Highland School Class of 2013 Leads Wetland Project Work At School
Monterey, VA – Highland County has headwater streams for both the James and Potomac Rivers, so it is an ideal place for students to learn about the importance of watershed conservation. Highland science teacher Ginny Neil took students to the Chesapeake Bay for years and has since been working with students on a school wetland project.
“As part of that science class we began to travel to the Chesapeake Bay,” she says. “They would ask us as part of our application what we plan to do with the information that we were learning when we went to the Chesapeake Bay, and that’s how this project came into being. I began to think about creating an outdoor wetland classroom and letting the kids see the importance of wetlands to the watershed here and to the watershed below us so they would understand that what we do here has an impact on people all the way out to the bay.”
Ms. Neil goes on to describe the project.
“We’ve been working down there for six years,” she says. “We had developed some paths and put some bluebird boxes down there. They decided that they wanted to build a pond down there and they wanted to hand dig it; and they did.”
One student in that class is T.J. Grant.
“My class of 2013, we went down to the wetland, dug a little pond,” says Grant.
T.J.’s classmate Will Beasley continues the story.
“Back in middle school a few years ago, we started a hand dug pond, so we kind started off the whole wetland project thing,” says Beasley. “We put a bench down there; the classes have continued to put walkways. Many of our class members still today and they’ll weed eat paths for people and we take care of it because you know that’s kind of our little project; that keeps our class together.”
Ms. Neil describes her plans for this school year.
“There’s going to be more pathway down in there, there’s going to be a platform for bird watchers to come in and overlook the whole wetland,” she says,
“and for classrooms to be able to come in and overlook the whole wetland. I’ve found sources for permanent signage which I’m looking for grants to try to be able to buy and put in. The students have bought plants and put [them] down there. Most recently this summer I saw that the cardinal flower around the pond is beautiful.”
She goes on to lay out her vision for completion of the wetland project.
“What we want to do this year and next year is to bring it to completion so that it’s almost self sustaining.” She says. “So nicer signage, paths that don’t overgrow, platform overlook the whole thing; and then some information materials for people coming in to take and then also for teachers to use with their classrooms.”
Several community groups have stepped up to help with this project. The Bath-Highland Bird Club recently donated $200. This wetland education site will be a lasting legacy for the Highland High School class of 2013.