North Fork students learn about local watershed

QUICKSBURG – North Fork Middle School sixth graders were called to action to protect the North Fork Shenandoah River Basin by Cindy Frenzel of Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River.

Frenzel spoke to the “rising river scientists” about their role in keeping the river system running smoothly.

“Our mission is to keep the North Fork of the Shenandoah River clean, healthy and beautiful through community action, education, science and advocacy,” she said.

Through monitoring the river, educating others and becoming an advocate, she said the students can also help her organization keep the river healthy.

She stressed advocacy to the students as a way to make a difference as an individual.

“If you really believe in something, you can be a voice for something,” she told them.

She explained what watersheds are and why they are important. She also showed photos of the river taken from space.

The Shenandoah River Basin is part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which encompasses multiple states.

She then posed a challenge to the students as river scientists: “What can we do to make the North Fork of the Shenandoah River be a less-impaired river?”

Over the next couple months, students will learn what is in the river and where it is and why it is considered impaired in certain areas.

In April or May, she will visit the students again at the river and will help them collect data by identifying bugs and fish that live in the river. Next they will determine what they can do to help keep the river clean.

“You’re doing real science,” she said.

Frenzel has worked with the organization for eight years.

“I’ve always been interested in teaching kids about how they can care for the environment,” she said. “This is actually my favorite job I’ve ever had because it’s so fun.”

Carolyn Staudt, a Bostonian grant writer, researcher and educational resource developer from Concord Consortium spoke with the students as well. She developed an online watershed modeling system using U.S. Geological Survey data, which will be used by the sixth graders.

John Woods, sixth grade science teacher at the school, said that the students will get to use hands-on learning experiences within the local community.

“Our scholars will be part of the first sampling by water scientist interns in the nation to work with this computer technology to analyze and predict how changes in the watershed can affect the quality of the waterways, and ultimately the quality of the ecosystem itself. This technology has only been developed for five states at this time, and Virginia is one of the five,” he said.

He added that Staudt works with other water scientists at the Stroud Water Research Center in Pennsylvania. She has also collaborated with Susan Gill, the director of education for the center.

“Last summer I was part of a small group of Virginia educators who were selected and trained to pilot this technology in our local watersheds,” Woods said.

The Friends of North Fork will have a family fun day at the Seven Bends State Park on May 14, Frenzel said. It is free to attend and includes a free lunch. Activities include kayaking, fishing, archery and snorkeling.

“It’ll be our biggest family event we’ve ever done,” Frenzel said.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com