Students study the Duck River, help Henry Horton State Park

Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Westhills Elementary School fifth graders enjoyed talking about the time they spent studying the Duck River at Henry Horton State Park. Standing with the fifth grade teachers are Stacey Cothran vice president of the Friends of Henry Horton State Park and John McFadden, executive director of the Tennessee Environmental Council.

By Karen Hall


A program to teach fifth graders about natural resources and conservation, and help them learn to appreciate and care for Henry Horton State Park was back in the schools last week to follow up a day the students spent at the park in early October.

Thanks to funding from an anonymous source, the program which has been going on at Chapel Hill Elementary School for five years has been expanded this year to include fifth graders from Westhills Elementary School in Lewisburg, and Cascade Elementary School in Wartrace.

"We're excited to be able to expand," said Stacey Cothran, vice president of the Friends of Henry Horton State Park organization, which has been overseeing the program.

At CHES on Friday, John McFadden, executive director of the Tennessee Environmental Council, led the students in a review of the results of their sampling of water from the Duck River.

"Whose park is that?" asked McFadden at the beginning of his talk.

"Ours!" shouted the students.

"What do you have to do?" he continued.

"Take care of it!" replied the students.

McFadden explained they had privileges at the park, but with these came responsibilities, like taking care of the water in the Duck River.

When the students were at the river in October, they took a census of insects in the water, noting which species were there and comparing them to a list of insects known to be sensitive to pollution. The answer to this was encouraging: there were many insects in the water which are very sensitive to pollution. The water was mostly clear, until the students stirred it up. McFadden explained how to take an accurate sample by standing still in the middle of the river and waiting for the water to clear before dipping the container well below the surface.

McFadden helped the students average their test results to get a meaningful picture of the condition of the river, which unfortunately contains an excess of

nitrates and phosphates.

Students noted that litter was a problem in and around the river, and suggested there should be more trash cans, and "No Littering" signs.

"What's better, less trees or more trees?" McFadden asked, and the students answered, "More trees!"

"Would you all be willing to plant trees?" he asked, and the answer was a resounding, "Yes!"

CHES students have planted hundreds of trees at HHSP since the program started. Tree-planting days for this year's fifth graders will be in late February and early March.

The program was basically the same later in the afternoon at Westhills Elementary School, except with almost twice as many students.

"You own part of the park that has part of the most biodiverse river in the world," McFadden told them.