The Potomac Highlands Watershed School 

Hands-On Projects

See Projects Map.  


Cacapon Institute’s eSchool activities, when coupled with hands-on conservation or research projects, can provide a full Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience (MWEE), an expansive form of Project Based Learning.  CI encourages eSchool classes to look into local issues, identify a problem that would be improved by hands-on efforts, and to then develop and implement a plan to address the issue.  CI actively works with schools through our Potomac Headwaters Leaders of Watersheds (PHLOW) program both in the classroom and in conducting restoration activities to educate future generations of environmental stewards and leaders.  We can help find technical and financial resources to support such activities. 

Below are hands-on watershed restoration and conservation projects from the community of schools using the Potomac Highlands Watershed SchoolCheck out a map of the school project locations. 

Search Cacapon Institute's website for school project pages.  Suggested search terms: rain garden, tree, tree planting, school project, wetland.  Also try entering a school's name (such as: Paw Paw or Wildwood).
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Students have also planted many trees at schools through the Project CommuniTree program.


Spring 2015 School Projects

Grow a Garden

Grow-a-Garden helps students discover the connections between land use practices and the health of rivers.  Students control stormwater runoff by constructing rain gardens or installing rain barrels or cisterns.

Blue Ridge Elementary

Harpers Ferry Middle

Moorefield Elementary


Growing Native

Growing Native focuses on the structure and importance of native trees within our rural and urban landscapes. Students planted tree seedlings for continued growth in Grow-Out Stations.

Boonsboro Elementary

Driswood Elementary

North Jefferson Elementary

Orchard View Intermediate

Paw Paw School

Pleasant Valley Elementary

South Jefferson Elementary

Shepherdstown Elementary

Warm Springs Intermediate


Plant a Tree

The Plant-a-Tree program teaches the overall importance of trees within our ecosystem. Students plant native trees at their school that increase the aesthetic value at the school but also provide shade, increase wildlife habitat, and capture stormwater runoff pollution.

Cub Run Elementary

Winchester Academy



Fall 2014 School Projects

Rain Garden & Cistern Installation

Charles Town Middle School, Charles Town, WV

Science Club members convert a barren landscape riddled with flooding issues into a beautiful rain garden that captures stormwater and adds aesthetic value to the student entryway.


Growing Native

Students from Eagle School, Ranson Elementary, Riverheads Elementary, and Saint Joseph Parish took part in Growing Native. Growing Native focuses on the importance of native trees in the health of our watersheds and rivers, tree structure, and planting of native tree seeds in Grow-Out Stations at the school.



Spring 2014 School Projects

Rain Garden Maintenance

Capon Bridge Middle School, Capon Bridge, WV

Science Club students removed weeds, installed new plants, mulched, and watered the school’s existing rain garden.

Cistern Installation & Tree Planting to Enhance Wildlife Area

Charles Town Middle School, Charles Town, WV

Science Club students tackle stormwater at their school through the installation of a 250 gallon cistern and planting shrubs along with native flowers near existing bird boxes on the school grounds.

Rain Garden

North Jefferson Elementary School, Kearneysville, WV

In a five week long education and rain garden installation program the 4th and 5th grade classes focused on pollution issues in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed  and their local watershed. Leading students to discovered the positive impact they could make at their school for their local watershed and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.


Raised Vegetable Beds

Petersburg Elementary School, Petersburg, WV

The  5th grade class continued the plans for the school’s outdoor classroom with four raised garden beds. The students researched plants that can be used in the school cafeteria and made scale drawings of the raised beds. Over two consecutive school days, 98 students assembled the soil and installed different plants and seeds of various vegetable, herbs, and pumpkins species in the raised beds. Students were not shy to get their hands dirty and participate.

Tree Planting and Wetland Enhancement

Shepherdstown Elementary School, Shepherdstown, WV

The 3rd and 4th grade classes planted six shrub trees and 79 native plants in their new outdoor learning space and wetland area. Students participated in an education program about their local watershed, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, and the importance of not polluting our rivers and streams.


Rain Garden and Tree Planting

Slanesville Elementary School, Slanesville, WV

First grade students at Slanesville Elementary School spent the end of the school day on Monday, May 12th planting 75 native flowering plants and 6 native trees on their playground. Students participated in an hour long education class as a preparation for the planting. Students learned the parts of a tree and flower additionally they made observation about the trunk of a tree using tree cookies. Students were enthusiastic to participate in both activities.


Rain Garden

South Jefferson Elementary School, Charles Town, WV

Student’s grades 3rd through 5th worked together to plant 120 native plant species, one sugar maple tree, and a pin oak tree on their school grounds. The rain garden plant species were selected to continue the school’s theme of West Virginia. South Jefferson students have been learning important facts and historical information of West Virginia throughout the year. Teachers and students alike plan to use to the rain garden space as an outdoor learning lab in the coming school years; the key theme of West Virginia will play a key role in the education materials.


Rain Garden and Tree Maintenance

Spring Mills Middle School, Spring Mills, WV

The Girl Scout Troop conducted maintenance on their local rain garden.


