Members of the Naturalist Club at Spring Hill Elementary took part in a watershed cleanup at the creek behind the Spring Hill Recreation Center on Friday, Oct. 22. The cleanup was a part of a global effort, known as International Coastal Cleanup, that takes place annually. Each fall people from around the world help clean their waterways and coastal areas.
"Students in France, Zimbabwe, and all over the world are helping clean watersheds," said Joanna Cornell, as she addressed the Spring Hill students. Cornell works for the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District. She was approached by Allison Campbell, a Spring Hill Elementary science teacher, about doing a project with the Naturalist Club.
The Virginia part of the global effort is organized by Clean Virginia Waterways (CVW), a nonprofit organization affiliated with Longwood University’s Department of Natural Sciences. The organization on its Web site, www.longwood.edu/cleanva, states that "individual people – not government, industries, or manufacturers – are the source of the debris problem. They are also the source of the solution." Cornell relayed the second part of the belief to the Spring Hill students, saying that it is easy to see debris in the creek and leave it for someone else to pick up, but that each individual student can make a difference by picking up that debris.
"It’s a great way for kids to learn that they can make a difference with trash," said Cornell. She noted that a lot of schools and organizations approach her about cleanups regularly.
THE PARENTS OF the students were very satisfied with the project. "Mrs. Campbell is a terrific science teacher," said Deborah Freligh, one of the many parents who came to help the students clean the creek. She added that there was a lot of trash in and around the creek, as soccer fields surround it, and people often leave their belongings behind at the fields. "I think it’s a great project," she said.
James Gorman, another parent helping with the project, mirrored Freligh’s opinion that the project is great. His son, John, a student at Spring Hill, stated the clear object for the day: "The object is to pick up as much trash as we can," he said.
Besides helping clean the creek, the students monitored the water temperature and turbidity (cloudiness), thus getting a science lesson. "About half of the students out here are in the Naturalist Club," said Campbell, adding that they were allowed to bring their friends out for the occasion. Even a couple of eighth-graders, formerly taught by Campbell, were out cleaning and volunteering for community service hours. One such volunteer was Christina Parel, who had Campbell as a science teacher in third grade. Campbell has done extensive work at the school, turning its courtyard into an outdoor lab with the help of the students from the Naturalist Club. This year she is hoping to certify the courtyard as a National Wildlife Schoolyard Habitat. It includes wetlands, swamp, and desert habitats, and the students have added birdfeeders and plants to attract birds and butterflies. A turtle lives in the courtyard with her babies.
The students enjoyed helping to clean the creek, despite a gloomy and at times rainy afternoon. "I don’t have Cub Scouts every day," said Chris Overberg, a third-grader. "I felt I wanted to do something else, so I joined the Naturalist Club." The debris found in the creek behind Spring Hill Recreation Center corresponds to that found in other Virginia waterways. CVW reports that plastic accounts for 60 percent of the debris found in Virginia waterways during the annual cleanup.
Virginia’s Top 10 Items Found in the 2003 International Coastal Cleanup
1. Beverage bottles (plastic), two liters or less, 24.6 percent
2. Food wrappers/containers, 15.4 percent
3. Beverage cans, 12.2 percent
4. Cigarettes/cigarette filters, 9 percent
5. Beverage bottles (glass), 8 percent
6. Bags, 6.7 percent
7. Cups, plates, forks, knives, spoons, 6 percent
8. Caps, lids, 4.9 percent
9. Bait containers/packaging, 1.6 percent
10. Cigarette lighters, 1.4 percent