?
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  -What_is_needed?
  -Why_participate?
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eForum Highlights

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Email a question or comment.

What is needed to participate in the on-line program?

We have created the eForum to be as flexible as possible, and accommodate many teaching styles.  Because the eForum, and the rest of the Potomac Highlands Watershed School's web site, are always available on the web, it's always available for your use.  However, there are certain minimum requirements for a class to take part in the eForum:

  • Access to the internet on reasonably fast lines.  Dialup would be possible, but would probably be a bit of a drag.

  • Multiple computers available for the class to use, so that each stakeholder group (at a minimum) has a computer available.

  • Classes/students are expected to spend at least 1-1/2 to 2 hours during the Part 1 phase of the eForum, doing background reading and research on the site and across the web.  The background research can be done in class or out, and can include a mixture of self-directed reading by students and lectures by teachers (see lesson plans).

  • As a minimum to participate in the multi-school dialogue (Part 2), a class must be able to commit to three classes (45 minutes or more for each) where student groups have access to the internet.   

Since the background reading material and links are available at any time, it is possible for individual classes to do the activity totally within their classrooms, develop their stakeholder POVs, TQs, and consensus exercises, and never talk to another school.  Frankly, however, this activity really soars when students begin challenging their peers across the web.  We strongly encourage teachers to schedule this activity so their students can participate in the internet dialogue (Part 2).   If you decide to do it "solo" we would still like to hear how it turned out.

 

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Why should teachers participate?  

CIs Environmental Forums (eForums) are highly relevant to educational content requirements in science, social studies, vocational agriculture, and other disciplines.  There are many reasons for teachers to participate in Cacapon Institutes eForums, beginning with what participating teachers themselves say:

 I was shocked and amazed to observe the strong stances that many of my students took on their points of viewsThe most rewarding experience for me was the students response at the end of consensus work.  All the students leaned back in their chairs and collapsed with a sense of satisfied accomplishment. 

Sharon Harman, Ph.D., Petersburg H.S., West Virginia

 

I love the forums.  They are teaching me to do what I wanted to but did not understand how.  Now I do.  What a wonderful format to teach the students.  . . . It makes group work more meaningful as stakeholders in a real problem.  Sounds official to the students - which it is - and makes them much more willing to work for a solution.   Controversial topics are a fact of life and necessary to address in our classrooms.  With your forum the students need to come to a consensus for a large, real controversial topic twice - as a small group and as a large group.   They get to see a BIG picture to a for-real BIG problem.  Then they get to see what solution others propose.  That is the best piece of it.  They know how they fit in/measure up in our school.  With the forum, they can fit into a larger piece - be exposed to ideas and biases from other areas/classrooms.  So it also lets each school class involved see that everyone is learning the same skills - their school is not better or worse but trying to get essential skills across in a way that is meaningful, usable, and "learnable".  It has also taught me a respect for the ability of many of my students to see the big picture and to express it concisely.  I have been delighted all way round with your wonderful, usable concept of small to large and real problems for real learning.

Susan Settle, Rappahannock High School, Virginia.

 

The eForums are an example of Project Based Learning, where students focus on a complex problem and then seek a solution through a collaborative process over an extended period of time.  Documented benefits of the Project Based Learning (PBL) approach include:

  • Better performance on standardized measures of academic achievement in reading, writing, math, science, and social studies:

  • Reduced discipline and classroom management problems;

  • Increased engagement and enthusiasm for learning; and,

  • Greater pride and ownership in accomplishments.

(Click here for more background on PBL.)

eForums provide an opportunity for high school teachers to challenge their students to explore complex problems that are relevant to students lives.  Students gather information and develop answers that solve a problem while respecting the needs of diverse communities.  Because the eForums are web-based, the process extends beyond the classroom walls as students collaborate with and challenge their peers to create a community of learning and problem solving across the internet.  The collaborative process also includes guidance from real life experts who work in fields directly related to the eForums topic.  These "Native Guides" offer their personal perspective to the students in essays drafted specifically for the eForum.    

