Students accept Stream Challenge

Students in Talbot County are working to improve the Chesapeake Bay’s health by planting trees – thousands of trees. From an early grade, these students have seen maps of the Bay’s watershed and have learned that the actions of people from New York to Virginia affect the health of the Bay, just miles from their homes. And now, along with students across Maryland, Talbot County students are working on their most local waterways to improve our country’s largest estuary.

A grant from Maryland’s Stream Restoration Challenge program has allowed for a partnership between Pickering Creek Audubon Center, Environmental Concern, Inc., the towns of St Michaels and Easton, and Talbot County Public Schools. During the two-year program, 9th graders will be learning about and creating forested stream buffers. As of now, one semester and one planting has been completed.

In class, Environmental Science teachers prepare their students with lessons on Forest Ecology and the importance of forested stream buffers. Students learned that planting a wide forest buffer alongside a stream can reduce erosion, provide habitat for wildlife in and out of the stream, keep the stream’s temperature cool and, reduce the amount of nutrients entering the stream. Improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed streams will improve the health of the Bay.

After their in-class lesson students visited the project’s first planting site, the Tanyard Branch within the town of Easton. On their site visit, 9th graders recorded the bird species and the present yet narrow forested buffer, tested the soil, and the stream’s water chemistry and macroinvertebrate population. Back at school, students recorded their findings online on eBird and FieldScope and used the data to create a planting plan. Students choose from a list of native trees to design their forested stream buffer, keeping in mind the soil and light conditions and the wildlife benefits of each tree species.

In mid-October, the planting day had finally arrived but the task was daunting – plant 1,400 trees over 8 acres. Students from Chesapeake Christian School of Easton walked to the site to lend a hand. The over 130 students arrived excited and enthusiastic and, ended an hour earlier than expected. The same site data will be collected and the tree survival rate recorded by spring semester’s students and than, the project will be repeated at three additional sites next year.

The Stream Restoration Challenge program has allowed students the opportunity to learn more about how to help improve the Bay’s health but, maybe more importantly, the chance to put their mark on the landscape that will be around for generations.]]>

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