Cacapon Newsletter Volume
14, Number 1 June 2005
The Potomac Highlands Watershed School
Potomac Highland's Watershed School (PHWS) has opened its doors!
Nestled in a beautiful West Virginia hollow, our four-room
schoolhouse welcomes students of all ages. It's easy to find -
because we're on the web here.
Our school was created to
increase understanding of important water quality and watershed
issues in West Virginia's Potomac Highlands - and, by extension,
much of Appalachia. The watershed school has lessons about
watersheds, water pollution, and land-use planning. Regional
issues underlie each lesson, and many are as relevant for adults as
school children. For example, the pollution curriculum is based on
West Virginia's efforts to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay.
Interactive games form the core of each curriculum. These games can
be played by themselves but are more effective when used as part of
broader lessons supported by other parts of the classroom, such as
the blackboard or on the bookshelf. Lesson plans keyed to required
WV educational content are provided to help teachers get the most
from the site.
Kids, with their inherent
understanding of computers, will quickly know how to use the
classroom. As for adults- don’t panic! Our watershed school is
adult-friendly. Most of the objects in each room are links. You
simply click on whatever catches your eye and see what pops up. You
can also click on “The Potomac Highlands Watershed School” anywhere
the name appears and some background information will popup. Each
classroom has layers:
A blackboard - with age-appropriate
activities that include a learning phase, where information is
read, and a testing phase, where the knowledge is either tested
in a quiz or matching exercise, or put to use to solve a
problem. Also on the blackboard, a list of relevant vocabulary
- with definitions just a click away.
A bookcase, with sections providing
useful background information in each of the curriculum areas.
A computer gateway to the many
environmental organizations and agencies that serve the greater
A window to some of our favorite Potomac
Highlands images. If you have a favorite Potomac picture that
you would like to see on the site, please feel free to send it
An "open book" with a reading selection.
A magnifying glass with images and some
natural history about some Potomac Highlands' aquatic insects.
The High School also has a
chance to participate in conversations on issues of regional
In the watershed
curriculum, students learn about the parts and functions of
watersheds. The watershed – rather than political boundaries - has
become the organizing concept underlying environmental assessment
and protection efforts at both the local, state and regional
levels. This is important because we all live downstream from
someone else in our watershed. For example, the Chesapeake Bay is
"downstream" from West Virginia, and efforts to protect the
Chesapeake Bay from pollution focus on pollution delivered through
watersheds (like the Potomac). The Potomac Watershed Puzzle
and Watershed Creator games, scavenger hunts, background
information, and assorted links help students understand the parts,
functions, and interrelationships of a watershed. This lays the
groundwork for later discussions and more complex topics.
Many watersheds in West
Virginia are threatened by non point source pollution. Important
issues concerning this type of pollution are addressed in Stream
Cleaner, the main activity in this curriculum. Stream Cleaner is
a game of strategy. The player tries to clean up a stream polluted
by excess nutrients and sediment by selecting the best combination
of land management practices before they run out of money.
While playing the game, the user explores the relationship between
people's actions and their impact on our environment. This module
was designed to teach students about some important sources of non
point source pollution in the Potomac Highlands, and some of the
tools available and costs associated with reducing non point source
pollution in our waterways.
WV is working to reduce
nutrient and sediment pollution as part of the State's agreement to
cleanup the Chesapeake Bay - and clean up our own waters at the same
time. Stream Cleaner uses Chesapeake Bay Program estimates
of nutrient and sediment loads and Best Management Practice
efficiencies and costs. Their estimates were simplified and
modified by CI for use in the game. (Note: this game has
been neither reviewed nor approved by the Chesapeake Bay Program.)
Background information on Stream Cleaner in the pollution section of
the Bookshelf explains how the simplifying decisions were made.
Also available through the "bookshelf" are selected readings from
the WV Potomac Tributary Strategy and the Chesapeake Bay Program to
help the user better understand the issues.
The pollution curriculum
can lead into discussions and further reading on pollution science,
land management and economic decisions, community decision making
and citizenship, and the role of government. Stream Cleaner
and the supporting materials would be appropriate for general
science, biology, environmental science, social science, and
The Planning Curriculum
provides a first person perspective on some of the challenges faced
by county officials when deciding the future of their community. In
Decision Matrix the player is a newly hired county planner.
The planner’s first assignment is to produce a ten-year county plan
to encourage economic growth while preserving the well-being of the
county and conserving its essential water resources. Students play
out this role by choosing four of eight possible development
options. Each option has an accurate, in-depth description, and
symbolic meaning for the future of the county envisioned by the
The short and long-term
outcomes of the choices are guesses based on some assumptions, drawn
from past successes or failures, and topped with just a little
personal bias. The game takes a somewhat holistic approach.
Different option groupings work in combination to produce results
they would not have produced in isolation. For example, a golf
course resort can have relatively more or less impact on the
environment depending on the other options chosen. "Good" or "bad"
results are truly in the eye of the beholder. There is a form in
the Planning section of the Bookshelf for players to offer
alternative endings. The best and/or most humorous of these will be
posted on the website.
