Centre County High School Students to Learn About Water Quality in Their Own Backyards and the Bay

(HARRISBURG, PA)–Fox Gap Rod & Gun Club will become an outdoor classroom where 90 seventh-graders from Penns Valley High School will learn about water quality in their own Centre County backyards at Elk Creek Field Day on April 30.

"We have a lot of data before stream restoration was done," club owner Chip Brown said. "We've enhanced the buffer on both sides of the stream. I basically have a classroom here. You have all the data points of nutrient and sediment, and numbers of fish. Wouldn't it be neat for kids who live in a farming community to be able to see the Bay and see what influence we do, here in central PA, has on the Bay?"

The outdoor learning experienceat Fox Gap Rod & Gun Club, 30 miles east of State College, is a collaborative effort of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) in Pennsylvania, along with federal, state and local agencies and businesses offering financial and technical support.

Applying the Meaningful Watershed Education Experience (MWEE) concept, teachers have found that supporting classroom work with investigations into local environmental issues engages students in their community and improves critical thinking.

"A MWEE is apowerful educational tool for strengthening environmental literacy and a method of teaching that requires a lot of support to be successful," said Emily Thorpe, student leadership coordinator for CBF in Pennsylvania. "This Penns Valley to Chesapeake Bay Partnership has a lot of partner support."

At the Field Day, studentswill learn about watersheds and water chemistry, aquatic bugs and other species that live in the creek, fly fishing, trout and other fishes, stream and buffer restoration, and upland habitats. They will also get to help with restoration by planting willow trees and seeds for pollinators.

The PA to the Bay experience for Penns Valley students will extend to two days in May with field trips to the Bay and CBF's Phillip Merrill Environmental Education Center in Annapolis, MD.

Financial and instructional support for the student experiences at Fox Gap and the Merrill Center is being provided by the Trout Unlimited Spring Creek Chapter, Pheasants Forever, The Chesapeake Bay Trust, Penns Valley School District, Penns Valley Conservation Association, Chip and Diane Brown, Chesapeake Conservancy and Susquehanna University, Clearwater Conservancy, and The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Local businesses responded to letters written by students by offering financial support.

"Chesapeake Conservancy appreciates this opportunity to share information about our partnership with local conservation organizations, providing the best available mapping data to assist with decision making," said Adrienne Gemberling, Chesapeake Conservancy's Susquehanna Technical Coordinator Adrienne. "It's exciting to bring mapping and technology to life through various exercises with Penns Valley middle and high school students."

"The willingness of our partners is impressive," Thorpe added. "Chip Brown brought everyone together and opened up his property. Penns Valley teacher Jessica Martin applied for grant funding and had her students write letters to local businesses. Amazing organizations were eager to provide time and resources in order to make these field experiences happen."

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