The Potomac Highlands Watershed School

Environmental Forum Teacher Updates

Current eForum: Stream Cleaner Environmental Forum, March 31 through April 25, 2008

Last Updated May 6, 2008

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Our Challenge

Why we ask for Control Codes on forms

When the eForums conclude . . .

Change to Thoughtful Questions Form.

eForum Lesson Plan (you can also reach lesson plans through the Teacher's Room)

Teacher Tips

February 14, 2008 email from Frank Rodgers

Google Earth World Tour of 2008 SCE Forum Partcipants!

March 27, 2008 email from Frank

March 31, 2008 note from Frank on Surveys

April 3 email from Frank

April 7 email from Neil

Note April 9, 2008

Frank email April 11, 2008

Frank email May 1, 2008




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 fiel 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. 


Why we ask for the "Control Code" on forms?   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. 


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.   


Change to Thoughtful Questions Form.  We simplified the Thoughtful Questions form on 11/4/2007.  Hopefully, students will have less trouble understanding what to do now.  However, it would not be a bad idea for teachers to run through it with their students one time - there are six steps and they need to get them right.   


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 February 14, 2008 email from Frank Rodgers

Dear Teachers,


We’re looking forward to a great Stream Cleaner Environmental Forum.  Welcome back to returning teachers and hello to new participants.  Activity on the site is picking up and that is good.  The lessons are available so content can be incorporated into class work or students can begin investigation on their own now.


We’re honored that Jeff Lape, Director of the Chesapeake Bay Program, has taken an interest in the SCE Forum.  He wrote a letter to the students -- “Why You Matter!” -- which is posted on the web site.  It is to the credit of past participants that the Director of one of the world's premier watershed restoration projects, all 64,000 square miles in six states and all of D.C., will be watching their performance and looking for “new and innovative solutions”.  We suggest reading his letter as a classroom activity to save time and strengthen the impact of the presentation.  We’ve posted a map image on the link showing other participating schools and would be happy to add photos and “who we are” statements from classes.  Just send us a word document and any image the class wants to share.


A few reminders:

1.    The SCE Forum is best accessed by going to, clicking on the e-school tab, the high school, and then the eForum phone.

2.    Please have the students do the survey first before they start their investigations (link at the top of the eForum).  This is not a “test” so encourage students to move rapidly and it will only take a few minutes.  The post survey is the same so we’ll be able to report on progress.

3.    The teacher “control code” is a word and/or number of your choosing.  It is not a password (and could be left blank).  We ask you assign a code because it helps identify mischief (students who submit statements pretending to be from a different school will have the wrong code so we can quickly identify bogus statements).  If you have more then one class participating change codes to identify different classes.  In the past teachers have used flora or fauna, a class nickname, or a time-block identifier.

4.    While students can start the lessons and organize stakeholder groups now, Point Of View papers will not be accepted till March 31st with the first round posted Friday, April 4th.  We encourage sharing of POVs through an in-class Thoughtful Questions session prior to submitting.  This will allow stakeholders to strengthen their POVs before posting to the web.


A last reminder, we’re available days, evenings, and weekends for questions, comments, and concerns and are committed to your class’ success so don’t hesitate to call us.




Neil Gillies, Executive Director, email to Neil, (home) 304-897-6297

Frank Rodgers, Education & Outreach Director, email to Frank,  (home) 304-258-7657


Cacapon Institute, P.O. Box 68, High View, WV  26808




Google Earth World Tour of 2008 SCE Forum Partcipants!

Go to 

The computer must have Google Earth global mapping software (free at: ).  Use the link above to show students aerial images of our Chesapeake Bay watershed community of learning.  They will see their own school and all the participating schools in roughly the same scale.  Click on the “keyhole” link above, choose “View in Google Earth”.  After a ~1.0 MB download Google Earth should open automatically.  Under Tools choose Play Tour.  Each time the tour runs the images will become clearer as the image buffers catch up so the tour will looks better the second or third time.  Tour speed can be adjusted at Tools => Options => Touring.


Also, note that we added a SCE Forum Vocabulary at the top of the Essential Background section. 



March 27, 2008 email from Frank


We are excited about the great line up of classes for this year’s SCE Forum.  As we get started here are a few reminders…….

  1. Please ask the students to do the survey before they begin the lessons.

  2. The Teacher Code is optional but we ask you make up an identifier for each class to help us keep track.

  3. We suggest one student read aloud the letter “Why You Matter!” from Jeff Lapp, Director of the Chesapeake Bay Program, to the whole class to add emphasis (click on the “Welcome”).  The SCE Forum is one of this month’s featured links on the Chesapeake Bay Program’s home page

  4. The Google Earth SCE Forum Tour and other updates are available in the Teachers’ Lounge by clicking on the “eForum Updates” clipboard above the coffee pot.


And a bit of news. 

We are pleased to welcome Mount de Sales Academy, Baltimore County, Maryland to the SCE Forum, our first “big city” school.  Though if you have seen the Google Earth Tour you see Keyser High School in West Virginia is in an “urban island” too.

Please note we have added a vocabulary list to the SCE Forum’s main webpage.

The Point Of View (POV) submission form will be active tonight.  Stakeholder groups should take care in picking a name – once it is entered it is final!  We do not allow individual student names as part of the stakeholder name.

To reduce the likelihood of students pulling ideas down from previous SCE Forums we are disabling the Archive link.  We have seen some clever students using the Search command on our web site to access past SCE Forum but we discourage that because we want to see students displaying their own talents.  You can view past SCE Forums by following these links.


Good luck to everyone.  Don’t hesitate to call if you have any questions or concerns.




