League Lines: Scouting for Science and Outdoor Adventure

Girl Scouts working with members of the Fredericksburg-Rappahannock Chapter to measure water quality

When Fredericksburg-Rappahannock Chapter (Virginia) member Patty Nunn wanted to test water quality on the chapter’s property, she called in the Scouts – Girl Scouts, that is. The chapter had not recently done a project with the local Girl Scout troop, and Nunn thought water quality monitoring would be a great opportunity to get the girls out in nature. The chapter accomplished that goal and much more.

In April, Girl Scouts from Troop 536 ventured to the Fredericksburg-Rappahannock Chapter for an “investigative journey” in the great outdoors. Chapter member Jim McCloud led the girls and their troop leaders and chaperones through water quality testing in the chapter’s lower and upper pond areas. They checked temperature, pH levels, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity (particles floating in the water) and recorded the results. They also hiked around the pond and talked about the impact of water flowing off the land. They identified tree species found on the property and animals ranging from beaver and woodpeckers to leeches and fish. “Then everyone adjourned to the chapter house to talk about what all of this had to do with conservation,” explains Nunn, and the girls were asked to create posters about what they learned. (The chapter used the posters in educational outreach efforts for Earth Day.) “All participants had a great time, got muddy, and learned a tremendous, practical lesson about nature and its effect on our lives,” says Nunn.

On the first day of summer, Troop 536 returned for another round of water quality testing. Led once again by McCloud, the group discussed watersheds and how water drains into large bodies of water in and surrounding Virginia. The Girl Scouts tested water quality in a new location – lower Spring Creek – and repeated their water quality testing in the lower and upper pond areas. The team tested for pH, dissolved oxygen, temperature, turbidity, and added tests for copper, lead, and pesticides. (One reason for the lead tests is the proximity of the ponds to the chapter’s shooting ranges. Chapter range safety officers ensured everyone’s safety by closing the ranges when the girls were working nearby.) Results from each test were within accepted levels.

The group also visited the chapter’s honey bee hives, “where Jim Ashcraft showed them his craft,” continues Nunn. “They learned about pollination, pollen, and honey. He described the importance of honey bees to agriculture for pollination and donned his beekeeper suit to open the hive and show the bees in action.”

The girls returned to the chapter for a third visit in October to repeat water quality testing and observe changes in the environment. The water quality was good, and the chapter plans to continue testing to show trends over time. During a walk around the lake, the girls observed tree damage by beavers, found a box turtle, and examined deer scat. They were able to identify that the deer ate paw paws from the seeds in the scat, and even tasted paw paws themselves (fresh ones, of course!).

The chapter plans to continue its partnership with Girl Scout Troop 536 and getting girls out in nature and engaged in the science of conservation.

By Dawn Merritt