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Join Henrico County Public School Students in a Watershed Challenge

checking water samples
Short Pump Middle School: Ms Stoker and Jackson Stoker

Article by: Keli Blyth, HCPS Environmental Educator and Eric Rhoades, HCPS Science Specialist

COVID-19 and the closing of in-person classes couldn't stop Henrico County Public School (HSPS) 6th graders from helping to improve the Chesapeake Bay and James River Watersheds. Now they'd like to invite you to join them in making a difference with the Watershed Challenge!

Thanks to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) awarded Bay in Watershed Education (BWET) grant called Bay Watershed in Science Education (BWISE), 6th grade HCPS students were able to participate in meaningful watershed experiences; like dip netting and water quality testing at Maymont this fall as well as water quality testing in their own school. The grant is a partnership with Maymont, Henricopolis, Keep Henrico Beautiful, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, VCU, and VPM Science Matters.

The goal of BWISE is to teach students about the Chesapeake Bay and James River Watersheds, so they will understand their importance to the health of our water supply and our environment.  By encouraging students to learn and understand these important watersheds and related ecosystems, students will be empowered to take action and work towards mitigating pollution and keeping our waterways clean for future generations. 

This spring, after the sudden closure of schools, our students were unable to execute their school’s action projects to help improve their watershed as originally envisioned in the grant.  That’s when the HCPS Watershed Challenge was created and over four hundred and seventy Henrico 6th graders participated. Students took the initiative to go out on their own and complete an investigation of an outdoor space near their home. This investigation was guided by a Watershed Survey.  They then analyzed their findings and identified a problem that they could solve.  They researched the problem, created a plan of action, and executed and documented their plan.  It's so encouraging to see how our students care and can make a difference as environmental stewards.

collecting water samples
Short Pump Middle School: Beth Stoker, Rob Whitehead, Jenn McKee and Jackson Stoker

The success of the challenge is also thanks to our many dedicated Henrico teachers. They were able to use the challenge as part of their ingenious remote learning lessons and encouraged and inspired their students to participate. We are so proud of the sixth grade students who participated in the HCPS Watershed Challenge, and we hope that you too will take action to help them improve the Chesapeake Bay and James River Watersheds.

Here's what you can do to join the Watershed Challenge:

1. Learn more about the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

2. Visit BayBackPack to learn about ways that you can help improve your watershed and create an action project.

3. Use this Watershed Survey to help you investigate an outdoor space near your home.

4. Then use the Watershed Challenge Action Plan Template to develop an action plan that will benefit your local watershed. 

5. Then share your plan and action with VPM Science Matters on Science Matters Facebook.