Potomac Highlands Watershed School

Teacher's Overview

     Cacapon Institute's Potomac Highlands Watershed School is a free, 365/24/7 educational tool developed to increase understanding and enhance appreciation of water resources throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and around the world.  It is designed to be used as a part of the K-12 curriculum in schools, with detailed lesson plans keyed to WV's Content Standards and Objectives (comprehensive links to other state's standards are in development). 


Watch the video at right to take a tour of the eSchool.  Note: this video does not have a preloader; it may take a minute or two to load while the screen is blank.

Because Cacapon Institute works in water quality monitoring and watershed conservation, our program is most relevant to general science, environmental science, and geography classes.  They also give students a chance to learn about inter-relationships, geography, human health, use of technology, and to  discuss current events.  

With this in mind, important features of the Potomac Highlands Watershed School are:

  • Each classroom contains a list of activities, with a link which serves as an entry point for each activity, link to background information for each activity, and a general links page that explores the wealth of web resources available for our region.  The Teacher's Room contains a  listing for each activity, including a link to supporting materials describing the activity, a lesson plan, handouts and content information.      
  • Each lesson has been reviewed by teacher partners, and conservation/natural resource management professional to enhance its value to you and ensure its technical correctness.  
  • Each activity includes: an instruction phase - with directions on what to do; a learning phase - where information is read; and a testing phase - where the knowledge is either tested in a quiz or matching exercise,  used to fill in a form, or used to solve a problem.
  • Some activities include filling out an electronic form that can be e-mailed to you or printed out.  Thus, you can have confirmation that a given activity was completed, and even see your students' work.
  • Each activity targets specific educational standards to help you meet your curriculum needs.  Of course, a given activity can be adapted to address other standards and we encourage users to do this as they see fit.  

So please, check out the activities in the "classrooms." You are invited to use them, assign them, adapt them, have fun, and tell "the Principal" about your experience!  Note: this site is best viewed at 1024x768 resolution or higher.

     The Elementary, Middle and High school classrooms include:

  1. Blackboard - vocabulary, a scavenger hunt, and age-appropriate activities that include a learning phase with animated shorts and readings, and a testing phase where the knowledge is either tested in a quiz, matching exercise, or problem-solving exercise.

  2. Bookcase -useful background information on each of the activities.

  3. Computer Gateway - links to environmental organizations and agencies.

  4. Picture Window - some of our favorite Potomac Highlands images.

  5. Open Book - selected readings that will change periodically.

  6. Magnifying Glass - a closer look at some of the Mid-Atlantic's smaller inhabitants. 

  7. Bay Buoy -  a portal to real-time stream, Bay, atmospheric, and precipitation data collected throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  In the Elementary classroom, links to real time stream, Bay, and precipitation data are separate (stream flow graph, buoy, rain in dish, respectively). 

  8. BMI Poster - a portal to activities on benthic macroinvertebrates and stream sampling.

  9. Project Blueprints and a Pick - examples of real world, hands-on projects done by classes that use the eSchool.

The High School also offers the eForum Telephone, the entry point to Environmental Forums where students and teachers explore regionally important environmental issues in depth.  Students work both as a class and with other students across the internet to understand problems and to seek solutions that are broadly acceptable to their communities. Learn more about the eForums here.


The Teacher's Room contains detailed lesson plans for elementary, middle and high school activities.  It also contains an eForum updates link that provides teacher instructions and updates for active forums.


    All content on this site was developed by Cacapon Institute staff.  Classroom art by Neil and Jennifer Gillies.  Flash activities Watershed Puzzle, Watershed Creator, Stream Cleaner, and Decision Matrix were programmed by Luke Fleshman.  Flash activity What is a Watershed was programmed by Jennifer Gillies and Neil Gillies.  Flash activities "What is a Benthic Macroinvertebrate," "The Sedimentation Blues," Introduction to Stream Sampling", "What is it?" dichotomous keys, and "Virtual Stream Sampler" were programmed by Jennifer Gillies - and all benthic macroinvertebrate art was created by Jennifer Gillies using Adobe Illustrator.  Content and "playability" were reviewed by partners at the Canaan Valley Institute, WV Conservation Agency, WV Division of Environmental Protection, WV Department of Agriculture, the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Friends of Deckers Creek, and teachers.  We could not have done this without their help, but any and all errors are solely the responsibility of Cacapon Institute. 


    Beta testing was conducted by CI staff, Bob Markley, Vicki Fenwick, Shelby Pavlick, Tim Craddick (WVDEP), and Friends of Deckers Creek.


    This website was made possible by grants from the US Environmental Protection Agency Environmental Education Program, Canaan Valley Institute, The MARPAT Foundation, Spring Creek Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, NOAA-BWET and by donations by the members of Cacapon Institute.  Content has been developed and reviewed by CI staff (Peter Maille, Meredith Pavlick, Neil Gillies, Frank Rodgers, Jennifer Gillies, Ben Alexandro), and volunteer Bob Markley.  Any errors are solely the responsibility of Cacapon Institute.



Cacapon Institute - From the Cacapon to the Potomac to the Chesapeake Bay, we protect rivers and watersheds using science and education.

Cacapon Institute
PO Box 68
High View, WV 26808
304-856-1385 (tele)
304-856-1386 (fax)
Click here to send us an email
Frank Rodgers,  Executive Director

Website  made possible by funding from The Norcross Wildlife Foundation,  the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Virginia Environmental Endowment, NOAA-BWET, USEPA, The MARPAT Foundation, and our generous members.