The James River watershed presents history and exploration as close as our own backyard. In efforts to familiarize Richmond students with the vitality of the watershed, James River Association and James River Park System educated 1,600 Richmond Public School sixth graders. Thanks to $445,000 of funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), students were able to gather knowledge regarding the health of the river and the importance of watersheds and wetlands through scientific experiments and hands-on activities. During the Students Investigating Urban Parks program, eight Richmond Public Schools joined educators in Great Shiplock Park, Reedy Creek, and Pony Pasture.

Students participated in scientific experiments which encompassed SOL criteria and watershed education. Studying abiotic and biotic water quality testing, students were able to discover the interconnectivity of everyday choices with the health of the river. Activities included catching macroinvertebrates to determine their ability to tolerate pollution and dissolved oxygen and nitrate testing. Additionally, students learned about the characteristics of wetlands, the ecosystems in which they support, and their ability to filtrate water and prevent floods.

For many students the field trip offered new experiences and an opportunity to learn appreciation for our watershed. Students from across the city gained awareness of our park system while simultaneously becoming stewards of the environment.

“The bar has been set high for the rest of the school year for any other field trip. Thus far I have not seen my students so engaged as they were at Reedy Creek and at Great Shiplock Park. Not only were they learning more about things we already covered in class but they were also having fun while doing so” said Destiny Parker of Thomas C. Boushall Middle School.

The James River Association and James River Park System are excited to reach more students and foster exploration during the next three years.