Frank Rodgers, Education & Outreach Director  (Home 304-258-7657) eMail to Frank
Neil Gillies, Executive Director (Home 304-897-2697) eMail to Neil

Cacapon Institute
P.O. Box 68
High View, WV  26808


March 31, 2008 note from Frank on Surveys


Each time a survey is submitted the answers are recorded by our web site including the school name and teacher code.  I check most evening.  If I see an entire class has done a survey I'll send the teacher the results the next day.  When I see surveys coming in as a homework assignment (different times and different internet service provider IDs) I'll contact the teacher to find out the deadline for the assignment and summarize the results afterwards.  If you want results for individual students ask them to use their initials, or an individual student ID that you understand, as the "teacher code" so each survey can be related back to an individual student.



April 3 email from Frank

April 15th is the deadline for requesting project help for Earth Day (April 22) and National Arbor Day (April 25).

Dear Teachers,

We’ve seen Point of View statements from Jefferson, Moorefield, Massanutten, and Hampshire.  Surveys have come in from James Wood, Hampshire, Moorefield, Jefferson, Buffalo Gap, Mount de Sales, and Rappahannock.  We’re looking forward to hearing from the other students.  Surveys are welcome any time (we have 243 student surveys).

We will post the POVs we have this weekend.  After Friday, POVs will be posted each evening.  No proper names in the stakeholder groups please.  Stakeholder group names with actual student names will be changed to initials.  So, students who use there name as the group name should look for their initials.

The Thoughtful Question phase starts Monday (April 4th through April 18th).  They will be posted each evening.

Jefferson, Buffalo Gap, and James Wood (and Carol Sandburg(VA), Capon Bridge and East Hardy (WV) Middle Schools) have expressed interest in doing hands-on watershed restoration projects at or near their schools.  We can supply materials and assistance and would like to see all the schools do a project but April 15th is the deadline for requesting project help for Earth Day (April 22) or Arbor Day (April 25).  Projects are still possible through the end of the school year so we want to hear from you.

Frank Rodgers


April 7 email from Neil


The first batch of POVs are posted and I want to compliment your students on their often excellent work.  We are looking forward to seeing the rest of the classes post POVs over the next few days as we start the Thoughtful Questions phase.  Thoughtful Questions are always interesting, and it is wonderful when students challenge others to think a bit more deeply or differently.
The Thoughtful Questions phase is always a huge challenge for us at CI, because the kids don't discriminate well on Step 4 of the TQ form - which is:

Step 4:     This is a Question about a POV, or

                   This is a Response to a Question

                   This is a statement about a POV or Stakeholder Category

As many students have trouble figuring out what these categories mean, we literally have go over each entry and try to figure it out so we can post it in the correct place.  Yes, that's as difficult as it sounds.  It would be enormously helpful to us if you would go over the categories with your students as follows:
  • A question about a POV occurs after a group reads a POV, and wants to ask a POV stakeholder group a question.
  • A response to a question occurs when the group that wrote a POV responds to some other group's question
  • A statement about a POV or a Stakeholder Category occurs after a group reads a POV, or a bunch of POVs within a stakeholder category, and wants to make a statement (not a question).  A fine example of a statement from today is: "I think you had some good points regarding the bay's pollution among other problems. However, it would be easier to understand if you could change your grammatical errors."
As an example of the problem, I'm looking at the first six TQs, and they include two questions, two responses, and two statements.  It is easy to fix this today, because there is no possibility that anyone is responding to a question, because no questions have been posted yet.  Tomorrow is another matter entirely. 
We appreciate your help on this matter, and look forward to reading your students' work.
Neil Gillies


Note April 9, 2008

The Bay program unveiled a new website just as the SCE Forum was starting and a number of their link urls changed.  We thought we found them all but Claire found a bad link.  You can access the Chesapeake Bay Program Power Point overview presentations at:



Frank email April 11, 2008

Dear Teachers,
The students are doing a great job! 
We're still expecting POV posting from a few schools.  Next week is the last full week for dialogue.  So, if POVs aren't in by Monday the chance to engage other schools will be minimal.  We expect to take the last "ask" on Monday April 21st.  Students will then have an opportunity to respond and/or comment until Friday, April 25th.  Consensus papers will be posted daily from April 21st to the 25th and then posted as they arrive.  The consensus form on the website will be activated April 16th or papers can be email to us in a Word or PDF document.  Photos and/or images are welcome.  (Tips for consensus building at
Please, please, send us lesson plans, content standards, quizzes, tips, etc that you have developed around the SCE Forum.  We're always looking for ideas to share with other teachers.  We're most familiar with WV and have content standards on our website but we very much want to strength our support structure for MD and VA teachers.  We want to hear from you.

Frank email May 1, 2008

Please ask students to do the post-survey just like they did the pre-survey (it is exactly the same).

Thanks again for your participation.  We're looking forward to consensus papers to post.  As you are concluding the SCE Forum we'd be interested in your comments and any comments or thoughts your student might have on the process.
As a small non-profit we rely on grants and charitable donations to support the Potomac Highlands Watershed School including the Environmental Forums for high school students.  Positive feedback is one of the best "selling" points we have with funders.  Without the support of educators who are using our resources in class we could not succeed.  Your testimony, and the opinions of students, is the basis of renewed funding for future SCE Forums.
We ask you, and interested students, to email us their comments (including suggestions for how we might make the SCE Forum better).  Comments may also be sent via the link in the high school classroom for "eForum Info & Sign Up" ( )





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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)
304-856-1386 (fax)
Click here to send us an email
Frank Rodgers,  Executive Director

Website  made possible by funding from The Norcross Wildlife Foundation,  the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Virginia Environmental Endowment, NOAA-BWET, USEPA, The MARPAT Foundation, and our generous members.