The West Virginia Department of Education has made a commitment to PBL to enable students to develop 21st Century Skills.

Schools in D.C., MD, PA, and VA require that all students participate in a form of PBL called a Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience (MWEE).  MWEE requires a hands-on restoration project or community outreach campaign in addition to the in-class PBL lesson.  When coupled with a hands-on activity, CIs eForums offer a ready made approach to MWEE lessons.  Cacapon Institute will help schools secure material and technical guidance for hands-on MWEE projects.  To learn more about MWEE click here.

 

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For Watershed or Environmental Associations

 

Watershed leaders and environmentalists should reach out to students to teach stewardship.  Adult mentors lend a real-world sense of importance to classroom learning."  Laura O'Leary, North Harford H.S., MD

 

We encourage interested parties to recruit classes and act as mentors on the importance of good stewardship. 

 

The Environmental Forum provides an opportunity for tributary teams, watershed groups, and environmental "clubs" of all kinds to engage their local schools in the challenge of solving environmental problems that relate to their mission.  The Forum provides a structure for students to roll-play as citizens addressing the social and scientific realities of real life environmental problems that are relevant in their lives.  Stake holder identification and consensus building are at the heart of the solution to many problems. 

Stream Cleaner:  For watershed enthusiasts, natural resource agencies, municipal planners, and civic leader dealing with non-point source pollution the SCE Forum offers a format to introduce local issues in a broader context.  New for 2007, thanks in large part to grants from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The Virginia Environmental Endowment, and NOAA-BWET (2008), participating schools can apply for technical and financial support to design and implement best management practice demonstration projects.  This could mean real-world resources for a BMP installation in your watershed!  

 

Oh Deer!:  For environmentalists and natural resource professionals of many kinds, Oh Deer! offers an introduction to the importance of retaining, or restoring, ecosystem balance.  Deer overpopulation is highly relevant to watershed restoration efforts, as over-abundant deer cause many riparian tree plantings to fail and also negatively impact forest health generally.  This is important because healthy forests are the single most important landscape feature determining watershed health.

 

For Individuals

 

We encourage individuals to encourage their local school to participate in the eForums.  So if you're a student, a concerned citizen, feel you have environmental expertise, or are simply passionate about your role as a steward we need your help! 

  • Pass this information on to a teacher at your local high school.

  • Offer to help a teacher during the stakeholder and consensus building process. 

  • Act as a mentor, visit the class to demonstrate how the environment is important to you.

  • Be a "Native Guide" - Cacapon Institute is always looking for feed back and input by experts that would improve the Potomac Highlands Watershed School.  If you have something important you want to say to the students that will enhance the Environmental Forum we want to hear from you.

 

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Sign Up or Ask for More Information Now

For the PHWS Environmental Forums!

Any school in the Chesapeake Bay watershed is invited to take part in this no-cost activity (up to a maximum of 30 classes per eForum).

* We strongly encourage teachers to incorporate eForum content into their classroom lessons well before the internet-dialogue portion of a Forum begins.  Students will benefit from advance exposure to key subject matter found on the Forum's home page.

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         Stream Cleaner eForum     "Oh Deer! eForum  Both Forums

When you talk about pollution that impacts the Chesapeake Bay, or really any body of water, watersheds matter much more than political boundaries.  Eight major sub-watersheds deliver water to the Bay.  Do you know which one you live in?  

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Note: We will send you an email after receiving this information to confirm your identity and your intention of taking part in one of our eForums.

If you have trouble using this form, you can email your registration to Cacapon Institute.


 

The Potomac Highlands Watershed School is supported by the MARPAT Foundation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Spring Creek Foundation, the USEPA, the Virginia Environmental Endowment, and the members of Cacapon Institute.

Cacapon Institute - From the Cacapon to the Potomac to the Chesapeake Bay, we protect rivers and watersheds using science and education.

Cacapon Institute
PO Box 68
High View, WV 26808
304-856-1385 (tele)
304-856-1386 (fax)
Click here to send us an email
W. Neil Gillies, Executive Director
Frank Rodgers, Education/Outreach