The Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of American sponsores a number of events that are a collaboration with Poolesville High Shcool's Global Ecology Program.
Global Ecology Program West Woods Walks: Every November BCC-IWLA hosts students from the Poolesville Hight School’s Global Ecoogy Program for two days of interpretive walks through our West Woods. These field trips to the hardwood habitat of Western Maryland have become a regular feature in the Global Ecology Progam’s curriculum.
The students arrive in groups of 20, and start their walk by observing the prickly pear cactus growing on the Triassic Red Shale outcrops facing River Road. The uniqueness of the shale barrens habitat to support rare plants and flowers is discussed, as well as how such a habitat was formed by natural processes. The group is then guided up a steep hill into the West Woods property, stopping just below the hill's crest where soil erosion and the formation and composition of that precious natural resource, "Top Soil" is discussed. At the top of the hill is a pile of trash left over from the days when lumber was harvested from the woods, almost 20-years ago. Here we discuss the incredible longevity of different types of trash; Styrofoam, rubber, aluminum and other trash that lasts hundreds, thousands, and even millions of years before it decomposes!
As they make their way through the woods, students are taught to identify three different oak trees; red, white and chestnut by their bark and leaves, and the importance of these trees for providing food for wildlife. Buck rubs, buck scrapes, and turkey scratching are noted along the trail and discussed as the students progressed on their walk. Upon reaching the obsolete power line right of way clearing, the students can view the high rise developments on the other side of the Potomac River in the state of Virginia, which are in stark contrast to the undeveloped woodlands they were hiking. At this point, students learn about and discuss different zoning laws, development in general, and the Montgomery County Agricultural Reserve and its contribution to conservation of woodlands. The basic components of habitat required by all animals is contrasted to the potentially devastating impact of human development to all plants and animals in the natural world.
Naturally occurring “artifacts” such as deer skull complete with antlers, a snake skin, turkey feathers, and animal bones with teeth marks left by animals in the pursuit of calcium are discovered by the students as they became "seers" of the natural world. The incredible natural process of photosynthesis to produce carbon, and organic materials for plants and trees from carbon dioxide and water utilizing energy from the sun is explained in the context of the cycling of natural resources.
The woods walk concludes in a practical exam where the students work individually during a period of silence in an area that is rich in examples of topics previously discussed. Here they exercise their abilities to observe and interpret various items of natural history. Each student is given the opportunity to explain to the others what they found and to share some information about their discovery.
By the time they board their bus back to Poolesville High School, it is evident that this "Interpretive Walk in the Woods" has provided a lesson in conservation education to our next generation of conservationists.
BCC-IWLA also sponsors its "Young Conservationist" award competition for students of the Global Ecology Program. These students produce original research projects dealing with conservation topics and issues of environmental concern. Each spring the Global Ecology Program's students present their senior science projects for a science fair competition at Poolesville High School. BCC-IWLA members are included in the judging of these projects and select up to six projects for $1,000 cash awards. An awards ceremony is held in May at the BCC-IWLA Chapterhouse for the students, their families, and friends. The BCC-IWLA hopes that these awards and program will encourage responsible ecological thinking and attitudes in our future generations.
For more information, contact our Conservation and Education Committee Chair Steven Swartz at 301-527-1292 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org