Enjoying The Environment

Published 4:21 pm Thursday, June 27, 2013

BUCKINGHAM – Imagine you're a drop of water. By the fortunes of chance, you start this cycle in a pool under the ground. From there you're evaporated to the clouds, rain down on the James River, flow to the Atlantic Ocean, then return to the clouds to begin a new cycle.

A completely different cycle.

Such, of course, is the life flow of water. Buckingham County sixth graders participated in an exercise that brings the realities of science to a visual life this past school year. Project WET, which affords a hands-on learning experience. It introduces children to important lessons in the world around them.

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The exercise was part of a field trip to the James River State Park.

Groups of students rotated through various stations and several learning experiences in the park. There was a tour at the visitor center, measuring the distance in the riparian buffer zone and the depth of moisture within the zone, getting a visual on the effects of water runoff, testing water samples from the James River and then an exercise from Project WET called “Incredible Journey.”

At this stop, children are given a bracelet with a single bead and roll a die, which determines the next station where they'll receive, another bead. The process is repeated until the bracelet is full.

The finished bracelet, with the colorful beads, fluidly tells a story.

It might tell of cycling through animals.

Going to the Blue Ridge Mountains.

How they supply plants.

Return to groundwater.

Go to the clouds.

Become a part of the James River.

Or revisit the Atlantic Ocean.

A simple, but fun and memorable learning experience-and it is only one of the many learning opportunities at the park this day.

Ranger Bill Crawford explains grant monies from DEQ help to fund the venture. There are representatives on hand from the Peter Francisco Soil and Water Conservation District as is 4-H Specialist Ruth Wallace to provide the instruction.

Fun in learning, plus all of the children are getting introduced to the park.

“What might the runoff collect on this road and parking lot as it's headed to the pond?” asks instructor Page Hutchinson, who works in Watershed Education and Outreach for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality at another learning stop.

The children offer such answers as trash, oil, rocks, and sediment.

“Anything that's on the ground or the road is gonna end up into the pond,” Hutchinson advises. “If it's a farmer's field, it could be fertilizers or pesticides, right? So the riparian buffer zone is an area of land that should be on both sides of a body of water or all sides of the water. It needs to be a least 19 meters wide.”

About 54 feet wide and made up of things that naturally would grow there-trees, grasses and shrubs.

“The thing I'm excited about is all the hands-on learning we're getting today,” sixth grade teacher Gretchen Feury said.

It is, of course, the best way to learn, fits right into sixth grade studies and affords an opportunity to experience what Buckingham has to offer.

Feury asks how are you going to “love it and protect it unless you experience it?”

Then, too, it is a partnership in funding in helping the school to be able to come out (at essentially a free trip for the school).

Feury noted that it's a continuous partnership with Crawford and James River State Park. Crawford had plans to return to work with students at the school on two other occasions.

“…We're very excited about that,” Feury said, “building relationships-very much like we have built a relationship with Ruth Wallace and 4-H. Ruth helps us with our science fair and she comes out about five times a year to help us.”

On this day, Wallace would also help the children with tests of the river's water, getting in the flow of learning.

Helping children to learn more and, in turn, helping to protect and preserve the environment.