Rain Garden and Tree Plantings Maintenance

Wildwood Middle School, Shenandoah Junction, WV

The 7th and 8th grade students take part in the maintenance of the school’s rain garden and WV Project CommuniTree fall planting. Maintenance needs for the rain garden included removal of weeds, planting additional plants, and adding a new lay of mulch. The trees required the addition of mulch.


Washington County, Maryland- Rain Garden Projects

Cacapon Institute partnered with the Potomac Valley Audubon Society to help with the installation of six rain gardens at Elementary Schools in Washington County, Maryland. Rain Gardens were installed at Boonsboro, Fountain Rock, Greenbrier, Lincolnshire, Pleasant Valley, and Sharpsburg Elementary Schools.


Spring 2013 School Projects

Rain Garden, Tree Planting, Native Grasses

Capon Bridge Middle School, Capon Bridge, WV

Environmental Club students and lead teacher, Linda Mowery, spent two workdays installing a rain garden, planting 14 trees, and replanting an eroded area with 48 native grasses that were grown from seed in the classroom. These projects beautified the campus and reduced stormwater runoff from their school.

Rain Garden

Mill Creek Intermediate, Inwood, WV

Kelly Rutherford and Emilie Gosnell’s 5th grade students worked to plant 72 native plant species in a 120 square foot rain garden. The rain garden is capturing runoff from the teacher parking and the school bus gas station. The rain garden will block the view of the gas station from the surrounding baseball fields.

Rain Garden

Mountain Ridge Intermediate School, WV

Beth LeGrand, lead teacher, had 27 students from the 5th grade class participate in planting native plants in a 120 square foot rain garden located outside the art classroom. The art classes will use the native plants in drawing exercises along with science classes studying the different parts of the flower.

Living Sign

Musselman High School, Inwood, WV

Students from the W.E.T Club designed and installed a living sign on the hill near the soccer field. The sign was constructed with blue rug junipers spelling “MHS”.  This living sign helps to decrease stormwater runoff from the soccer field while evoking school spirit.

Rain Garden Maintenance

Paw Paw Schools, Paw Paw, WV

  Science students from Carol Coryea’s classes worked together to provide maintenance on the large 350 square foot rain garden installed spring of 2012. Maintenance included removal of weeds, creating a rock outline of the rain garden, planting additional native plants, and mulching the whole area.

Rain Garden

Petersburg Elementary School, Petersburg, WV

The 5th grade class at Petersburg Elementary School designed and installed a 300 square foot rain garden on the school grounds. Lead teacher, Julie Colaw, presented the idea to convert a rarely used outdoor corridor into an outdoor classroom to be used by the entire school.

Rain Garden and Tree Planting

Wildwood Middle School, Shenandoah Junction, WV

Lead teacher, Caroline Moffat, engaged her 7th grade honors science class in planning and installing a 135 square foot rain garden. Students planted the rain garden in a low laying area below the visitor’s parking lot; this area is capturing stormwater runoff from the parking lot and was highly saturated for days following a rainstorm. Students also planted 3 trees near the rain garden to help capture additional water and rainfall. 


Spring 2012 School Projects

Rain Garden

Spring Mills Middle School, Spring Mills, WV

At Spring Mills Middle School, 22 kids from the Science Club and their science teacher, Michelle Adams, planned, designed and executed a 500 square foot rain garden as one of three hands-on, project based learning restoration projects.

Tree Planting and other BMPs

Spring Mills Middle School, Spring Mills, WV

At Spring Mills Middle School, 22 kids from the Science Club and their science teacher, Michelle Adams, planted 12 large ball and burlap trees, and planted a 1000 square foot area with wildflower seeds through Cacapon Institute’s Potomac Headwaters Leaders of Watersheds program.

Rain Garden and Education

Tomahawk Intermediate School, Hedgesville, WV

On April 15th and 16th 2012, Tomahawk Intermediate School in Hedgesville, WV involved the entire 3rd grade in watershed restoration projects and community outreach.  Cacapon Institute (CI) spearheaded a student-led project to design and install a 37 foot by 8 foot raised bed rain garden, a similarly sized wildflower seed planting, an informative billboard, educational posters and flyers, interpretive signs, and three decorated rain barrels.

Rain Barrels

Tomahawk Intermediate School, Hedgesville, WV

On April 15th and 16th 2012, Tomahawk Intermediate School in Hedgesville, WV involved the entire 3rd grade in watershed restoration projects and community outreach.  Cacapon Institute (CI) spearheaded a student-led project to design and install three rain barrels to capture roof runoff and use it to water a 37 foot by 8 foot raised bed rain garden and a similarly sized wildflower seed planting. 

Williamsport Butterfly Garden

Williamsport Elementary School, Williamsport, MD

Williamsport Elementary School is a Maryland Certified Green School with a Green Club led by Teacher Heidi Strite.   On April 25th, 2012 Cacapon Institute helped 20 students plant a high visibility butterfly garden in the front of the school. 

Three-tiered Rain Garden Installation

Musselman High School, Inwood, WV

On April 20th, 2012, students from the W.E.T. Club (Watershed Environmental Team) and lead teacher Deb Stevens installed a three tiered rain garden and other Best Management Practices surrounding the band field.  

