Using a D-net, students collect macroinvertebrates. Image courtesy of USFWS/Southeast, via Flickr.
It’s Halloween in the Chesapeake Bay watershed! This is a perfect opportunity to introduce your students to the creepy creatures lurking beneath rocks in your local stream. While benthic macroinvertebrates may appear gruesome at first glance, a closer look reveals that these organisms are perfectly adapted to live and feed in their environment.
Shredders, such as stonefly larvae, use their strong mouthparts to chew through leaves and twigs that fall into the stream from the canopy above.
Collectors, such as caddisfly larvae, use specialized mouth parts to gather and feed on organic particles from the stream.
Scrapers, such as mayfly larvae, graze algae from rocks. Some of these macroinvertebrates have strong claws that help them grip rocks in swift currents.
Predators, such as dobsonfly larvae, have sharp mouthparts that help them eat other macroinvertebrates.
Benthic macroinvertebrates are often used as indicators of water quality because they inhabit almost all aquatic environments and have a wide range of tolerance to pollutants. Far from frightening, stonefly larvae (which are only found in pristine streams) are a beautiful sight to many stream biologists.
You can use the lesson plans below to begin your budding stream biologists’ love affair with bugs.
The U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, as described in last week’s blog, will recognize schools that save energy, reduce costs, feature environmentally sustainable learning spaces, protect health, foster wellness, and offer environmental education to boost academic achievement and community engagement. Beginning in the 2011-2012 school year, the Department will recognize schools where staff, students, officials and communities have worked together to produce energy efficient, sustainable and healthy school environments and to ensure the sustainability and environmental literacy of graduates.
The Nomination Process
State education, Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), and Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) authorities serve as the first line of application in the school selection process. These education authorities evaluate schools based on their facilities’ environmental impact, school health, and environmental education, as well as their compliance with federal civil rights and federal, state and local health, safety and environmental statutory and regulatory requirements. Based on the evaluation, authorities select nominees to send to U.S. Department of Education.
At this time, there are not yet single designated Green Ribbon contacts in every state education office for schools to contact, though there are some exploratory committees, green schools programs and other officials that are taking lead roles. This will vary from state to state. In the next few weeks, interested educators can support the Green Ribbon Schools program by asking their state that there be a Green Ribbon contact, so that state departments of education give consideration to facilities, health and environmental education. Because state authorities’ participation in the Green Ribbon Schools recognition award is voluntary, their decision as to whether to participate in the pilot year may depend on hearing from interested school communities, principals and superintendents. In short, a Green Ribbon Schools recognition award is not yet a certainty in every state, but can become a reality with the public’s help in asking that their state participate in nominating schools to ED.
In the pilot year (2011-2012), participating states will select their top four schools as nominees to send to the U.S. Department of Education. The U.S. Department of Education will review all of the state-nominated schools and expects that as many as 50 awards will be made in 2012, with the goal of expanding within five years to approximately 200 awards per year. These numbers are approximate and the Department may award more or fewer, depending on the nominations it receives.
The Review Criteria
The U.S. Department of Education will base its selection of Green Ribbon Schools on pillars and corresponding elements that are broad reaching and inclusive of many of the elements of existing green schools programs, although they may be stated slightly differently. The Green Ribbon Schools Pillars and Elements are:
I. Environmental Impact and Energy Efficiency
Reduced or eliminated greenhouse gas emissions, using an energy audit or emissions inventory and reduction plan, cost-effective energy efficiency improvements, conservation measures, and/or and on-site renewable energy and/or purchase of green power;
Improved water quality, efficiency, and conservation;
Reduced solid and hazardous waste production, through increased recycling, reduced consumption, and improved management, reduction, or elimination of hazardous waste streams; and
Expanded use of alternative transportation to, during and from school, through active promotion of locally-available, energy-efficient options and implementation of alternative transportation supportive projects and policies.
II. Healthy School Environments
An integrated school environmental health program based on an operations and facility-wide environmental management system that considers student, visitor and staff health and safety in all practices related to design, construction, renovation, operations, and maintenance of schools and grounds; and
High standards of nutrition, fitness, and quantity of quality outdoor time for both students and staff.
III. Environmental and Sustainability Education
Interdisciplinary learning about the key relationships between dynamic environmental, energy and human systems;
Use of the environment and sustainability to develop STEM content knowledge and thinking skills to prepare graduates for the 21st century technology-driven economy; and
Development of civic engagement knowledge and skills, and students’ application of these to address sustainability and environmental issues in their community.
Nominees demonstrating exemplary achievement in all three Pillars and every Element, according to the Framework will be ranked highest in the state and national competitions for U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools recognition. The U.S. Department of Education tentatively plans to receive nominations from state authorities in late winter, and would then be able to host a recognition award ceremony for winning schools by the end of the school year. The firm deadline for state’s submission of nominees to ED will be announced in the coming weeks.
For additional information on this program and the application process, please refer to the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools website and facebook page. You can also email your questions about this program to email@example.com.
