Captina Creek Watershed — Students Model ‘Acting Locally’ with Grant Funds

February 01, 2011

My buddy, Leonard Guindon, has a fantastic mustache.

He’s also willing to hike with students all around our farm, boil down maple sap for syrup, split firewood, grow seedlings for the garden in his classroom, and have his biology students choreograph a dance to explain the cell cycle. He will play soccer, volleyball, field hockey, or basketball to prove the Guindon gene for athleticism is still alive and well. When Leonard speaks in Meeting, all ears perk up. He’s the kind of guy we all know has something to teach us.

But then, Leonard is also listening to the people around him. Earlier in the school year an exhibit of the Lower Maumee Valley Watershed in northwest Ohio visited campus. Leonard saw a chance to learn from those visitors and to teach his students about our own Captina Creek Watershed. The class worked on the model for nearly four weeks, gathering satellite images of the area and stitching them together electronically, and labeling geological and other relevant features such as coal mines, a slurry pond, and a waste water treatment plant. Now, the 7’ x 13’ two-dimensional model greets visitors in the Collection Room in the Main Building.

Everyone here at Olney, as well as students for the last 25 years recognize Leonard’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. He 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. Leonard engages his students in the actual, physical world. They get out into the creeks alongside herpetology specialist Greg Lipps in his study of the hellbender salamander. They visit local energy-efficient homes, trek through the woods, and see how wells are dug and wastewater cleaned. His students sponsor Olney’s participation in the nationwide Green Cup Challenge. During the month of February, students ask the community to pay special attention to water and electricity use and monitor the change on a giant graph in the Main Hall.

Leonard’s fine example and dedication to teaching in the field led academic dean Cindy Rogers to apply for a grant from The Foundation for Appalachian Ohio. In July of 2010, Olney Friends School was awarded that grant for $2,500. The funds will be used in science and math classrooms in study of the Captina Creek Watershed. Rogers applied for the grant in order “to give students opportunities to do things we wouldn’t be able to do otherwise.” This funding is a boon to Olney’s science department, enabling even more projects outside the school building and out in the valleys and on the ridges of Belmont County.

To date the science department has used grant funds to purchase water-testing kits which they have used to test for E. coli above and below Olney’s own sewage treatment station, as well as in the Barnesville facility. Also purchased have been three pairs of hip-waders for student use, and the display board students used to build a model of the Captina Creek Watershed. In the near future, the science and math departments hope to purchase special temperature probes, soil sampling tubes, dip nets, backpack water labs, and binoculars.

This grant and the equipment it purchases will allow Olney students to be better prepared for the dirty work of tromping around with Leonard through the mud and also to begin experiments of their own. It is the field trips in Leonard’s classes that help students understand what is happening in the world. Bryan Tipton ’11 from Barnesville 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’.”

Leonard is excited to have more funding to get students into the field. He believes what comes from being out in the creek, looking at the real effect of our actions on the world, will make a change in his students. He wants to instill in them “that when they make decisions about their lifestyles, the watershed is a place to look – instead of your county, or state, or country. When you hear someone say, ‘Think globally – act locally,’ the local part is really your watershed.”

This spring, the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio grant will allow Olney math and science students to again head out into the fast-moving, warm waters of Captina Creek, where recent slurry spills have endangered not only the hellbender but the entire ecosystem, including the sunfish and spotted wintergreen, crayfish and skunk cabbage. They will use new equipment to understand their world through their watershed, with Leonard Guindon leading them down the creek bed, all senses alert to the place around them.


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