Students on the Longview tour the James River, taking part in water quality tests. Photo courtesy of Hampton City Schools.

Grant Puts Hampton, Va. Students on the Water

Thanks to a generous grant from the National Parks Foundation, every 5th grade public school student in the City of Hampton, Va., will get hands-on experience in the waterways around Hampton. The $64,000 grant, given to Hampton City Schools through the National Park Service, and the James River Association (JRA) provides what are called Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences to each of the 1,600 5th graders in the city.     

The grant was announced at a waterfront celebration on April 20th.  JRA Director of Education Nat Draper, Hampton school Superintendent Dr. Jeffery Smith, and NPS Chesapeake Education Coordinator and Training Specialist Brittany Omoleye-Hall addressed the attendees. A group of children got out on the water with a trawl net to discover some of its marine life, collecting croaker, shrimp, spider crab, toad fish, and sponges.   

Some of the funds will be used to train teachers, but most will go to actual experiences like this for the students. After some initial classroom prep, each student will get time on the water. There will be excursions in the Hampton River as well as the James River. Students will also spend time learning the history of Fort Monroe.  

During their outings, students will be able to participate in water quality tests, looking at abiotic and biotic factors. Students will gain hands-on experience testing pH levels, salinity, turbidity, water temperature, phosphate levels, nitrate levels, and dissolved oxygen levels. A trawl net will be deployed to show the students just how abundant life is below the surface.

According to the JRA, “This experience equips our students with the skills and knowledge needed to make well-informed environmental choices that are key to sustaining the health of our community which encompasses the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers. Our collective goal is for students to connect with and share in the richness of our watershed and see themselves as stewards of their communities.”

The James River Association is a member-supported nonprofit. Founded in 1976, the organization works to protect and restore the James River, from its headwaters to the Chesapeake Bay. The James drains an incredible 10,000 square mile watershed.  Hampton City Schools is the 14th largest school division in the Commonwealth of Virginia, serving nearly 19,000 students. The division’s on-time graduation rate is 96.86%, surpassing the state average, and the dropout rate of 0.34% is the lowest of the 15-school divisions in its region.

-Kendall Osborne