MEANINGFUL WATERSHED EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCE
A MWEE or Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience is an investigative or experimental project that engages students in thinking critically about the Bay watershed. Students participate in background research, hands-on activities and reflection periods that are appropriate for their ages and grade levels.
The well-being of the Chesapeake Bay watershed will one day rest in the hands of its youngest citizens: the more than three million students in kindergarten through twelfth grade. Partners in the Chesapeake Bay Program recognize that participation in strong, targeted environmental education programs, especially in the context of one's community and culture, provide a vital foundation for watershed stewardship. A student’s years in school provide a unique opportunity to build the skills necessary to understand and utilize scientific evidence to make informed decisions regarding multifaceted and evolving environmental issues. Essential to this learning are outdoor field experiences driven by rigorous academic learning standards that engender discovery and wonder; they nurture a sense of community that connects students with their watershed and help reinforce an ethic of responsible citizenship.
In recognition of this, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, signed on June 16, 2014, commits states in the region to prepare every student with the knowledge and skills necessary to responsibly protect and restore their local watershed. The cornerstone of this goal is rigorous student inquiry coupled with participation in teacher-supported meaningful watershed educational experiences (MWEE) in elementary, middle, and high school. The agreement also highlights the important role of the jurisdictions in promoting and assisting with the implementation of environmental education, and formally recognizes school divisions and schools as essential partners in the protection, restoration, and conservation of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Student MWEEs should include:
1) Issue Definition: Students focus on an environmental question, problem, or issue requiring background research and investigation. They learn more about the issue through classroom instruction, the collection of data, conducting experiments and by talking to experts and reviewing credible publications. They also reflect on their personal experiences and values related to the issue. This process should be age appropriate with practices growing in complexity and sophistication across the grades, starting with educator guided investigation and progressing to student-led inquiry. As students mature, the level and complexity of inquiry will likewise progress.
2) Outdoor field experiences: Students participate in one or more outdoor field experience sufficient to collect the data required for answering the research questions and informing student actions. The outdoor field experiences should be student-led to the extent possible with students actively involved in planning the investigation, taking measurements, or constructing the project within appropriate safety guidelines. These experiences can take place off-site and on the school grounds.
3) Action projects: Students participate in an age appropriate project during which they take action to address environmental issues at the personal or societal level. These projects provide students with a better understanding of the actions that they can take to protect and conserve natural resources, and allow them to have a sense of control over the outcome of environmental issues. To the extent possible, action projects should be student directed and can take the form of on-the-ground restoration projects on school grounds or in their community, or can be focused on increasing student civic engagement.
4) Synthesis and conclusions: Students analyze and evaluate the results of their investigation of the issue. Students make conclusions based on research, experiences, and data analysis and consider alternate hypotheses. Students should synthesize and communicate results and conclusions to an external audience such as other classrooms, schools, or the community. This allows students to become agents behind their own actions and decisions.
The District works with Buckingham and Cumberland Virginia Cooperative Extension staff and State Parks to provide meaningful watershed educational experiences for all 6th graders in public schools at both counties. Buckingham students generally go to James River State Park and Cumberland students go to Bear Creek Lake State Park.
Stations include chemical, physical and biological water quality monitoring, watershed address, enviroscape demonstration, and erosion experiments. Following their MWEE, students write a reflective essay and can compete to win an all-expense paid trip to explore their watershed. To learn more, click on the button below.
Click on the appropriate button below to view water quality results collected from MWEE's in each County.