Watershed wonders

The rains came Tuesday and the skies cleared Wednesday, creating a perfect setting for Watershed Field Day, sponsored by Rappahannock Friends and Lovers of Our Watershed (RappFLOW) on the Sperryville Schoolhouse grounds Sept. 19. From a gurgling Thornton River rich in microinvertebrates to a marshy rain garden effectively slowing run-off, the big outdoor classroom offered hands-on, interactive opportunities to learn about the importance and vulnerability of Rappahannock County’s water resources.

Louise Bondelid helps students from Belle Meade and other local schools sort through Thornton River sediment in search of telltale insects. Photo by Daphne Hutchinson.
Louise Bondelid helps students from Belle Meade and other local schools sort through Thornton River sediment in search of telltale insects. Photo by Daphne Hutchinson.

The watershed stewards who kept the kids engaged and learning included Cliff Miller of Mount Vernon Farm, environmentalist Bev Hunter, organizer Carolyn Thornton from RappFLOW and representatives from Piedmont Environmental Council, the Virginia Department of Forestry, the Culpeper Soil and Water Conservation District, Farm-to-Table and Virginia Master Naturalists.

Between the morning and afternoon sessions, more than 200 young people trooped in small packs from station to station. The kids conducted tests on pH levels, temperature and dissolved oxygen, and poured water laden with fertilizer, sediment and manure through buffer models to judge the effectiveness of filters. They searched through stream detritus with tweezers for hellgrammites and macroinvertebrates that indicate water quality, located their own homes on watershed maps and practiced fly casting.

“Cool!”

“Awesome!

“Yuck!”

“I found the shell of a water penny!”

“Here’s one!”

“Here’s another!”

And the happiest announcement of all, coming repeatedly from the bug collecting and water-testing tables: “I think we have a healthy stream!”