Rain Garden

Paw Paw School, Paw Paw, WV

Students design and construct a new rain garden, this time to detain water flowing through a grassy area. 

Tree Planting

Hancock Junior Senior High School, Hancock, MD

Hancock Junior/Senior High is working to become a Maryland Green School.  students surveyed their school grounds looking for sites that could potentially be improved to reduce the impact of stormwater runoff pollution.  They selected a hill out back that had eroding areas and  no trees at all for their first tree planting.  The students plan to earn Student Service Learning credits watering the trees all summer.  They are already making plans to plant more trees, maybe even build a rain garden, next school year.

Tree Identification Field Trip

Harrisonburg City Schools, Harrisonburg, VA

Harrisonburg City Schools has an annual Water Day Field Trip for between 150 and 200 middle school students take a trip to the Shenandoah River.  There the students investigate aquatic life, learn about water use, talk about the importance of riparian buffers, and raft on the Shenandoah.  Many students use CI’s eSchool to prepare for the trip.  The Benthic Macro Invertebrate Portal is a favorite with the teachers.   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. 

2011 School Projects

Wetland Enhancement

Musselman High School, Inwood, WV

CI's Ben Alexandro worked with the W.E.T. Club at Musselman to study wetland function, and to plan and implement a biodiversity enhancement of the existing campus wetland.

Urban Tree Canopy Planting

Wildwood Middle School, Jefferson County, WV

On April 11, 2011 ten Redbud trees were planted at Wildwood Middle School.  With the help of Cacapon Institute and Wildwood science teacher Carolyn Thomas, Environmental Club students led the planting. 


Rain Garden

Paw Paw School, Paw Paw, WV

Paw Paw School's students design and construct a raised-bed rain garden on their school grounds.   This was a joint project by the Potomac Valley Audubon Society and Cacapon Institute.

2009 School Projects

Musselman High School, Inwood, WV

CI's work with the students of Musselman High began in 2009 when we helped students conduct a school grounds survey to identify possible sources of non point source pollution for remediation in the coming years.   This became the template for our approach to hands-on environmental education under Cacapon Institute's Potomac Headwaters Leaders of Watersheds (PHLOW) program.

Tree Planting and Low-Mow Area Created

Musselman High School, Inwood, WV

Musselman students worked with the lawn maintenance crews to establish a low-mow area and plant 20 trees.

Green Roof Installation

Musselman High School, Inwood, WV

Students installed 700 square feet of green roof to reduce stormwater runoff and lower heating and cooling costs for the school.  Planting a green roof reduces stormwater run off because much of the rain water is collected in the plants and soil and never leaves the roof.

Watershed Tour

Gonzaga College High School, Washington D.C.

Gonzaga students toured the Pope Branch watershed with Jim Woodsworth, Director of Tree Planting and Stewardship for Casey Trees.  Webpage includes a Google Map of the tour area.

Tree Planting, Riparian Farmland

Turner Ashby High School, Page County, VA

Turner Ashby students, working with the Shenandoah Pure Water Forum, planted trees at Silver Lake.  (PWF website link to this story not active.)

Turner Ashby High School ecology students Emma Dillon, 16, and Kelly Wells, 19, plant a tree on a farm in Dayton on Wednesday in an effort to help control runoff into Silver Lake. The students planted red maple, pawpaw, sawtooth oak, hickory, northern red oak, chinkapin oak, red osier dogwood, pine and hazelnut.

2008 School Projects

Erosion Control Project

Buffalo Gap High School, Augusta County, VA

Students solve an erosion problem at Beverly Manor Elementary school to reduce sediment pollution.

Tree Planting, Stormwater Pond Riparian Area

Jefferson High School, Jefferson County, WV

Students planted more than 100 trees and expanded the no-mow area around the school's stormwater pond.

Stream Table Construction

East Hardy High School, Baker, WV

Students built four stream tables for use by local non-profits to teach watershed hydrology.

Tree Planting on School Grounds

Capon Bridge Middle School, Capon Bridge, WV

Students from the Potomac Headwaters Leaders of Watersheds planted ten trees in the school's outdoor picnic area.

Pre-2008 School Projects

Tree Huggers! 

East Hardy Middle School, Baker, WV  2005-2006

About 40 students formed a club to do a number of service projects.  They passed out trees to younger students on Arbor Day (the national day to think about the importance of trees), they planted trees, they cleaned a stream, and they helped with school recycling.  The students took pictures for you to see here.

Deer Exclusion Fence Installed

Hampshire High School, Romney, WV 2005, Fall

Environmental Science students, after participating in the Oh Deer! eForum, installed a deer exclusion fence for long term study of forest floor habitat and regeneration.

School Projects Map

View PHWS Projects in a larger map                                                                                    Back to Top. 
Students have also planted many trees at schools through the Project CommuniTree program.


Cacapon Institute, as part of the Chesapeake Bay Program’s 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 these projects came from the West Virginia Commission for National and Community Service, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The MARPAT Foundation, and NOAA-BWET.