Decision Matrix and the
planning curriculum are supported by additional background material,
relevant links, and a scavenger hunt. The curriculum is designed to
encourage further discussion about water resource management,
environmental impacts of development, and the role that politics and
public opinion typically play in county development.
The telephone in the High
School classroom provides entry to moderated conversations about
selected environmental issues in the Potomac Highlands. Bill
Moore's environmental science classes at Hampshire High school took
part in the first forum on the problem of deer overpopulation on our
region. Consulting forester Dave Warner and WVU Extension
agronomist Bill Grafton helped us get started by providing their
perspective on the effects of too many deer on the health of forests
and viability of farming, respectively. After reading their
comments, and accessing material in various links, the students had
a solid base to inform their discussions. By coincidence, a
research study conducted at West Virginia University on the effects
of deer foraging on ginseng was published as we began the
conversation. The study found that the survival of ginseng, a
medicinal plant that lives on our forest floor and generates more
than $2 million in income annually for harvesters, is threatened by
This activity has led to a
new environmental learning project at Hampshire High School. With
funding from the Potomac Valley Conservation District, Mr. Moore
will be installing a deer fence in a small plot of forest land on
the school's campus. He and his environmental science students will
be monitoring the changes to vegetation in the deer exclosure (an
enclosure that keeps something out) and comparing changes to an
unprotected test plot over the coming years.
This conversation is now
closed, but the background material and student responses can still
be accessed on the site. We plan to revisit this and other topics,
including the politics and practice of riparian buffers, next fall.
Our hope is to have schools throughout the region involved.
The Potomac Highlands
Watershed School is a work in progress (and probably always will
be). New elements will be added on a regular basis (as time and
resources allow). For example, a slide show for the Stream Cleaner
activity was developed recently for use with 6th graders at the
Jefferson County Science Olympiad. Also, over the summer we will be
augmenting the offerings in the elementary school.
We are eager to receive
thoughtful criticism. We encourage you to visit our school and tell
us what you think - every classroom has an email link for comments.
A fast internet connection helps, particularly if you are using the
Flash interactive games listed on the blackboard. They work on
dial-up, but they will take a while to download. Also, your screen
should be set for at least 1024x768 resolution.
The Learning Center
project would not have been possible without generous support
through grants from the USEPA, the Canaan Valley Institute, The
Marpat Foundation, the Spring Creek Foundation and, as always,
member donations. Luke Fleshman, recent graduate of WVU and a
product of Hampshire County Schools did our Flash programming. The
classroom art is by Neil and Jennifer Gillies.
Volunteer Bob Markley and
CI staff spent many hours reviewing material and testing games.
Content and “playability” were reviewed by partners at the WV
Conservation Agency, WV Department of Environmental Protection,
Canaan Valley Institute, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation
Service, area teachers, and students. We could not have done this
without their help, but any errors are the responsibility of Cacapon
tell us if you have any problems with the site. We have tested all
elements on many different computers with different operating
systems, browsers, and software—but it seems there is always some
new configuration that has “issues” to be resolved.
The site is
best viewed with 1024 x 768 or higher resolution and with the
monitor in Full Screen mode. If you have a dial-up connection, the
Flash activities will take several minutes to load the first time
you use them.
Each curriculum complies with
the WV Content Standards and Objectives (CSO) that govern the
subject areas that teachers are required to cover. Social studies
CSOs, in addition to topics in geography, include lessons on
citizenship, civics, and economics, in which they explore citizen
participation in shaping public policy, examine the function and
responsibilities of governments at the local, state and national
levels, and explore the role of economic choices in resource
allocation, decision-making, and trade-offs. Science CSOs include
Standard 6, Science in Personal and Social Perspectives, which
requires students to evaluate impacts on health, population,
resource and environmental issues from different points of view,
predict long-term societal impacts, and understand public policy
decisions. The Watershed School's lessons help teachers use
regionally relevant topics to address those CSOs.
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Comments on the Site
to have such an outstanding conservation education resource
originate here in the Mountain State!"
Randy Robinson, Distance Learning Coordinator, U. S. Fish and
“It is one
of the finest applications of internet technologies we have
experienced. It is great that this is put together locally, as it
makes all the learning more relevant. "
Moore, Hampshire High School
A lot has happened at CI over the past
year. The biggest change occurred when Peter Maille, our long-time
Education and Outreach Coordinator, left last summer to pursue a
Ph.D. in economics. After coming on board in 1999, he set to work
fleshing out the education program. His last major project involved
getting our web classroom started. He first had to convince me
there was need for such a thing. After knocking his head against
that particular brick wall for a time he finally broke through – and
the result is The Potomac Highlands Watershed School. You can read
more about it in the feature article beginning on page 1. While
still, and probably perpetually, in development, I believe it is a
suitable legacy for Peter’s dedication to environmental education at
CI. And please, we truly need your feedback.
While CI has never worked in isolation, we
are working with more non-profit and government partners than ever
before, on projects as diverse as developing forested riparian
buffer demonstration projects for the WV Potomac Tributary Strategy
(page 6) and studying how improving treatment of a point source
effluent will effect a wild rainbow trout stream (page 2, below).
