Olney Friends School
Watershed Protection at Olney Friends School
Olney Friends School
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has categorized Captina Creek Watershed as an excellent warm water habitat. Students at Olney Friends School collaborate with local authorities on monitoring and conservation.
Science teacher Leonard Guindon says part of that distinction comes from the 54 species of fish, a significant biodiversity of macro-invertebrates, and the only known population of breeding hellbender salamanders in the state of Ohio. Those factors have been threatened in recent years by slurry spills from local coal mines and by growing populations along the mid- and lower reaches of the watershed. “But,” says Guindon, “it should be said they’re doing something right because the stream is much cleaner today than it was 30 years ago.”
Guindon and his students have monitored water quality and done macro-invertebrate studies for 10 years around Belmont County to assist the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Department of Mineral Resources.
Everyone here at Olney Friends School, and students for the last 25 years, recognize Guindon’s passion in the classroom. In 2009, Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Districts recognized it too, naming him Ohio Conservation Teacher of the Year in the high school category.
How we are doing it
Students study the 2009 Ohio EPA survey of Captina Creek Watershed to learn why it is considered one of the most pristine waterways in the state.
Students join Greg Lipps, Ohio's preeminent amphibian expert, to search for hellbender salamanders and learn about why they are a bioindicator of stream health and their endangered status.
Students learn about watersheds and how stewardship of them is the logical way to "act locally."
Using resource persons from Belmont County's Natural Resources Conservation Services and Olney Friend School's farm manager, students learn about best management practices in agriculture and forestry to prevent soil erosion into Captina Creek.
Students have taken water samples to check for E. coli levels below Olney Friends School's sewage treatment plant and the Village of Barnesville's sewage treatment plant.
Students study the effects of the cross-country natural gas pipeline that crosses nearby land, and of coal mining on Captina Creek Watershed. In the future, Marcellus shale development in the watershed will be studied.
This year students have created a large 7' x 13' aerial map of Captina Creek Watershed and a PowerPoint presentation which they have shared with schools and service organizations to raise awareness about Captina Creek Watershed.
"My guiding principle in teaching ecological principles in my Biology and Environmental Science classes is that if the students can get outside the classroom and see what they read about in the textbook, they will remember it better -- and more importantly, they will care about the impact of human activity on the environment," says Leonard Guindon.
What we are learning
Bryan Tipton, a senior from Barnesville, Ohio, says it is the physicality of being in the environment that helps him. After the trip to the water treatment plant, he said, “We were able to walk around and see everything that was happening. How it plays a role in our lives. Otherwise it’s just we learn about it and forget about it.”
Vilius Kalinauskas, a senior from Vilnius, Lithuania, is one of thee students taking the watershed map exhibit on the road. He is proud of the research and learning he and his classmates have done. Questions about coal mining and gas drilling have come up at some of the presentations the group has given. “People raise difficult questions, questions which have difficult answers. We, as students, know what we have to know. We are prepared.”
Their research has also given him a new outlook on the importance of watersheds as a whole. “We need to protect our natural resources to protect our lives – ours and our animals. If we don’t, we won’t have a good way of knowing how the world around us is holding up. If we destroy our watershed, we can’t tell if coal mining or natural gas drilling is hurting our planet – or us,” he says.
Guindon wants to instill in his students “that when they make decisions about their lifestyles, the watershed is a place to look. When you hear someone say, ‘Think globally – act locally,’ the local part is really your watershed,” he says.