The Potomac Highlands Watershed School 

PHWS Projects 2012

Harrisonburg City Schools - Tree Identification

Harrisonburg City Schools

Annual Water Day Field Trip

Harrisonburg City Schools has an annual Water Day Field Trip for students from Thomas Harrison Middle School.  Each spring, just before the end of the school year, between 150 and 200 students take a trip to the Shenandoah River.  There the students investigate aquatic life in the river, learn about water use, talk about the importance of riparian buffers, and raft on the Shenandoah.  Many students use CIís eSchool to prepare for the trip.  The Benthic Macro Invertebrate Portal is a favorite with the teachers.  The field trip is held at a wild park that surrounds the pump house that provides water to Harrisonburg so it is a good location to talk about water use. 

Andy Jackson, Harrisonburg City Schools Science Director, first invited Cacapon Institute to participate in 2009.  Each year one or two CI staffers help with stream sampling and/or the tree identification station.  At the tree ID station students discuss the benefits of trees for reducing nutrient and sediment non-point source pollution.  According to Dr. Susan Day at Virginia Tech, a healthy tree can intercept 75% of the first inch of rainfall.  Even in upland setting, trees can reduce stormwater runoff pollution.  In riparian setting, in addition to reducing runoff, tree roots stabilize the river bank to reduce erosion.  Trees also take up nutrients from runoff to help keep our watersheds clean.

After discussing the benefits of trees in protecting watersheds, students use an abbreviated dichotomous key to identify the trees around them.  VA Division of Forestry offers free tree ID help at:


VA DOF Forester Patricia Nylander discusses the benefits of trees.


Students practice measuring diameter at standard height.


CI Urban Forestry Coordinator Tanner Haid shows students how to use a dichotomous key.

Identifying trees is AWESOME!