Education Secretary Duncan, EPA Administrator Jackson and CEQ Chair Sutley announce the Green Ribbon Schools program with local students. Image courtesy of the U.S. Department of Education.
As you may have heard, it was an exciting summer at the U.S. Department of Education. With the assistance of a large federal family, the U.S. Department of Education developed pilot year criteria and award mechanisms for the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools recognition award program. Green Ribbon Schools is the first comprehensive and coordinated federal policy related to the environment, health and education in schools. The approach integrates environmental learning with maximizing the positive environmental and health impacts of schools.
Green Ribbon Schools is a voluntary program that recognizes schools in participating states that strive toward variety of existing standards, implementing or employing numerous complementary programs and resources. Like the Blue Ribbon Schools Program, Green Ribbon Schools is a recognition award, not a grant. Recognition awards incent change by communicating high standards and recognizing the most exemplary schools or individuals according to specified criteria. This recognition award program encourages state education authorities and school communities to:
Inform themselves about energy and resource conservation measures that provide opportunities for cost savings and job creation;
Support environmental and behavioral changes to promote health and productivity among all school occupants; and
Use environmental education to ensure interdisciplinary learning about the key relationships between the environment and humans, reinforce STEM content knowledge and thinking skills, and develop students’ civic engagement skills.
These areas make up the three “Pillars” of the Green Ribbon Schools recognition award:Environmental Impact and Energy Efficiency; Healthy School Environments; and Environmental and Sustainability Education. These “Pillars” are described in more depth in theCriteria for U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools.
How Can I Help Support The Green Ribbon Schools Recognition Program?
The Green Ribbon recognition award is a voluntary program and your state’s decision to participate in the pilot year could be influenced by public support for the program in your state. The essential task now is to inform schools and state education authorities of the Green Ribbon recognition award and of the many existing programs, standards and initiatives that can support their efforts toward high achievement in the three ‘Pillars’ the award identifies. Education officials will need federal, state and local government, non-profit and for-profit private sector support and expertise in their efforts to meet the aims Green Ribbon Schools lays out. – this means you!
As many of you know, school administrators have a great many competing priorities at this time. At least some of the work of conveying Green Ribbon Schools as a backdrop for a variety of existing resources that can serve to advance education officials’ current goals to cut costs, provide a well-rounded education, increase STEM skills and engagement, foster health and wellness and ensure students’ preparedness for the 21st century economy, will be advanced by resource providers and technical experts, including teachers.
The onus is upon all of us to help school officials see that, in reality, Green Ribbon is nothing new. It merely puts together the disparate pieces of the environmental, health, education, facilities and economic puzzle to help schools consider these issues comprehensively, and recognize those schools that do so in an exemplary manner. With your help, our nation’s schools can make strides in each of these areas to provide a holistically sustainable education for our students.
Chesapeake Research Consortium Staffers take a break from bird watching on a flooded pier to pose for a photo during an outing to Jug Bay Wetland Sanctuary.
Last week, Margaret Enloe, the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Communications Director, contributed an excellent guest blog about the impacts September’s flooding event had on the Bay. Now that you understand some of the Bay dynamics that may have been influenced by the recent influx of water, sediment, nutrients, and contaminants, let’s examine how you can convey this information to your students.
Don’t worry; you are not up a flooded creek without a paddle. There is a wealth of lesson plans available to help you teach about flooding, many of which are aligned with national content standards! Here are a few samples to help you get started:
Flood! – In this Discovery Education lesson plan, students in grades 6-8 will discover that different types of soil have different capacities for retaining rainwater. At the end of the lesson, they should also understand that if the soil in an area is already saturated with rainwater, flooding problems can ensue.
Floods: Rising Waters and You – 9-12 graders will investigate the relationships between human-made structures and flood waters in these PBS American Field Guide Lessons.
Flood! Classroom Activity – Students will construct a model of a river system and explore the use of manmade levees in this NOVA Teachers lesson plan.
Floods – Young students can learn about and play games related to floods on FEMA’s For Kids website. Children can read “The River Rises; The Disaster Twins’ Flood Story,” take a flood math quiz, or play the “Water, Wind, and Earth Game.”
What is a Flood Plain? – Its not all science when if comes to flooding. PBS has developed this lesson for 7-12 grade classrooms that wish to address content related to economics and/or geography.
Ancient Flood Stories – National Geographic has provided this lesson to help educators discuss the evidence that ancient floods may have helped to create the Black Sea. Students will practice their creative writing by composing stories about what it might have been like immediately before and during the flood.
On September 21, 2011 Chesapeake Research Consortium staffers hiked along the flooded Railroad Bed Trail in Jug Bay Wetland Sanctuary.
Ask a Scientist
Remember to end your flooding lesson by “bringing it local!” Discussing the impacts that September’s flooding had on the Chesapeake Bay, and on areas within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, will provide your students with a real-world example that they have experienced. Ask your students if their families took any steps to prepare for the flooding (see FEMA’s Flood website for helpful safety tips), or discuss what happened on school grounds. This can help bring your flooding lesson to life, and ensure that it is relevant to your students.
