The 2000 Chesapeake Bay Agreement (2000 CBA) committed the states of the Chesapeake Bay watershed to address point and nonpoint pollution source issues in an effort to clean up the Bay. Water quality monitoring by volunteer citizen scientists was one part of the program which became known as a MWEE (Meaningful Watershed Environmental Experience), which was a mandate of the 2000 CBA, to:
• Make education and outreach a priority in order to achieve public awareness and personal involvement on behalf of the bay and local watersheds;
• Beginning with the class of 2005, provide a meaningful bay or stream outdoor experience for every school student in the watershed before graduation from high school;
• Provide students and teachers alike with opportunities to directly participate in local restoration and protection projects, and to support stewardship efforts in schools and on school property.
Although none of Patrick County streams flow to the Chesapeake Bay, funding from this program was made available state-wide on a competitive basis.
In 2001, students at Woolwine Elementary School began using the Save Our Streams traditional method of testing the Smith River by sampling the macroinvertebrate population to determine the presence or absence of pollution in the stream. This program was initially funded by a grant from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Bay Watershed Education and Training (NOAA B-WET) through the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
In 2005 Woolwine Elementary received a grant from Virginia Naturally called “Operation Riverbank.” This grant, funded by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation through the Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program, provided monies to purchase hip waders and neoprene gloves for river testing. The school was also recognized in 2005 by the Patrick County Soil and Water Conservation for its efforts.
Over the years, Woolwine’s sixth and seventh grade students have consistently conducted water quality testing of the Smith River using the Save Our Streams traditional method. Students collect, sort, and identify the macroinvertebrates and then determine the water quality of the Smith River.
For several years students also tested the Sycamore Creek in the Buffalo Ridge area of Patrick County. Water testing has been conducted as many as three times per year. Many students have had the opportunity to learn this method of being good stewards of Virginia’s resources.
The sampling method employed by the WES students checks for sediment, toxic and nutrient pollution levels. Sampling results indicate a low level of pollution presence in the sampled areas of the Smith River and Sycamore Creek. Patrick County is a headwaters county. It does not have any streams that flow into the county, only out-flowing waters.
Wayne Kirkpatrick from the Dan River Basin Association has been instrumental in assisting with Woolwine’s river testing efforts over the years. His expertise has been valuable in helping students identify the macroinvertebrates, in training the lead teacher, and in providing lessons on streamside pollution.
Recently, the original hip waders were replaced. Funding for this project was provided through a donation from Anna Lester, a generous supporter of DRBA.
Woolwine Elementary School would like to thank Lester’s organization for supporting this worthwhile, hands-on, learning opportunity for the students in our community. The school hope to continue Operation Riverbank for many years to come.