The 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, signed by all governors of states in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed requires that students participate in Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (MWEEs) at least once during each level of instruction (elementary, middle, and high school).
A MWEE consists of the following parts:
1) Issue Definition: Students focus on an environmental question, problem, or issue requiring background research and investigation. They learn more about the issue through classroom instruction, the collection of data, conducting experiments and by talking to experts and reviewing credible publications. They also reflect on their personal experiences and values related to the issue.
2) Outdoor field experiences: Students participate in one or more outdoor field experiences sufficient to collect the data required for answering the research questions and informing student actions. The outdoor field experiences should be student-led to the extent possible with students actively involved in planning the investigation, taking measurements, or constructing the project within appropriate safety guidelines. These experiences can take place off-site and on the school grounds.
3) Action projects: Students participate in an age appropriate project during which they take action to address environmental issues at the personal or societal level. These projects provide students with a better understanding of the actions that they can take to protect and conserve natural resources, and allow them to have a sense of control over the outcome of environmental issues. To the extent possible, action projects should be student directed and can take the form of on-the-ground restoration projects on school grounds or in their community, or can be focused on increasing student civic engagement.
4) Synthesis and conclusions: Students analyze and evaluate the results of their investigation of the issue. Students make conclusions based on research, experiences, and data analysis and consider alternate hypotheses. Students should synthesize and communicate results and conclusions to an external audience such as other classrooms, schools, parents, or the community. This allows students to become agents behind their own actions and decisions.
MWEEs are stronger when they are multi-disciplinary because environmental issues often involve an interaction between natural systems (e.g. wildlife, plants, and water cycle) and social systems (e.g. communities, transportation systems, and schools). A MWEE can be part of a larger strategy to address priorities such as service learning and STEM. More information and MWEE Resources can be found on the Bay Backpack Website.
The John Marshall Soil & Water Conservation District is able to assist teachers with conducting these experiences for students. MWEEs correlate well with Virginia SOLs for 4th Grade, 6th Grade, and 9th Grade, but can be performed with any grade level.