Each year the District teams up with Bear Creek Lake State Park and Cumberland Virginia Cooperative Extension to provide Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences to 6th Graders in Cumberland County. The Cumberland County 6th Grade MWEE starts off with an investigative question: is the water quality of Bear Creek Lake conducive for supporting aquatic life?
The first part of the student investigation involves a macroinvertebrate study. Students sift through leaf litter collected from Bear Creek Lake and identify these bottom-dwelling creatures without a backbone.
Some of these critters can tolerate pollution and some of them can't. Each year we identify a lot of diverse macroinvertebrates and determine that from a biological standpoint, the water quality at Bear Creek Lake is between good and excellent. The second part of the student investigation is physical and chemical water quality testing. Students test a water sample from the lake for turbidity, temperature, pH, Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and dissolved oxygen. They also conduct erosion experiments and learned that sediment from erosion is the number one pollutant in our waterways, they map out their watershed address after receiving an enviroscape demonstration, and finish up the field day with a hike in the woods. Students also get to observe a fish shocking demonstration performed by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
The conclusion: Water quality at Bear Creek Lake is in the good to excellent range and is conducive for supporting aquatic life.
Students are then given the opportunity to write a reflective essay to win a scholarship to Watershed Exploration Camp.