The Potomac Highlands Watershed School - SCE Forum 2009 Projects

PHLOW - Potomac Headwaters Leaders of Watersheds 

Tree Planting - Musselmen High


Students at Musselmen High School (Inwood, WV) have been learning about non-point source pollution as part of their participation in the Stream Cleaner Environmental Forum and also as part of a Service Learning program though Cacapon Institute's Potomac Headwaters Leaders of Watersheds (PHLOW) program (funded by West Virginia Commission for National and Community Service and  Service)Students in Mrs. Stevens chemistry class know that, according to the Chesapeake Bay Program, sediment and nutrient pollution are the biggest non-point source water pollution issue in our region.  Sediment is particles of soil, rock, and sand that are carried into surface water runoff.  Sediment causes problems for stream bottoms because it fills in the small spaces between rocks where benthic macroinvertebrates live.  Sediment, while suspended in water, also contribute to the low oxygen levels in the Chesapeake Bay; it makes the water cloudy and blocks sun light from reaching the bottom, which prevents aquatic vegetation from producing oxygen. 

Students toured Musselmen High's grounds looking for "hot spots" areas that might contributing to erosion that gets into local streams and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.  Hot spots for erosion can be found by looking for areas of impervious surface.  Impervious surfaces do not allow water to be absorbed into the ground.  Typical impervious surfaces are roads, parking lots, and buildings.  The students were able to find several erosion hot spots on their campus.  In addition, they found other kinds of non-point source pollution hot spots as well like.  See an aerial image of their school with hot spots mapped out here .

Before During After!
Students determined to reduce the amount of erosion entering Mill Creek, their local stream, by creating a low-mow area around a runoff pond next to a parking lot.  In a low-mow area, the grass is only cut two or three times a year.  Because it is allowed to grow tall, the grass will slow runoff and capture more of the sediment coming off the parking lot.  Students planted trees around the area to define it.  Trees will absorb some of the stormwater runoff, add wildlife habitat, and create shade.
Twenty trees were planted.  Species that can tolerate wet roots were planted in the low areas including Sycamore, Birch, and Red Maple.  Sugar Maple and Pin Oak were also planted.  The trees were recently dug "ball & burlap" commercial stock.  B&B trees are dug from the earth and their roots are rapped in burlap to form a ball. NEVER BURY THE TRUNK.

B&B trees, and many container trees too, have the soil around their roots disturbed during the digging and transport process.  Notice how the soil was pushed up and buried the trunk of this tree.   Students had to dig the trunk out of the soil ball before planting.  When planting trees, always check that the root collar, the important part of the tree where trunk widens and transforms into roots, is still above ground and visible when the planting is complete.  If buried, the bark of the trunk can rot or be damaged by insects.

What would the trees say about this? Get your feet in the dirt!




Cacapon Institute, as part of the Chesapeake Bay Programís Education Work Group, will help schools connect with local watershed and conservation groups.  We encourage schools and watershed groups alike to use our Potomac Highland Watershed School to connect students to local issues in the context of regional watershed protection.  Connecting students to real world activities within an academic framework is the foundation for a Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience, a Project Based Learning requirement for D.C., MD, PA, and VA students.
Funding for West Virginia Commission for National and Community Service and Potomac Headwaters Leaders of Watersheds Service-Learning Project is provided by a Learn and Serve America: Community-Based Grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service.