Collegiate Teams Up with Virginia Wesleyan to Tackle Watershed Issues

Thanks to a three-year grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, Norfolk Collegiate will partner with Virginia Wesleyan University (VWU) to positively impact the Elizabeth River watershed. The project, “Shared Waters: An Upstream/Downstream Collaborative,” is a shared environmental project between VWU’s science education department and Norfolk Collegiate’s lower school. It’s also a simultaneous partnership between Millersville University and Penn Manor, a private elementary school in Pennsylvania. 
 
The grant will provide training and materials to teachers and elementary education majors about the impact of human activity on local creeks, streams and rivers. The schools in Pennsylvania will work together and Collegiate and VWU will work together to improve the animal and plant life in their local watersheds while sharing data and lessons between them. 
 
“The goal is to have students learn about local watershed issues and how their actions impact the overall health of the watershed,” said Dr. Catherine Thomson, lower school dean.
 
Over the summer, third grade teachers Lolita Kraft and Michelle McNaughton joined teachers from VWU for a weeklong session. They performed experiments throughout the week which will be performed with the students in the spring to teach them about the watershed. 
 
The “teachers are coming up with a project-based plan to teach it to the kids and will grow it each year,” said lower school science teacher Melissa Economou. They will begin with this year’s third grade students and will incorporate additional classes next year and the following year. 
 
“The objective is to tie their curriculum into a relevant environmental problem or issue on the lower school campus. The students will collect and analyze data with the guidance of science education students from VWU. Then they will adapt and apply their knowledge for future action to help resolve or better the problem. In essence, they become stewards of the lower school and neighboring community,” said Dr. Thomson. 
 
VWU students will gain experience in applying educational practice by teaching and mentoring Collegiate’s students.
 
“Ultimately, it will become a huge project,” said Economou. “It will also show them in the scheme of the Elizabeth River…We’ll begin with the third grade students because the third grade is concentrated on invasive species and will connect it to the explorers unit because they brought these as gifts,” said Economou.
 
They also will work to improve the habit of the watershed on the lower school’s property. 
 
“We’ll remove everything non-nature and replace it with native species and see how it affects the water column,” said Economou. “The students will also work on seeing the health of your water by the macro-invertebrates that live there.”
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