Students Take Class To Rivanna River

By: Venton D. Blandin
By: Venton D. Blandin

Monday, March 27, 2006

No matter how we live in Central Virginia, everything we do affects the Chesapeake Bay, and it's up to us to protect it. Seventh grade students at Buford Middle School left the classroom, and hit the road to see how they could do just that.

Students in Buford Middle School's science department gave up sitting behind a classroom desk to sit in a canoe on the Rivanna River.

"It was kind of fun...because I got to test the water out," said Irene Griffin, a student at Buford Middle School.

The students pushed aside the textbooks to get their hands dirty to make the environment better while having fun.

"We went back on the canoes, and talked about what makes the water bad [and] what makes the water good," said Vance Pilkington, a student at Buford Middle School.

"One thing about students this age is they do like to play games, and so we had games that would help make our points about what is a watershed," said Ida Swenson of the Rivanna Conservation Society.

The seventh graders are currently learning about watersheds and water quality. Both topics allow the perfect opportunity for hands-on learning at Panorama Farms in Albemarle County.

"They are actually able to see the watershed, and the layout of the farm, the ridges [and] the divides," said Brenda Kovarik, a Science Teacher at Buford Middle School.

The students learned the farm's layout, and canoed along the river to test water near a small island. Tests were also given to look for insects, worms, and other small creatures. Students in the class on the road may seem like they were having lots of fun, but it was more complicated.

"So, we held a contest where they were able to write an essay on Charlottesville water quality," added Kovarik.

Teachers picked 80 students from the academic competition to go on the field trip.

"It was pretty different because we were gathering the macro-invertebrates, and we were testing it. It wasn't laid out in a textbook. It wasn't reading, it was hands-on," said Gabriella Simeone, a student at Buford Middle School.

The experience was made possible in part by a grant from the Virginia Department of Education. Teachers from Buford Middle, and other schools in Charlottesville and Albemarle County, took training themselves for this type of class last fall.

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