We make every effort to keep our website
current with new and updated features. For example, there is a full
treatment of the Stream Flow Restoration Project that was featured
in the March 2004 Cacapon
newsletter, including graphics and text explaining how we are
collecting data, early results, and pictures of the first fifteen
structures that were installed last fall.
Finally, we noted in the March 2004
Cacapon that the WV
Environmental Quality Board had just survived an attack in the WV
legislature that would have shifted their rule-making authority from
a group of reasonably independent scientists to WVDEP, an agency run
by political appointees. Sadly, they did not survive the assault
this year. I suspect we’ll just have to learn what that means over
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Spring Run Research Project
Spring Run is a
unique stream in the Potomac Highlands region of Grant County, West
Virginia. Unlike many headwater streams that tend to go dry in the
summer, it is fed by the largest spring in the region. Discharge
typically ranges from 3000-3500 gallons per minute.
temperature of ~53 °F and a pH of about 8 at the spring, the water
is ideal for trout and the aquatic insects they eat. To
improve physical conditions for trout, The Friends of Spring Run’s
Wild Trout restored habitat on a
three-fourths mile section of Spring Run, and issue permits for
catch-and-release fly fishing of the wild rainbow trout that live
But that is not the whole story. WV
Department of Natural Resources owns and operates the Spring Run
Trout Hatchery located a short distance below the spring, and above
the restored section of the stream. The hatchery is preparing to
install an effluent treatment process at the facility to meet their
permit requirements and improve the quality of water leaving the
Cacapon Institute is partnering with
Friends of Spring Run’s Wild Trout, WV Conservation Agency, WV
Department of Agriculture, WV Division of Natural Resources and WV
Department of Environmental Protection on a water quality research
project to address questions concerning the impacts of nutrient and
Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) rich effluent on the Spring Run
The project team will gather data on water
chemistry, benthic invertebrates, periphyton (attached algae and
other organisms that live on surface of rocks) and fish samples to
assess current conditions prior to the upgrade of the effluent
treatment process. At least two consecutive years of monitoring
will follow the treatment plant upgrade to determine the long term
impacts on water quality and aquatic life.
This project is being financed by the West
Virginia Conservation Agency through the Chesapeake Bay Program.
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Stream Scholars Summer Camp 2005
It’s summer once again, and the third year of
Stream Scholars is quickly approaching. Stream Scholars is a
five-day, non-residential summer camp in August. Promising young
students explore stream ecology and conservation with professional
scientists. Campers learn how to measure physical, biological, and
chemical properties of streams, as well as how to map the landscape.
Last year’s program ended with each camper
creating and conducting a mini-project, then presenting their
results to the group. This year, the final two days will be spent on
a two-day field trip to the Chesapeake Bay area that will include a
guided canoe trip on the Patuxent River, overnight camping, and a
visit to the biological laboratories at Solomon’s Island. This trip
is supported by the Baker’s Run Conservation Society and coordinated
by the WV Conservation Agency.
For more information about Stream Scholars
or an application form, go to
or feel free to contact us. We can only take ten kids, so apply
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Riparian Buffer Demonstration Project
Forested riparian buffers are wide strips
of trees located along river and stream corridors. They provide
many important benefits, including shade to keep river water cool
and wildlife habitat. They also significantly reduce the flow of
pollution from the land into our rivers by filtering nutrients,
sediments and other pollutants from runoff as well as removing
nutrients from groundwater, allowing cleaner water to flow through
to the stream.
Forested riparian buffers are an important
component of West Virginia's Potomac Tributary Strategy to reduce
the transport of nutrients and sediment into West Virginia waters
and the Chesapeake Bay. It is anticipated that several hundred
acres of these buffers will be planted in the coming years.
The West Virginia Potomac Tributary
Strategy Implementation Team and USDA-NRCS partner Steve Ritz
facilitated the planting of two forested riparian buffer
demonstration projects in April 2005.
The first site selected for this
demonstration project was near Yellow Spring in Hampshire County,
along the banks of the Cacapon River. This site has, sadly, been a
visible demonstration of how difficult it is to protect newly
planted trees from drought stress and browsing damage (from the
region's ubiquitous deer). Saplings were planted and replaced
repeatedly at this site in the mid-1990s. They were not watered
or protected from deer browse and few, if any, have survived
This time around, each plant has a weed
mat to reduce competition and retain moisture. They are also planted
in tree tubes, primarily for protection from browsing. Native
hardwood trees were planted on a 20' X 20' spacing, and shrubs and
smaller trees were planted on a 12' X 12' spacing.
This project and others will provide
demonstrations of this important Best Management Practice. We will
measure the relative success of various planting methods: for
example, tubes or no tubes. Measuring success is important because
the success of riparian plantings in this region has thus far been
poor. Learn more here.
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