The Potomac Highlands Watershed School

eForum Teacher Information & Updates

If you have any problems, Frank Rodgers (CI's Education/Outreach Director) can  be reached at home after hours at 304-258-7657.


Current eForum: Stream Cleaner Environmental Forum 2012, March 12 through April 20, 2012


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Our Challenge

It's Your eForum too - Teacher Suggestions.

Teacher Lesson/Unit Plans


Please ask students to take the survey before they begin.

Why we ask for Control Codes on forms

Crafting the Perfect POV.

When the eForums conclude . . .

Thoughtful Discussions Form - Getting it Right.

eForum Lesson Plan, including section worksheets and student answer sheets.  (you can also reach lesson plans through the Teacher's Room)

Teacher Tips

Hands-on Projects


Stream Cleaner eForum 2012 emails


Our challenge.  Cacapon Institute's challenge in conducting Environmental Forums and other Potomac Highlands Watershed School activities is to provide a setting where the content is highly relevant to the required curriculum, where everything a teacher needs can be readily found, and where everything works.  Making everything work can be more difficult than it appears, because every school system installs filters on their computer networks to both prevent students from accessing inappropriate material, and to prevent harm to their computer system from accidental downloading of malicious software (viruses, spyware,  malware, etc.).  Because every school system, possibly even every school, does this differently, it is our challenge to develop content and processes that work everywhere.  For example, we do not have a required "user name/password" system (the flash activities have a "visitor's" bypass), we do not post streaming video (although we would love to), and we take care that eForum activities do not "feel" like a chat room to school filters that would then kick them off.


How subtle can the problems be?  Pretty subtle.  For example, the original file names for our Flash activities (like Stream Cleaner) included the word "game."  Some systems (one in a Missouri library, one in a WV school system) had filters that automatically kicked a user who tried to access these activities off  the web because of the word "game" in the file name.  We learned of the problem because people told us about it.


If you need something that you can't find, or if something doesn't work for you, we won't know unless you tell us.  So, please, let us know – and we will do everything in our power to fix it. 



It's Your eForum too - Teacher Suggestions.   We really encourage participating teachers to share their experiences and offer suggestions. We do listen, and make every effort to respond in a substantive manner. After all, this is your eForum as much as it is CI's.  Some examples of teacher comments helping shape the eForums:

  • Laura Picard (Jefferson High, WV) commented that the SCE Forum was a bit intimidating for her students because it is “VERY text heavy.”  Laura suggested it might “be easier to have more bookshelves which open to…small chunks of content”. In response, we added a graphic “book shelf” with clickable links to act as both a navigational aid and to help visually break up the text into "chapters."  The bookshelf is repeated at the bottom of every section, and also includes "books" that take you to the POV posting area, and to the eForum Vocabulary. The lessons themselves have not changed, and the main content remains on the eForum's home page to avoid having students get lost in a maze of links.

  • Sectional worksheets were added in 2009 at the request of Brooke Swecker Martin from Turner Ashby High (VA).  They were modeled after worksheets prepared by yet another teacher, Laura O'Leary (North Hartford High, MD) for 2008's Oh Deer! eForum.

  • Long-time particpating teacher Bill Moore (Hampshire High, WV) developed a new method for developing consensus that was added to the Teacher's Tip's page .  

These are instances where participating teachers have provided suggestions and examples of how they use the eForums that have made a material difference in the quality of the experience.


Teacher Lesson/Unit Plans



Please ask students to take the survey before they begin.  The teacher code is optional, but we strongly encourage their use.  You may assign a different code as an identifier if you have multiple classes participating.


Why we ask for the "Control Code" on forms?   Control Codes are assigned by teachers, not CI.  We do this to prevent mischief by students and by "unauthorized" users.  The potential for mischief is vast, and one of our jobs is to make sure that none of it makes its way to your school computer screens.  For example, the control code should help deter any temptation students might have to toy with the survey (for example sign on as a different school and answer all the questions “wrong”). "  We also read every submittal before manually posting it on the website.  With numerous classes participating, that will keep us plenty busy during the Thoughtful Questions period. 


Crafting the Perfect POV.  POVs should be crisp, concise, and persuasive.  The optimum length for a POV is from 250 to 600 words. Too short and it cannot adequately cover the material it needs to address.  Too long and it frightens other students away - and the dialogue suffers.   Strong POVs will include references to source material that supports their position.


When the eForums conclude, we'll ask participating teachers to fill out a short survey to help us know what went right, what could use improvement, and how the experience impacted your view of the use of computers in the classroom.  We'll also schedule a time for a conference call where we can all just informally talk about it.   For example, a conference call following our 2006 Oh Deer! eForum led to a number of significant changes to the time frame and to the POV page format.   


Thoughtful Discussions Form.  While we have simplified the original Thoughtful Questions form for the SCE Forum 2010, this part of the forum has traditionally created some confusion among participants - with much resulting confusion on the receiving end here at CI.  Watch this space for an instructional video to use with your students prior to the start of the Thoughtful Discussion phase. 


Hands-on Projects.  

Make it a MWEE!

The Potomac Highlands Watershed School’s Environmental Forums are an example of Project Based Learning, where students seek a solution to a complex problem through a collaborative process over an extended period of time.  When the eForum is coupled with hands-on conservation or research projects it provides a Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience (MWEE), an expansive form of project based learning that is a curriculum requirement in MD, VA, PA, and D.C.   CI can help support projects for classes participating in the eForums throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.    Classes might plant a riparian buffer, establish a watershed friendly schoolyard management plan, control erosion, produce posters or flyers, or do any number of best management practices (BMP). Learn more about PBLs and MWEEs.





Dear Teachers,


We appreciate the students who have already posted POVs and look forward to others.  The Thoughtful Discussion (TD) phase opens next week.  We'll still be taking POVs but remind teams they cannot post a TD until the day after they have posted their POV.


PLEASE, PLEASE show the students the “Your POV and TD Primer” video (6 minutes).  The video is under “Teacher Tips” on the left side after clicking on “eForum Info & Signup” in the Teachers’ Lounge  or from the High School Classroom webpage (next to the phone).  Show this to your classes BEFORE they begin posting TD questions and comments.  The video shows students how to address their TD.  Proper addressing is critical to the TD process.

Incredibly, some students wrongly put their own name in the “TO” box and the team they are writing to in the “FROM”.  We cannot properly post TD that are wrongly addressed.  Ask the students: Could the mailman deliver an envelope addressed TO the SENDER?


Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions.

Evening/weekend phone:

Frank: 304-258-7657

Neil Gillies: 304-897-6297

P.S.  Teachers, to avoid download delay we suggest you show the video once to the entire class if possible.  Here is the direct link to the POV & TD

Video: td intro zoom/pov td intro zoom.html




Frank Rodgers

Director of Education & Outreach




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Cacapon Institute - From the Cacapon to the Potomac to the Chesapeake Bay, we protect rivers and watersheds using science and education.

Cacapon Institute
PO Box 68
High View, WV 26808
304-856-1385 (tele)
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Frank Rodgers,  Executive Director

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