Experiential Learning on the James River
Most sailors and boaters would agree that one important way to increase public awareness of environmental threats to Chesapeake waterways is to get more people out on the water so that they experience and feel a little ownership of it. The James River Association (JRA) does just that by taking students from Virginia’s Lower Peninsula (near Hampton and Newport News) out on the water for experiential learning. The JRA strives for every student in the James River watershed to have three meaningful river-based experiences before they graduate.
‘I think it is a fantastic program,” says Chesapeake sailor and powerboater Tim Etherington, who is one of the captains aboard the Longview, JRA’s 50-foot Carmin-built deadrise boat, which serves as a floating classroom for environmental education.
Tim, who is a member of Old Point Comfort Yacht Club, says, “I obtained my Coast Guard 50-T Masters license and soon after fell into a contract captain position with the JRA. In addition to all the other programs it conducts, JRA educators work with the students on the boat to facilitate water quality testing to include temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity. We then pull a trawl net to show the students the local critters. Many of these students have never been on the water, and it’s fantastic when they see dolphins and other marine wildlife. The kids’ ‘scream factor’ goes up with all the excitement! The students also get on-land education, and the teachers have special training before the students to see how JRA’s program fits with the curriculum.”
The James River is Virginia’s largest river and largest tributary to the Bay, measuring 340 miles. It begins in the mountains and ends at the Bay in Hampton Roads. The watershed is comprised of three sections. The Upper James travels through the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains until Lynchburg. The Middle James runs from Lynchburg to Richmond, and the Lower James stretches from Richmond to the Bay. Learn more at thejamesriver.org.