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, March 14 through April 22, 2011


Back to Teacher's Room



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

Teacher Tips

Hands-on Projects


Stream Cleaner eForum 2011 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.


Top of Page     Back to Teacher's Room




March 15, 2011


Dear Teachers,


Some house keeping for the opening of the 2011 SCE Forum. 


1.  Please do the surveys before anything else.  Teachers make up and assign the Teacher Codes.


2a.  Worksheets:  A printable, blank, student-answer sheet to match the worksheets is available in the Teachers' Lounge.  follow the links:  "High School Activities" on the table > "Environmental Forums" #11 > link for "Lesson Plans here" > link for "Stream Cleaner Environmental Forum".


2b.  The teachers’ correct-answer key (not available on the website) is attached in a zip file.  If you have any trouble with zip files please let me know.


3.  Archive links to past SCE Forum POVs will be "hidden" from students to encourage original thought.  Past POVs can be accessed from this link:

(change only the year's number to access 2006-2008)

Please note, the archived SCE Forum pages are still available on our website, just the links are hidden.  We have seen clever students use Google to "catch" the archived links and view past POVs.


We’re available weekends and evening for questions, comments, or to discuss the SCE Forum.  I can be reached at 304-258-7657; Neil Gillies, Executive Director, at 304-897-6297.




Frank Rodgers

Director of Education & Outreach



Dear Teachers,

Thanks' to the classes who have posted their POVs.  We expect a few more classes to submit this week.

Our intent with the Thoughtful Discussion (TD) session is to host a civil and meaningful peer-to-peer dialogue.  With that in mind, we want to remind classes of a few points.
1.  It is imperative that students properly complete the To, From, and "someone else/your own" lines in the TD form (Steps 2-4).  If there is any questions we encourage you to share a six minute video on POV & TD submission with the class.  It is available in the TD section of the eForum webpage by following the link in "For some tips on writing strong TDs click here".
2.  Students should continue to work within their team when submitting TDs.  A rush of individual TDs is difficult for us to moderate and team submissions are, in general, more worthwhile.
3.  TDs should be, as the name implies, thoughtful!  Students should refrain from personal attacks, bickering, or sniping.  It is not acceptable, for example, to simply say "that is stupid" or "what a terrible POV".  While dissent is welcome, students should frame their TDs as constructive criticism.  If they wouldn't write it to their teacher or parents they shouldn't write it to their fellow students.

4.  Now that the dialogue has begun, students should begin each session by first check to see if a TD has been posted to them and reply before posting new TDs to other students.  Encourage them to respond to comments and challenges immediately.

We look forward to the dialogue.


Frank Rodgers
Director of Education & Outreach



***************************Top of Page      Back to Teacher's Room





Back to Top

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.