While our level I curriculum, for 4th through 6th graders, is focused on exploration of the watershed, our level II curriculum, for 7th and 8th graders, is designed to help students understand human impacts to the watershed. Students spend four days and three nights learning through our hands-on curriculum right here in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Each week starts with students experiencing a town hall meeting. Mayor Paul E. Tishen has called the meeting to discuss a very important issue in town. That issue is runoff. Students listen as arguments are put forth by both a building company and a scientist about whether or not a new community should be established along the borders of the park, and if so, how it should be built. By the end of the meeting, Mayor Tishen gives the students the task of learning about low impact development and presenting their ideas for building a community by the end of their stay. Students then create an initial blueprint for a community, before they go through the curriculum of the week.
Headwaters Creek Hike
In order to know what effects building a community can have on an environment, first students must understand those environments. In this class, students learn about, visit, and evaluate a headwater stream. At the stream, students do measurements for bankfull width, pool depth, and substrate in order to discover the stream’s EPA classification. Students learn about the importance of riparian zones and biodiversity and how each can be an indicator of the stream’s health.
The Shape of Things
During the Shape of Things, students learn more about runoff and why it can be an issue. They experiment with soils and outdoor surfaces to learn about perviousness, and explore outdoors with a GPS map to experience topography and contour lines. The shape and perviousness of the land will indicate the path runoff will take down the watershed.
Furnace Run Exploration
Students travel to a second tributary of the Cuyahoga River during Furnace Run Exploration. At this stream, students complete careful observations and actually get in the water to look for macro invertebrate life forms. Determining what lives in the water can indicate the health of the stream. Results from Furnace Run are then compared to those from the headwaters stream to give students a diverse and full picture of the watershed.
Low Impact Development Trek
By this point, students have learned about runoff and about stream health, but are still presented with the task of creating a development. During this class, students learn about low impact tools that mimic the way nature manages the flow of water. Rain barrels, pervious pavement, green roofs, bioswales, native landscaping, and many other tools are presented as ways to minimize the impact of runoff while still building on the land. As students learn about the development tools, we discuss the environmental benefits and future economic benefits of each. By the end of class, students agree on which tools to use in their revised development blueprint while staying within the confines of their allotted budget.
Creative Hike is a break from the week’s rigorous academic curriculum. Each EEC staff member has designed their own class on a topic of interest. Classes may center on birds, trees, teambuilding, watershed history, creative writing, survival skills, etc. Though this class does not deal directly with the development project, it gives students the chance to relax a little bit and just connect with nature.
The first two nights of camp are filled with Night Hike & Campfire and Arts in the Park. Because, really, what is camp without campfires and crafts? The third night is designated to designing the final development plan. Students revisit the initial blueprint they made on day one, and revise it to incorporate low impact development tools and preserve stream health.
Presentations & Closing Ceremony
On the final day, students present their development plan back to Mayor Paul E. Tishen. It is amazing to see what each group comes up with. A final town hall meeting is called to order and the mayor hands out awards to each community to commemorate its strengths. As thanks for their hard work, each student earns their very own Cuyahoga Valley National Park Junior Ranger badge!