Another great way to get your students interested in learning about floods and our local watershed is to have them interact with professionals who work in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) related fields. The Chesapeake Bay Program Partnership has many experts across the watershed who can answer your class’s emailed questions about the response of the streams, rivers and the Bay to the extreme rainfalls and flood conditions. You can have your class assemble a list of their questions, and email them to us using this online form. The Chesapeake Bay Program has experts on the following flooding-related topics:
River flow, flood conditions, loads of pollutants, comparison of other major flood events
Impacts of flood event on MD’s Bay waters and living resources
River monitoring in MD
Impacts of flood event on VA’s Bay waters and living resources
River monitoring in VA
River monitoring in PA
Monitoring in PA and New York
Overall watershed-wide effects and how CBP partners are monitoring the impacts
Data and info from NOAA Bay monitoring buoys, research vessels, and satellite imagery
Impacts on the Bay/other contacts in the watershed for more information
Sarah Brzezinski works for the Chesapeake Research Consortium as the Chesapeake Bay Program's Fostering Stewardship and Education Workgroup Team Staffer. She also serves as the content manager of Bay Backpack.
During the flooding event on September 9, 2011, nutrients, sediment, garbage, and debris were washed downstream from the Susquehanna River into Chesapeake Bay at a near-record rate. Image courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory.
Near record flow of the Susquehanna River was measured by the USGS on the morning of Friday, September 9th. River flow at Conowingo Dam, where the river enters the Chesapeake Bay, was 775,000 cubic feet per second (CFS)! 2011 will most likely be one of the highest annual flow years on record for the Susquehanna River, primarily as a result of both the September tropical storms and a wet spring across the watershed. In addition to the Susquehanna, high river flows were measured throughout other parts of the six-state Chesapeake Bay watershed. Your class can investigate real-time streamflow data at a site near your school by using the USGS WaterWatch website.
Likely Impacts on the Bay
Last month’s blog reported that the Chesapeake Bay received a short term water quality boost from Hurricane Irene due to the physical mixing of the Bay’s waters by extreme winds and waves that sent oxygen-rich surface waters into the deeper channels that are normally lacking oxygen at this time of year. It is true that the physical mixing that resulted from Hurricane Irene did increase the amount of dissolved oxygen near the bottom of the Bay; however the shear magnitude of the more recent flood waters, combined with the loads of nutrients and sediments, will likely have a negative effect on the Bay’s health. We will only understand the true impacts with the passage of time and through the combined monitoring and assessments by the Chesapeake Bay Program’s many partners.
Things to Watch:
Of potential concern to the next year’s crop of underwater bay grasses is the physical scouring of the Bay bottom (particularly in the Susquehanna Flats and the upper tidal Potomac River) resulting in the removal of vegetation living below the sediment surface—the ‘seeds’ for next spring’s plants.
The Bay’s oyster bars and other important hard bottom habitats will likely get a new layer of silt covering them in the coming days and weeks ahead, which will directly impact oyster and other bottom dwelling organisms.
Much of this sediment will stay around and, with the help of winds and tidal currents, find itself back up in the water column as early as this coming fall and well into the next year.
The flood of freshwater into a salty Bay can have impacts on the Bay’s critters like oysters which can’t just get up and move if the much lower salinity conditions last for an extended period of time.
Up on the Susquehanna River, the volume of flood waters will scour the bottom, causing sediment and nutrients previously ‘trapped’ behind the Conowingo Dam to be freed and sent down to the Bay. These released sediments will likely bring not only more nutrients to the Bay, but also long-buried chemical contaminants.
USGS will be taking samples for analysis of bacteria, pesticides and trace metals over the course of the flood event to help understand the chemical contaminant loads entering the Bay from such a major flood event. Several months from now we will be able to quantify these loads and the potential impact to a much higher degree.
Timing of the Floods Lessens the Opportunity for Further Impacts
When it comes to flood events and their impact on the health of local waterways and the Bay overall, it is timing that makes the big difference in terms of whether there is a short term (weeks to a month) or a long lasting (months to years) impact on the Bay ecosystem. Based on historical data, we expect and will be monitoring the following:
Bay grasses: We are at the end of the underwater Bay grasses peak growing season, so impacts will be fewer than if the flooding occurred in June or July.
Living organisms in the Bay: As this is not a major spawning period for Bay living resources, the long term impact on their populations will be minimal.
Nutrients & sediment to the Bay: Given that this flood event is happening as the summer season comes to a close, there is less opportunity for long lasting water quality impacts in terms of nutrient and sediment pollution. By the spring, a majority of the nutrients should have worked their way through the Bay system. Additionally, cooler temperatures, shorter days, reduced biological activity, and cloudy waters should prevent large algal blooms from growing in the excess nutrients.