High Schoolers Explore the Waters of the James River

On a sunny fall day this November, a group of about 15 seniors from Lee-Davis High School in Mechanicsville, Virginia, got a chance to learn about the James River hands-on during a CBF education experience. Outings like these are key to educating students about the environment, says Lee-Davis teacher Lesa Berlinghoff. "CBF has given them an opportunity to engage in field experiences in a true context, something that we can't always accomplish in the lab or classroom," she says. "My hope is that it will enlighten future decisions they make when it comes to using our water resources wisely. For some, this experience will ignite a passion for the environment and possibly enlighten them about future career opportunities."


1The first step involves working as a team to unload the heavy canoes from the CBF trailer and carry them to the banks of the James River at Deep Bottom Park.

2After a quick lesson on basic canoeing techniques, students practice their paddling skills as they navigate the quiet waters of Four Mile Creek, a small tributary of the James.

3CBF Educator Rick Mittler explains how wetlands like this freshwater marsh are crucial for protecting water quality, leading the group in a "wetland warriors" chant.

The high schoolers test water quality in the creek by measuring pH, nitrates, phosphates, dissolved oxygen and other key indicators.

5The results of these tests show how pollution from nearby cities, suburbs and farms affects the health of the waterway. Despite the relatively muddy waters, the group found that the river is in overall better shape than they expected.

6Next, students braved the chilly waters to survey life in the James River with a seine net. They drag the net along the river's shallows, sweeping up fish, shrimp and other small animals.

7After pulling the net ashore, they search for fish and other aquatic life.

8With the critters safely in tubs of water, students examine and identify different species. When many different types of animals are present it's a sign that the river is in good health. On this day, they had a great catch totaling eight different species.

9This small colorful bluegill is a common find in the freshwater tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay.

10At the end of the excursion, the students once again work together to load the CBF trailer, leaving the canoes ready for the next day's trip.

--Text and photos by Kenny Fletcher, CBF's Virginia Communications Coordinator

Kenny Fletcher

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